How and Why to Use Pinterest for Business

These days we get a new “it” thing every few months. Right now a newish service called Pinterest qualifies as next year’s Google+ or Twitter.

Pinterest for BusinessEssentially, Pinterest is a social bookmarking site that focuses on images. So, it’s a bit of a mashup of sorts between Delicious and Flickr.

When you “pin” something you share an image and link to the original content you found online. You can surf the web and pin just about anything you find. You can also create related collections of things called “Pinboards” – a bit like tagging. Visitors to the site, and of course, followers of your pinning activity, can discover new things grouped into a variety of categories.

Brides to be have embraced the site, graphic designers, hand made artists, fashion designers and really anyone with goods and services that show well visually have found new sources of traffic via the site. (Word is Pinterest has become the #1 source of traffic to Etsy.)

There’s something very compelling about the visual aspect of the presentation that has turned Pinterest surfing into somewhat of an addiction for brides, designers, foodies, students, fashionistas and those in search of the latest trends.

Personally, I think Pinterest has taken off due in large part to the fact that we’ve all become so overwhelmed with information that anything that is easy to scan with little to no mental engagement is what gets our attention. Stunning images certainly fit that requirement.

Smart marketers are starting to wake up to the buzz and branding power of the growing Pinterest community.

As I write this, the site has lurched from out of nowhere really into one of the top several hundred most visited destinations online and tracking services suggest that it could outpace Flickr and Google+ in some important metrics.

Pinterest has enabled self-expression in a way that few other social networks have captured and in return has become one of the biggest sources of traffic to businesses that deal in visually oriented goods.

It’s time for businesses to take note and start paying attention to Pinterest.


Engaged users

Unlike many social sites, where the game is to get followers, Pinterest users seem very content to simply find stuff and share it with small groups. Pinterst users are keenly interested in what’s hot and what’s cool – a behavior that translates well into the kind of influencer marketers desire to attract.

Real time trending

Pinterest has turned into a bit of a style beacon and is a great way to keep tabs on what’s about to get hot. Anyone designing anything would be wise to dig in and search Pinterest for related elements and cues.

Visual link building

Links build through images are some of the best links you can acquire when it comes to actual engagement. Pinterest images automatically link back to the page of the originating site so they create visual links.

Branding style

Pinterest is a great way to say your brand has style, class, hipness, hotness or whatever the personality trait that suits. Having your products raved about and pinned by the community says a lot about your brand at the moment.

Local SEO

Local links, the kind that say Fargo SD bridal store, are pure gold for local businesses and smart marketers are embedding these kinds of local links in their descriptions and comments.



First you have to get an invite – I have a few – and then you should search around and see if any of your products have already been pinned. I was quite pleased to see some folks already talking about my books.

Then you should start pinning some things you like. Be strategic about creating boards that make some sense to your business. For example, if you are a local business create a board of “Kansas City stuff I love.”

One word of warning: as in most all social sites, don’t simply pin your products and start trolling around for ways to self promote. This is about building some cred first through pinning, commenting and sharing.


Use the search function to get over the “this is just for chicks” thinking. Yes, there are lots of women pinning cool home furnishings and the latest shoes, but just like Twitter in the early days, Pinterest gets a lot more interesting when you start to focus on the stuff that matters to you and your professional interests.

Create you own categories and search and create your own boards.


Pinterest will pay off for most only after you invest some time in pinning. I would suggest that you add the Pinterest bookmarklet to your browser so that you can easily just click Pin It to add something you’ve found.

You’ll start to develop followers based on your body of pinning work – those that see you discover stuff they are interested in as well. Very product heavy businesses should consider adding the Pin this button to their product pages making it easier for surfers to share – much like the Facebook Like button.


Once you become a member, make sure you invite as many people in your address book or from Facebook as you can. This is how you start developing a following the quickest.

Focus on inviting your customers too as many of them love your products already and might be a great way to introduce your products to other Pinterest users.


Search and find products you love and make comments. Pin items and comment back when others make comments. Follow people that are active in areas that interest you and make comments on their pins.

If you find things you like that are linked to a blog post, but not the original company, add a comment that points to the original – Pinterest users love this kind of behavior.

Remember, you can point to your products and even add links in your comments when and only when it makes sense. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage your many raving fans to pin your products!

Pinterest won’t be for everyone, but the current crush of people using the site makes it hard to ignore and for some brands an absolute must if they want to be seen as making “to die for” kind of stuff.

Oh, and one last thing, Pinterest is a great way to find your Christmas gifts if you want to be a trendy kind of giver.

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  • Jason Goff

    John, If you have an extra invite available, I’d love one! Thanks

  • Angelique

    I saw your article right after I tweeted about a frustration I have with Pinterest: The ID of artists, photographers and designers are easily lost. I suggest artists who post their works put their names on everything.

  • Bill

    Interesting. One side note for John – Fargo is in ND.

    • Brianna Oltz

      haha I laughed when I read that too! John must not be from the midwest!

  • Sue Sutcliffe

    Love this site and have been using it for about a month, but invitation has not come through. Can you invite me John please?

  • carmenhill

    This is great news! Now I can explore Pinterest without feeling guilty about wasting time 😉 It’s for business! 

  • Becky

    Pinterest was one of those things I originally wrote off as just another “time suck.” But it didn’t take long before I was hooked. I hadn’t really given much thought to its application for businesses – but for those forward-thinking marketers out there, could definitely be some interesting opportunities.

  • Meghan Callaghan

    Oh no. As soon Pinterest becomes mainstream, I feel the quality will become diluted and the main reasons I go there will be lost. Part of the amazingness of Pinterest is finding things that are special.

  • Ken

    OH! I had only just “discovered” Pinterst last Friday and then you are doing this great article on how to use it for Local SEO today! Lucky Me!

    I signed up for an invite but I’m still waiting…. it’s only been 2 days but it seems like an eternity….

  • Jay Zenner

    Very interesting. Would love to have an invite to Pinterest is you still have any.

  • Diane Thieke

    I started surfing through this a few days ago and requested an invite. It still hasn’t arrived. If you have an extra, I’d love one too!

  • Michelle Cannon

    I’ve certainly seen the value in it. It would be in bad taste to simply go pinning all of one’s photos. But as you said, if it’s relevent.. if it makes sense, it’s a great thing. I’ve certainly gotten traffic to my sites from it. (That’s how I found it in the first place!)

  • Ric Hansen

    I know you said you had a hand full of invites, have you given them all out?  Could you spare me one?  [email protected]

  • Marcia

    Hi John –

    Very interesting post. Will check it out.

    How do we get an invite? Would love to have one :)


  • Judy Murdoch

    If you still have some invites I’d like one, John. I promise to pay it forward generously.

    • Neil Ferree

      Judy – I got my Pinterest invite on G+ I found a thread on the topic, engaged a couple of the people who had been pinning smartly and asked for an invite. You might try that approach?

  • LisaHowarth

    Really great post. Some of the same principles that apply to content marketing can be applied here as well – make it interesting and engaging.

  • Jenny Hoople

    I’ve been on Pinterest for some months now and I love it!  Not only as a useful social media site for my business, but also as a place to get inspired about what direction my work is going in, how to arrange my workspace, what color combinations to try, etc!  For example, I noticed that I kept pinning things related to honey and bees.  I hadn’t realized how attracted to that imagery I was!  Who knows where that might lead ;D

  • Julija Gifford

    Loved this article, it was very helpful. Any chance you still have any invites? I’d love to start making a pinboard of “happiness” related things.

  • Ad_moon Tc

    This site is really so resourceful. I re-comment it to my fellow learner.

  • Alexandra Gibson

    I’ve been on Pinterest since it launched in early 2010.  I really hope that it stays a place for inspiration and for sharing beautiful, inspiring, and/or funny things.  If it starts just looking like any guy with no taste trying to tag his photos with the right keywords, I will be sorely disappointed.

    Pinterest is NOT FLICKR.

    Another fantastic part of Pinterest is the ability to re-pin people’s pins–making it be like a visual tweet.

    Pinterest newbies- please take some time to get to know the site before you start pinning.

  • AJ

    Great post John!

  • Neil Ferree

    Good post John. I like the KW phrase “visual link building” and I REALLY like the potential Pinterest has for enhancing ones local search marketing strategy, especially if their niche is heavy on the image/photo side.

    • ducttape

      Not sure is seo folks have tuned into that concept or not, but I do find that images draw clicks.

  • Julie Anne Herrin

    When I was asked in interviews what my outside interests were I literally listed running, yoga, hiking, reading and Pinterest. Yes, it is THAT sticky. I love it. I have been using it for quite awhile is my page so you can see, but the reason I am posting a comment is because of an EXCELLENT contest I just saw a company do integrating Pinterest. Lands’ End Canvas (which is like JCrew) gave away 10 gift cards for $250 each to those people that curated the best Pinterest boards with 10 – 20 of their favorite items from their site or their company Pinterest boards. Within 24 hours their followers on Pinterest jumped. I personally spent 40 minutes on their site looking at their products. Yes, I was one of the winners, full disclaimer there, but even before winning, I realized how brilliant this idea was. I have over 3k followers on Pinterest and Lands’ End Canvas just gained access to a large number of them. I also just spent a crazy amount of time on their site that I never would have otherwise and am telling all of my friends. Cheap Cheap Cheap marketing, amazing ripple effect!

  • catherinetatum

    I agree and am finding Pinterest to be of great value for my small business, Classic Legacy. It is fun!   I just followed you on Pinterest and hope that you will follow me. 

  • GG

    Interesting how no-one is addressing the copyright issues with Pinterest copying fullsize photos onto their own site not merely thumbnails linking to original, and terms & conditions give them open use once it’s done.

  • Marketing Armor

    It seems that pinterest has gained real momentum in the marketing place. I your thought on utilizing it for business. Thanks for sharing!


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