*This blog was originally posted on JournalRecord.com Feb. 15.

It’s the 10th most popular social media site, but have you gotten your invitation yet?

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows users to gather inspiration from all over the Web, “pin” them to a “board” organized by topic and share everything with users who have similar interests. The “pins” can then be “repinned” by other users, reaching all of their followers. Users can also “like” pins or comment on them. For almost two years, this social media channel has helped users “plan their weddings, decorate their homes and share their favorite recipes.”

But the board themes are as endless as your imagination, and big name brands are beginning to work out how they can use the site to their advantage.

The key to using Pinterest as a marketing tool for your business is to create and share content that is relevant to your target audiences, thus making you relevant to them. Almost 60 percent of the site’s visitors in a recent 12-week period were women between the ages of 25 and 44. If that’s your target market – pay attention.

As an example, Whole Foods Market utilizes Pinterest to promote their products and build brand loyalty. However, if they only pinned photos of their products, they would not have the nearly 12,000 followers that they have today.

Instead, Whole Foods is a great example of how to promote company expertise. They offer users interesting content that extends beyond their store walls, such as gardening tips, recycled craft tutorials, kitchen remodeling ideas and other “pins” that might appeal to their target audience. In doing this, they maintain engagement with current shoppers and, as their content is shared, extend their reach to potential customers.

Your business will gain more followers if you pin items that extend beyond branded content to also reflect lifestyles, trends, tips and ideas.

Brands are also using Pinterest as a crowdsourcing tool, soliciting feedback on new products. Giveaways are popular on the site, like Land’s End Canvas, which encouraged users to create a pinboard of their favorite Land’s End products and then gave away 10 $250 gift cards. Pinterest has an aspirational tone for many, but showing how your brand makes luxury accessible will increase its popularity, like vacation rental service HomeAway.

Another good practice to observe as you build your social media presence is to direct your devoted followers to your other social media sites for different engagement or more in-depth content; however, you must then deliver on the promise for diverse content.

When used correctly, Pinterest can increase a business’ online presence and help drive traffic to your website. But more than that, each pin can also earn your business a meaningful impression with followers by providing memorable and useful information that entices users to return for more information and plants the seed for growing their loyalty to your brand.

In the business world, we are results-driven and depend on data to illustrate the success of our efforts. On Pinterest, like many other social media sites, we can measure a number of items, including your followers, shared or “repinned” content, likes and comments, to reflect your fan engagement.

Pinterest has seen a tremendous amount of growth, with an increase in estimated unique visitors of 429 percent from September to December 2011. The site is so far proving to be an effective engine of social commerce. Is your brand Pinteresting enough to engage?

Rachel Hinderman
Account Executive