If you haven’t heard, Pinterest is all the rage among the savvy social media set and now it's wending its way mainstream and helping entrepreneurs reach new audiences.
If you thought your Facebook page and company Twitter account were enough to survive in the rapidly increasing social media space, think again — there is a new player in town and you'd best be prepared to leverage it.
For starters, the numbers are impressive: Pinterest received nearly 11 million total visits during the week ending December 17, 2011Â and over 420 million page views in October. The site is also becoming a top referrer for apparel retailers, according to market researchers atÂ Monetate.
That’s a hefty 2,000 percent increase since June.
So what is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a social networking site and online scrapbook thatÂ enables users to create online bulletin boards, or "pinboards," for popular categories such as home decor, fitness, food and wedding inspiration. These boards can include photographs, products, creative ads, tutorials and other stories.
As with most things social, Pinterest's rapidly increasing popularity can be leveraged in a few easy and quick steps. Below are 5 easy ways any entrepreneur can capitalize on Pinterest's increasing popularity.
1. Create a virtual product catalog.
Pinterest offers a great marketing opportunity to build a free online product and services catalog.
Don't fret – it's just as easy to launch a Pinterest account as it is on Twitter or Facebook. Once you've signed up, simply start pinning images. If your business has several products and services, Pinterest enables you to manage multiple boards that can group products by theme, size, features, prices etc.Â A space below each image to describe your goods offers a unique opportunity to get creative.
2. All roads should lead back to your website.
Build out your pages to accurately reflect the image you'd like to project to the world. Include business and product descriptions, list key features and, most importantly, always provide a URL that leads visitors back to your website.
Adding a price tag and link to your descriptions also gets your business automatically added to the Pinterests "Gifts" page. Through this section, users are able to easily navigate to find gift ideas grouped by price.
An additional bonus to including these links to your website is that it helps off-page Search Engine Optimizations (see #5 for more on this) by driving high quality traffic to your site.
At the same time, make your efforts a two-way street. Have a Pinterest Social Media Button on Your blog or website to make it easier for people to find you on Pinterest.
3. Build, engage, network.
Imagine attending an industry networking event and never speaking to anyone. In that same vein, you can't just throw up a Pinterest page and think your work there is done. You have to engage the people and businesses you'd like to work with to expand your influence.
The more followers you have the greater your visibility. It's a simple concept yet so many people seem to struggle with different ways to grow these important social networks. Your followers ARE your network, and they will also be its promoters. The more material they are provided with, the greater ROI you will experience.
Promote and refer the companies that are important to your business by sharing their information and commenting on their updates. These companies may also return the favor and help to promote your business on Pinterest as well.
Gain more exposure by linking your Pinterest account to your Facebook and Twitter account, which will help your friends and followers to easily find you.
4. Content is always king.
The best way to engage followers is to provide interesting and value-added updates gearedÂ towardÂ helping them achieve success.Â ItÂ shouldn'tÂ always be about you. This is another opportunity to establish your company as an industry expert – not just someone who repurposes and "repins" content from other people.
For example, if you run a florist business and recommend several different plant growing products in a new blog post, create a Pinterest board tied to this post that shares these recommendations in a visual way.Â By making your content more engaging you are providing readers with a reason to follow you.
You could even create boards to feature new products that are released in your niche. Creating boards featuring new products in your niche is also a great way to demonstrate your value to the community. Again, it's not always about you but rather providing information of value.
Another way to spread your influence is developing Pinterest tutorials to make a unique visual display of your expertise. For example, if your business provides search engine marketing services, try creating a "step-by-step" tutorial board that includes basic lessons and links to articles on topics such as how to build website traffic, increase conversation rates and developing quality content.
5. Improving SEO.
As mentioned earlier, pinning with a price tag and links to your website creates important back links that not only drive more traffic to your website, but also improve your search engine optimization efforts. Try putting links on your most valuable keywords (if your business is home décor, maybe decorating and interior design are top keywords). Decide on your most valuable targets and ad links reflecting those.
And remember, all social media is intertwined these days. Adding your "pins" on Facebook and Twitter, will generate even more links to your site.
Businesses can also increase traffic and followers by offering user discounts for "re-pinning" your images, or ask users to pin an item as an entry into a contest. The more people re-pin your pictures, the more buzz you'll create, and the more likely people will buy your products and services.
Tim Gray is content strategist with Blue Fountain Media. He has wide ranging background in the online marketing space and writes about his experiences with SEO, Social Media, and all aspects of Web design for the company's blog, The ROI Factor. Read more about Tim here.