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If Tumblr and Flickr had a baby its name would be Pinterest.

Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board and social networking site that allows users to create boards based on their interests and post, or “pin” as the website says, items that correspond. Examples of popular board categories include beauty and health, gadgets, travel destinations and recipes. In a nutshell, a user might pin a photo of a strawberry cheesecake onto their recipe board or the latest iPad on their gadgets board.

Currently, the website is dominated by females between the ages of 25 and 34; however, it is rapidly growing with other demographics. In fact, according to marketing blogger Richard Darell, Pinterest is growing at a faster rate than the social networking giant Facebook. And according to Complete.com, unique visitors increased by 429 percent from September to December 2011. Additional statistics show that the website gets more than 136 million visitors per day and millions of new pins every week with businesses contributing numerous posts in efforts to market their products and services.

So why should public relations, social media or creative agencies invest time in this website? According to SEO/PR specialist Ryan Avila, the website has several advantages:

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO). Pinterest creates search terms and links.
  2. Target audiences. You can fundamentally find the exact consumers you want by simply searching for them.
  3. Generate a following. If you garner enough “likes” and “repins” you can generate a following on the website and in essence generate a following for your business.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Showcase your work and staff. You’ve probably got some impressive case studies on your website that are not getting enough hits, but on Pinterest, they might just see the light of day. Make sure you have an enticing visual to attract users’ attentions and link your image to your site. Not only will your case studies gain attention, but your business will too, and it wouldn’t hurt to showcase your staff. Encourage your employees to create their own Pinterest accounts so that consumers can see who’s behind all those awesome campaigns.
  2. Sell the product and lifestyle.  According to Monetate Marketing, Pinterest has quickly become one of the most popular portals for consumers to visit prior to visiting a retailer’s website. You can basically pin an image of a client’s product linking users to Amazon (or wherever the product is available for online sale) and create a soft sale.
  3. Study your target audience. Companies spend endless amounts of dollars trying to find out what their clients/consumers want through surveys and focus groups (to name a few), but why not go directly to the source? On Pinterest, you can get a sense of your target audience’s preferences in a less invasive way notes social media consultant Debbie Hemley.

describe the imageAdditional things to keep in mind for effective-Pinterest use include:

  1. Pins have 8 to 12 minute windows that keep them at the top of a category. According to SEO/PR specialist Ryan Avila, if a pin gets enough repins it will stay at the top for another 8 to 12 minutes, and if enough repins occur, the pin will stay on the homepage. If you are trying to garner attention, this would be an extremely effective way to do so.
  2. It’s all about the visual. If you do not have an interesting image, users will not like or repin your pins, so be as visually enticing as possible.
  3. Not all businesses translate well on Pinterest. If your agency has a fashion boutique as a client, showcasing upcoming trends in the industry would be effective.  However, if you have a biotech company, their products may not generate as much attention because it is not visually appealing and the target audience for that industry is not fully developed on the website.  Know your audience.
  4. Return the favor. Just like any other social media, the more you comment, repin and like other pins and/or boards, the more comments, repins and likes you will receive on yours.
  5. It’s not about who you are, but what you like. As opposed to Facebook and Twitter where the user is the star, on Pinterest, people’s interests take center stage says social media blogger Mikinzie Stuart. So highlight your clients’ brands in a way that relates to consumers’ lifestyles, and you’ll be more likely to grow a loyal fan base.

Check out how these organizations are using Pinterest:
Barack Obama 2012 Campaign
Chobani Yogurt
Etsy

Oh and of course, Cook + Schmid!