Using Pinterest to generate leads

If you’re not paying attention to Pinterest, you should be. TechCrunch is calling it the fastest-growing standalone website in history, with 11.7 million unique visitors in January 2012, up from a scant 400,000 last May.

Is it a flash in the pan or a long-term success story? It may be too early to tell, but in digital, that’s beside the point. Being in the right place at the right time and being able to move quickly to respond to change is far more important than adopting a “wait-and-see” attitude that may leave your business out in the cold.

Amidst all the hype, the question is whether it’s possible to make money on Pinterest. And the answer is yes, absolutely. A Shareaholic study released on January 31st found that Pinterest is actually driving more referral traffic than Google +, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.

There’s tons of opportunity to generate revenue via Pinterest, provided you follow some simple rules:

Make your pins (p)interesting

Pinterest members are passionate about many things. They love art and design and photography, handicrafts and technology, things that make them laugh, cry or think. They have no interest in helping you sell your products. But if you are pinning them in interesting ways, you will get traction for them. Before pinning something, ask yourself: If I were one of my customers, would I be interested in this? According to ComScore, the most popular demographic on Pinterest are women aged 18-35 in affluent income brackets. Consider your target market and pin accordingly.

Certain types of businesses and products lend themselves much more obviously to success on Pinterest. Real Estate, interior design or furnishings, art or artistic products, handicrafts, fashion, gourmet or unique foods, or interesting gift ideas all have follower communities in Pinterest. If your business operates in this space, you have a natural fit. If not, you may have to work a little harder to find the right angle for Pinterest. A simple catalogue of your products is unlikely to generate much interest, but one particular image of something innovative or unique just might.

Promote your Pinboards

Find that toolbar on your site linking users to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and create a link to your Pinterest account alongside it. Good, that’s step one. Now think about how you can promote your pins. A “design of the week” Tweet, a call for submissions from your audience, or even a contest inviting users to pin their favourite out of several choices will all help you gain visibility for your Pinboards.

Pin your product images back to a conversion landing page

When you pin an image on Pinterest, it generates a link back to the page where you found the image. Therefore, if you create dedicated conversion landing pages for each product image, once you pin the image, you can drive people back to the conversion page.

Track and monetize referral traffic

The goal, of course, is not simply to pin your own products, but to encourage other people to pin them as well. Set up tracking codes to track inbound referral traffic from Pinterest to your site or product pages, and track conversion rates of this traffic. Track sales or leads being generated via the channel, and measure their worth in terms of revenue in. Then subtract the costs of the channel, including labour, promotion, collateral and hard costs, in order to calculate your return on investment.

Be a good social citizen

Follow the rules of social media – be transparent, be honest, and be genuinely interested in the community. If you engage in nothing but self-promotion, people will ignore you. If you post interesting content and follow the pinboards of others with interesting content, you will have a much greater chance of success. Pinterest is still relatively new, and the resistance of the community to too much commercialization is high. It’s okay to pin your own products, but it’s not okay to only pin your own products. Contribute something of value to the community, and your followers, referral traffic and leads will climb.

Still need inspiration? Sprout has some examples of five brands that are doing interesting and creative things on Pinterest.

Sari Stein, Digital Strategic Planner

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