“I feel like I am learning something on Pinterest, whereas Facebook is great for keeping up with family and friends, but often feels like a timesuck.” by Larika Jones, Pinterest user 

One of the most buzzworthy new social networking sites in the past five years is Pinterest. Its unique functionality and user base is ideally suited to helping individual users learn more about areas of interest, as well as marketers accomplish marketing objectives. But how is Pinterest different than any other of the dozens of buzzworthy social media tools? Is it just another fad? Is it the real deal for brands and marketing departments? Or is it something that only hold value for individuals, as many social media sites have, over time, proven to be?

Using Pinterest for Business Purposes

© Shutterstock.com | Twin Design

In this article, we will explore, 1) the purpose of Pinterest, 2) the benefits of using Pinterest, 3) setting up a Pinterest account, 4) using Pinterest for business, 5) Pinterest terminology, and 6) best practices for using Pinterest / business case study.


Pinterest is a visual social bookmarking site that allows people to collect and organize photos, articles, and other forms of content according to specific areas of interest. Think of it like an online scrapbook. You collect photos by pinning them to online Pinterest boards or Boards, and you can share photos by repinning them to other people’s Boards. 

History of Pinterest

The idea for Pinterest came about in December of 2009, and was launched by its founders Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra in March of 2010. Silbermann, formerly a Google employee, collaborated with his Yale classmate Paul Sciarra, first on a number of iPhone apps, and then with architecture student Evan Sharp, on Pinterest.

Initially opened to 5,000 members, the site took some time to grow its user base. The founding members and others worked hard on design details, and by June of 2011, the site began to take off. As of July 2014, the site had 70 million unique visitors. 53 million of those were from the U.S. and 85% of those users, or pinners, are women, illustrating the site’s popularity with women. Usage also skews younger with more than half of pinners are either members of Generation Y or Generation Z. As of May of 2014, Pinterest was valued at $5 billion. It only began deriving revenue from a small number of advertisers, including Kraft, Nestle and Gap, at the time of the valuation. However, prior to this, it had already begun monetizing the website by taking a percentage of sales generated from affiliate advertising programs on its site. In 2013, it received $425 million in venture capital. 

Main Purpose of Pinterest

Avid pinner and mother Larika Jones, of York, Pennsylvania, notes:

“[Pinterest] gives me ideas for all sorts of things. I can look at a variety of different common tasks and activities and collect ideas from Boards. For example, I’m [currently] planning my son Elijah’s birthday. On Pinterest, I can take a look at things other real moms have done that have actually worked, which helps me brainstorm.”

As Pinterest Board member Jeremy Levine points outs, Pinterest is “a place where people collect or talk about or think about things they want to do in real life.” It is an aspirational social bookmarking site. This strategic focus, unlike that of other social media networks like Facebook or Twitter, aligns Pinterest closely with brands and marketing, because the things people collect or talk about or thing about that they want to do in real life frequently involve purchases.


Pinterest has many benefits for individuals. First is Pinterest’s basic value proposition: the ability to collect and organize content online and share it with others. As an individual pinner, you can learn about a topic of interest by viewing Boards on topics of interest, as well as network with other pinners.

As a marketer, you can increase your content’s reach by easily sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. You can engage your audience by introducing them to your brand, sharing your brand with users who have indicated an interest in your product or service, and/or create original content relevant to your target market. You can also gain insights about new products you are considering launching by pinning images of prototypes on Boards and soliciting feedback. But, perhaps, best of all, because you are engaging consumers who have already indicated a likelihood to purchase a product, you can use Pinterest to increase sales. As per market research firm Bloomreach, Pinterest traffic has a 1.56% conversion rate (more than Facebook’s 1.13% conversion rate).


To set up a business account, visit www.pinterest.com. Avoid the form fields that appear prominently on the page. Below the red Sign up  button is Are you a business? Click here. Click there and fill out the requested fields. Note that you will be asked to select a username. Pinterest2Your username will be used as a part of your Pinterest page’s URL (www.pinterest.com/username). It should either be your firm’s name, an abbreviation, or something closely related. Once you’ve filled out the fields, click Create Account, and voila, you are now a pinner.

Because Pinterest’s design is grid-oriented unlike the newsfeed style that many other social networks like Facebook use, you may want to set up a personal profile and play around with it a bit to familiarize yourself with Pinterest, pinning and Boards before setting up a business account. The steps are the same, except when visiting www.pinterest.com, enter an email and password, and on the following page, your name, gender, and age, to create your account. Or sign up using your Facebook account.

Once you’ve set up the account, you’ll need to add a the Pin It button to your browser’s toolbar in order to pin things easily to pin your content to your or your friend’s Boards. You can also spend a bit more time, and copy and paste URLs into your Pinboards.

Also, make sure to explore apps that can help you maximize your Pinterest by using several tools which includes, but not limited to Curalate and Pinreach. Such tools offer different analytics for pinners, as well as others which can help integrate Pinterest with other social media tools, create Board-based storefronts, create images from text to pin, and much more. There are many more Pinterest apps available, with a wide range of functions.


Pinterest is ideal for marketing purposes, as it revolves around aspirations. The content that people pin most often revolves around things they would like to buy or things they would like to do which involve purchasing. While Pinterest pales in comparison to other social networking sites like Facebook in terms of global reach, 90% of pinners have an income over $30,000, and 18% have incomes above $75,000. Proper online marketing techniques applied to Pinterest can yield impressive results, as 64% of pinners try a Pinterest-inspired activity monthly. 

Create compelling content

You don’t need a graphic design degree to create an engaging and highly trafficked Board (although that can help). Instead follow these simple steps: 

  • Know who you are trying to attract and what is relevant to them.
  • Map out a content strategy. This is critical for any social media tool. Know what content you will be pinning, when, and where you will get it from. For the latter, create a list of websites and Boards with content relevant to your followers and/or target market for pinning/repining, to couple with the original content you plan to pin.
  • Label your image content well. Make sure to use labels for your images to increase the likelihood that viewers will repin it. Add text messages as well so that viewers are clear about your image and its context.
  • Create a few boards before inviting or searching for followers so that they do not wind up visiting an empty Pinterest page for your business. You do not need to have a surfeit of original content on your initial Boards – 80% of Pinterest content is repinned. But you will want to intersperse original branded content, along with relevant repinned content, to keep your followers engaged.
  • Don’t just think images. Use, audio, video, slideshows (just make sure there is a striking associated thumbnail. Create infographics, which are one of the most popular kinds of image on Pinterest. Or run a contest, by asking customers and potential customers to follow you on Pinterest and pin engaging content on your Boards.
  • Don’t limit yourself to your ideas either. You can create a group board, and afford other pinners to collaborate on the content creation and curation process with you. For instance, create an events board and invite pinners to post relevant events; a staff board, and invite staff to participate; or a joint board with a strategic partner, such as a nonprofit to elicit more content.
  • Create rich pins by using metadags and validating them (learn more here). There are five types: 1) article pins, 2) product pins, 3) recipe pins, 4) movie pins, and 5) place pins. Rich pins allow you to add more extensive topical content related to your pin.
  • Because of Pinterest’s aspirational nature, keep your pins inspiring and positive. Also  communicate your firm’s values to accentuate the goodwill surrounding your brands and products.
  • Don’t just push your products. Pinterest is about tasks, activities, even lifestyles. You may sell a few products in a category, but the idea is to drive pinners to purchase by showing them how your product is a part of their desire. For example, if you just sell skis and snowboards, you want to create Boards that highlight ski gear, ski apparel, and other related images, products, and services in this category. You might go further and display images relating to winter vacations and activities. 

Creating compelling content can help you expand your reach and visibility, increase your brand awareness and bring more customers to your website. 

Expanding reach / visibility

Strategically repin content. When you do it, the original content creator is alerted and may visit your page. This is ideal for marketers: repin relevant content from the Boards of potential consumers, who may follow you and revisit your other content. Also, look at repining content from pinners with large bases of followers; hopefully they will repin your content, making it visible to their base. Develop a list of pinners whose boards indicate they may be a good fit for your brand, as well as influencers with large bases of pinners and/or bases of other influencers. And quote comments as pins from customers and influencers to engage with visitors and drive traffic to your Boards. 

Pinterest staticstics

© Flickr | Nonprofit Organizations

You can also follow other pinners, as you might with Facebook or Twitter, and share their content with your follower. You can also connect your Pinterest followers with your Facebook and Twitter content, simply by signing in with either of those two networks. Once you sign in with Facebook, Pinterest will add a Facebook icon on your Pinterest profile. The same goes for Twitter. 

Don’t bombard pinners with content even if it is relevant. Curate the best images to grow your followers. Spread out your pins and post when pinners are generally most engaged. Socialfresh notes that during the day that time is between 2pm and 4pm and during the evening it is between 8pm and 1am.

Pinterest - Pin it Win it

© Flickr | Stefan Leijon

Increase your brand awareness and bring more customers to your website

Remember that Pinterest is a place where pinners collect and curate visually compelling content. Make sure that your profile and profile image are stimulating, and highlight your brand.

Your content should be designed to drive traffic back to your website so that you can engage and convert consumers. Use images to do so rather than text, as pinners are primarily moved by visual content.

Further, integrate your existing graphic brand assets with Pinterest (and indeed across all of your social media platforms). You should categorize and pin the most compelling of your existing online images on relevant boards, and use these to drive traffic back to your website. Pin images in a size that require you to click on them to read them. You can also add a Pin It button that will appear on images on your external website when pinners mouse over them. Learn how to do so here. This, too, can expand your reach.

Finally, use a call-to-action pin, which can increase engagement by up to 80%.


We’ve covered a few of the most important Pinterest –related terms above, such as: 

Pin: a bookmark of online on your Pinterest board

Repin: a shared bookmark on Pinterest

Boards (or Pinboard): a place on Pinterest to group pins on like topics together

Pinner: a Pinterest user

Rich pins: pins that allow you to add topic-specific details to a pin

Here are a couple more:

Mention: referencing another pinner in a post, of which the referenced pinner will be notified

Follow: following another pinner, or any number of their Boards, to gain notifications of their updates and activity


Best practices for using Pinterest in brief include:

  • Proper planning before setting up your Pinterest account.
  • Integrating Pinterest with your other digital assets.
  • Researching your target pinners and influencer pinners.
  • Make sure your pinned content is accurate, and properly attribute the source.
  • Use a watermark to protect your own pinned image properties.
  • Label your pins properly.
  • Follow pinners and engage your followers, by liking, commenting, and repining their content
  • Don’t overload your Boards with pins; space them out strategically.
  • Track your stats and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Follow the official Pinterest for Business page, which contains many valuable insights and case studies.

© Pinterest

LowesLowesOne brand using Pinterest exceptionally well is Lowe’s which does not just push product. It’s most popular board is titled “Build It” and is designed to appeal to the legions of do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) out there. The board features products from many outside sources, not just Lowe’s. Appealing to DIYers has netted Lowe’s 3.4 million followers, or nearly 5% of all pinners. The firm uses this strategy on Pinterest not just to drive traffic, but for product research and find it tremendously beneficial. From Pinterest for Business’ Lowe’s Case Study:

“A big part of Lowe’s marketing strategy is helping people feel like they can take on home improvement projects on their own. […] The Lowe’s team also uses Pinterest data to figure out which of their pins are the most popular and what’s trending—this helps them come up with new campaign and product ideas. […] They also track how the Pin It button performs on their site and in email campaigns. Popular items get featured across the Lowe’s website, Facebook and other channels.” 

Image credit: Flickr | Stefan Leijon under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic, Wikimedia commoms | Pinterest under public domain.

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