The buzzword of the online world at the moment, it seems, is "Pinterest."
The social media site not only allows users to create online collections of their favorite images, it also refers them back to the original source of the image, making the social media site a potential goldmine for retailers.
And despite the popular clichés, Pinterest isn't just gaining the attention of bored housewives. Communications consultant Shel Holtz recently noted that there were more than 50 million blog posts referencing or featuring Pinterest. Many of those simply explain how the new social site works, while others try to prove its relevancy and staying power.
Those who doubt the usefulness of the newest social media site should know that it's now driving more traffic to e-commerce sites than Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace combined. While Facebook, YouTube and Twitter still drive more referral traffic than Pinterest, the site is still in its infancy and has exploded since July 2011, when it accounted for just 0.17 percent of referral traffic. It now boasts 3.6 percent compared to Twitter's 3.61 percent.
What that means for retailers is that the site's 10.4 million registered users are potential customers because as they sift through images to "pin" their favorites, they often buy what they like. Several major retailers, including Nordstrom, West Elm and Whole Foods are already on the Pinterest bandwagon. They have 9,886, 11,547 and 14,217 followers, respectively. Etsy, the e-commerce website focused on handmade and vintage items, has the most with 53,784 followers.
Top eight ways for retailers to leverage Pinterest
While there isn't yet an ad platform on Pinterest, retailers can still be active on the site to grow their businesses, said Phil Rampulla, the founder of The Material Group, an interactive design and development studio that recently completed projects for Starbucks and Effen Vodka. He and a few other Pinterest users gave their top tips on how to leverage Pinterest.
1. Make sure you should be there in the first place
Top interests on Pinterest in the U.S. include crafts, gifts, hobbies/leisure, interior design and fashion designers/collections, according to Ragan.com.
"If your brand is in any way a lifestyle brand, then you should be set," Rampulla said. "If you sell something like smoke detectors or the little things that go on the end of shoelaces you may have a more difficult time gaining traction on Pinterest."
2. Upload original content
Retailers should immediately populate their sites with original content.
"Make sure the images are beautiful. Well-lit, interesting compositions and vibrant imagery are sure to catch the eye. It doesn't hurt to give them a vertical composition if possible as their current browsing layout gives vertical images more real estate," Rampulla said.
Hammer and Nail Exteriors, a window and door retailer, takes care to choose gorgeous images, said Meagan Feeser, director of PR and communications, Gavin Advertising, the company "pinning" for the retailer.
"Rather than solely pinning pictures of their product offering, they are pinning outside the box with images that capture the essence of the brand: a beautiful home," she said. "So far, Hammer and Nail is having fun with their Pinterest boards and is enjoying seeing inspiration get shared across the network."
3. Curate properly
Avoid organizing boards in themes that are overpopulated or bland, Rampulla advised. Instead of naming a theme "Cool Stuff," for example, give it a title that is not overused. People will follow this grouping more often if it is original.
Hammer and Nail Exteriors has boards called "Design Trends," "Color Wow" and "Wood You, Could You?" that not only share inspiration and tips with pinners, but also promote a lifestyle.
The retailer is "using Pinterest to position itself as the go-to window, door and home exteriors expert with a thumb on the pulse of regional design trends," Freeser said.
4. Learn the difference between repining and liking
When adding content, always remember that a "Repin" is better than a "Like."
"Repinning means someone has adopted your content and added it to their mix. They just became an advocate for you and your product," Rampulla said.
5. Share the love
Follow those who follow and repin you. Try to identify their original work and repin it within your brand's content. This may also be a good time to consider co-curating a collaborative board with some of your top active followers, Rampulla said.
6. Learn how to use the widgets
Pinterest has a "follow button" and a "pin it" button. The follow button allows retailers to put a link on their sites allowing shoppers to immediately follow them on Pinterest. Adding a "pin it" button to your product pages or blog posts will allow customers and readers to pin your products onto Pinterest.
Hammer and Nails added the Pinterest "pin it" widget to its website and promotes its Pinterest account on the company Facebook page. It's as simple as embedding a "follow me" button on your ecommerce site.
7. Get focused
Hammer and Nail Exteriors uses Pinterest as a focus group by tracking pinners who follow its brand, what they're pinning and who else they're following.
"This information can be used to glean insights about target consumers and to stay on the cutting edge of trends," Feeser said.
A fashion retailer could have a board for their spring collection, said Joel Chudleigh, a digital marketer who helps his clients leverage Pinterest.
"They can judge the items that people are passionate about not just through sales but also through re-pins, likes and comments. It then is a great entry point to create a dialogue with the people who are getting involved with the content on your boards; a very powerful and highly product focused medium."
8. Contests never hurt
KooKoo Bear Kids, an online, catalog and retail merchant of designer kids' rooms and gifts, has Pinterest boards showcasing products for kids' rooms, cribs, baby shower gifts, wall art, chandeliers, etc.
Pinterest has been driving 25 to 50 unique visitors each day to the company website, said Joe Mediate, CMO of KooKoo Bear.
"It's tremendous; we have gotten over 500 re-pins, followers, etc., in the first week," he said.
Although Mediate admits that he's still trying to figure out how to turn likes, repins and follows into sales, he's happy with the traffic derived from Pinterest.
In the works is a contest that Mediate hopes will gain even more attention.
"We will send out an email that says something like 'Pin It to Win It' and ask people to follow us on Pinterest, then create a board entitled KooKoo Bear Kids and to pin items from the website that they want to create their kids' room or baby's room," he said. "At the end of the contest, we will pick three winners who will get $3,000, $2,000 or $1,000 worth of products pinned to their board."
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