Penned by Paul Wilson
I don’t think it is necessary to state that Pinterest is on fire. Businesses are scrambling to figure out how to address this new social behemoth. The site has been live since early 2010, but the true excitement around Pinterest really didn’t begin until late last year or early this year.
We personally didn’t start using Pinterest for business until February 11, 2012. We had our own personal accounts, but it wasn’t until the birth of the PinnableBiz profile that we started to begin understanding the real business power behind Pinterest.
As of this very second, we have 6,275 followers on Pinterest. In comparison to other social networks, this doesn’t seem like much. However, if you look at Oprah Winfrey’s social footprint, you will see that she has 14.2 million Twitter followers, 7.7 million Facebook friends,* and only 42,325 Pinterest followers.
If we were able to sync her social influence to ours, we would have 2,031,343 Twitter followers, 1.1 million Facebook friends, and what we currently have for Pinterest followers, plus a few hundred more. Obviously, Oprah’s fan base isn’t the scientific marker for social influence, but it does help put into perspective that our follower base on Pinterest isn’t too shabby.
As a business, we will hit our eighth month on Pinterest in two more days. To highlight this moment, we have identified six things that helped push us along in this journey.
Without a doubt, the greatest thing that has helped us on Pinterest has been our unwavering focus on providing only relevant information about Pinterest. Our profile description says it best,: “We are cataloging and archiving everything we can find that will help grow your business with Pinterest.”
So many Pinterest accounts are an eclectic conglomeration of interest, hobbies, and passions. Not that this is bad for a personal account, but for business, you want people to see that you are an expert in your field.
Another easy trap to fall into is have a focus that is too broad. We saw many of our competitors try to cover everything and anything to do with Pinterest. It’s possible to have this work, but if you want to become the “go to” profile concerning business on Pinterest, then it’s important to cater the majority, if not all, of your content to businesses.
Truth be told, we only engage regularly on Twitter and LinkedIn. We still push content out to Facebook and Google+ (nothing yet for YouTube), but our most active users don’t seem to really come from these networks.
What helped us early on was creating a LinkedIn group around Pinterest for Business. We currently have 395 people in our group, which isn’t astronomical, but many of these individuals have helped us in building both our presence and expertise on Pinterest.
Something that businesses often overlook is the value of showcasing where you can be found on other networks on Pinterest. Our second board on our profile is titled, “Our Pin Hangouts.” We have had several people who joined us from other social networks state that they found us due to this board.
Interestingly, this actually helps us build our Pinterest efforts. Those who found us on Pinterest and joined one of the other networks, went on to then endorse us to their followers/fans/friends. There is no way to track the influence of this tactic, but we don’t have any doubts that it has helped.
There are a lot of choices on Pinterest for people to follow. To stand out, you need to be creative in how you curate. We did this by focusing on our boards.
In reality, a Pinterest board is nothing more than a category. If your category doesn’t stand out, then people won’t want to follow you. Pinterest makes it even harder by currently allowing people to only follow a single board instead of an entire profile.
Therefore, it is imperative to try to make sure all your boards are tantalizing and beckoning each pinhead to follow your entire profile instead of just one or two boards. We did this by putting our most important boards at the top of the profile. We also took some of our board titles and “pinified” them. Case in point, we called our infographic board “Pinfographic,” and our other social networks board “Our Pin Hangouts.”
We couldn’t do this with every board, but if you look at our collection of boards, you will see that 100% of our boards have Pinterest in the title.
PinnableBusiness.com has been a key component in building our Pinterest influence. Everything you find on our blog directly relates to what we are pinning on Pinterest.
We intentionally look at our repins and likes from our Pinterest profile and then have our content mirror these social engagements. We also use the questions people are asking on our other social networks and turn them into blog posts (as is the case with this post).
Your blog has the power to take an average Pinterest profile and magnify it. We have tried to come across on our own blog as individuals who understand the subject matter in depth. In doing this, we have piqued the interest of our readers to see exactly what else we are sharing on Pinterest.
We also found it important to have a high ratio of unique Pinterest content versus our own blog content. If we had just added our own content to our Pinterest profile, then we currently would only have 49 pins on our boards, instead of 566 pins. We definitely share all of our blog content on Pinterest, but as you can see it is about a 10 to 1 ratio of unique versus self-promotion.
We have taken a page from Hubspot and tried to find every possible way to do inbound marketing. By following the philosophy of “better to give than to receive,” we have found that people are more likely to trust us when deciding on whether to follow us or not.
Our first lesson was when we built PinAlerts.com, a free Pinterest tool. PinAlerts is much like Google Alerts in that it provides alerts whenever someone pins something from your website to Pinterest. We put a lot of time, effort, and money into this initiative, and it was interesting to see how easy it was to encourage people to follow us when they felt grateful for what we were offering.
Our second positive encounter with inbound marketing came from a “pinfographic” we made for mashable.com. We provided visual information on a term we coined “PIO” or “Pinterest Image Optimization.” Our pinfographic helped people see that we know what we are talking about. We received over 500 followers in a week from this single effort.
You can’t honestly have a “how to build more followers” post without addressing engagement. Engagement helps to keep your focus sharp and it shows your followers that you care about what they are doing.
Unfortunately, we are probably the weakest in this area. We do engage on Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but casually at best. Most of our efforts are poured into keeping up with the quickly evolving Pinterest ecosystem and PinAlerts (which is truly the biggest timesuck).
Yet, we have noticed that when we have our bursts of engagement, we always receive a net positive from our efforts. People like to be thanked when they share your information or services, and in return they become a stronger advocate for your brand.
For Pinterest, PinAlerts.com has been the single greatest help in this effort. Whenever someone pins our content, PinAlerts sends out an alert notifying us. When we receive this alert, we try to follow-up with a thank you. We have found that people are more than likely to share are content again when we do this.
Engagement also comes in pinning regularly. The more your followers see your pins, the more it stands to reason that they will share them. Also, regularly pinning has helped us to stay current.
With Pinterest continually changing we have found that by simply looking for one or two articles a day to pin, we are able to stay above the curve. We particularly noticed this when it came to Pinterest tools. Pinterest hasn’t opened their API and therefore, a lot of tools are coming and going. Creating a Pinterest Tools board has made it easier for us to see what is on the horizon and what is in the graveyard.
We would like to say that writing a book really helps, but honestly we don’t know. In February, we started writing a book about affiliate marketing on Pinterest. However, in April, Pinterest killed any opportunity for marketers by not allowing affiliate links.
When Pinterest did this, it derailed our efforts and frankly damped our writing spirits. We eventually overcame this setback and started writing again. In the meantime, we continued to share on Pinterest that we were writing a book about Pinterest. About this time, PinAlerts took off and once again we were derailed, but we still work on our book as much as we can.
Word got out about our writing efforts and we started receiving invitations to speak at social media functions. We plugged our Pinterest efforts and profile at each of these events, and each time we would see our follower base increase.
We actually do plan to launch a series of Pinterest books, and even though we haven’t written our first book yet, we don’t encourage telling people you’re writing a book unless you really are. In the end, it will only hurt your reputation if you don’t publish anything (which is what keeps us plugging onward with our own book publishing efforts).
One of the best decisions we ever made with PinnableBusiness.com was to open it up to guest blogging. We reached out and extended an invitation for others to share their business perspective on Pinterest.
This helped to perpetuate both our blog and Pinterest profile. As our guest bloggers published on our site, they then took their posts and shared them across their social networks. Their family, friends, and fans would then come to our site to read the article. We often found that these people converted to followers far more frequently than regular users who had found us via Pinterest or search.
Having guest bloggers also helped us grow our own network. Several times, our authors would email us months after their post and encourage us to reach out to someone in their own network.
We had one author who introduced us to the agency that handles the Pinterest account for the Food Network. Tapping into these networks helped us build credibility and higher quality content that would then be pinned onto Pinterest. These efforts would ultimately net more followers since we were able to provide content that couldn’t be found anywhere else.
If there is anything the other eight tips have shown, it is the importance of becoming an expert in whatever you are curating on Pinterest. It seems that everything really climaxes to this point. No one wants to follow a profile or board that doesn’t show expertise.
Scientific studies state that it takes 10 years to become an expert. That means right now, nobody is a Pinterest expert. This of course is great news, since you only need to be an expert at what you are focusing on.
And if you are like us, people whom science doesn’t deem as a true expert since our area of expertise—Pinterest—hasn’t been around for 10 years, then drawing on the collective expertise of others will only help you get closer to becoming an expert.
Hopefully what you have taken from these nine tips is that growing a significant amount of followers on Pinterest takes time and effort. Pinterest truly is all about the accumulation of great minds sharing great things. With an unwavering focus on your expertise, it is only a matter of time before others see your potential and want to follow you no matter what social network you are on.
* Oprah Winfrey doesn’t have a fan page, instead she uses her personal Facebook account for updates.