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If you have been online lately (and who hasn't?), you may have heard of Pinterest by now. Pinterest is a hot new social media website that provides a way for users to save and display ideas on virtual pinboards.

The majority of Pinterest users are women. I have seen a few men on Facebook ask, "What's the big deal? Isn't this just like Facebook?" Yes, Pinterest is an online communications tool just like Facebook... but this social network is strictly a way for users to save and organize their favorite things from the Internet on virtual boards.


The following are among the most common topics that are shared:

  • Weddings
  • Baby showers
  • Outfits
  • Recipes
  • Makeup
  • Hairstyles
  • Decorating
  • Crafts

Users have the option to follow all of their friends' boards or only specific ones. The follow system works just like Twitter, so you can also "unfollow" certain friends or boards whenever you want. And people can share their finds with friends. Users are allowed to edit comments on others' images before saving them to a pinboard, and their friends can comment on those pinned images, too.

Although the majority of the users are women, Pinterest also has a male following. The site also offers pins for...

  • Music
  • Travel
  • Books
  • Healthy living
  • Movies

In short, anything you can find online.

Pinterest is similar to social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Delicious, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. However, the site is extremely visual, chock-full of unique images and photos that others can see and say, "Wow! I love that! I want to pin that, too!"

What Does Pinterest Have to Do With Business?

At this point, you might be wondering, "So, what's in it for my business?" And the answer to that question is a lot.

Here are four ways you can use Pinterest to get more business.

1. Create an account to engage potential customers

Some companies have already set up accounts on Pinterest and have gotten users to repin (similar to a Twitter retweet) and like (similar to a Facebook "Like") their images. By setting up an account, you can have more control over what others say about you and your products and services.

You can easily monitor the comments just like on Facebook or Twitter. If they like what you put out there, the people who directly visit your boards will repin your stuff. In turn, their friends will see your images and have the option to repin them if they like what you offer.

Real Simple, a popular women's magazine that covers everything from beauty to recipes, has a Pinterest account with various boards to showcase the magazine's unique content. The magazine's boards consist of Super Bowl party ideas, holiday recipes, and gift inspirations. Pinterest offers a gift link in the main navigation that separates its gift ideas by price range. You can do the same for your business, and seize the opportunity to showcase your product offerings.

2. Use unique images to drive business to your website

Again, Pinterest is all about visuals and images, so the better the image... the more likely a user will want to click on it for further information. You can include a small description of an image you post, for example, along with a link that leads users to the specific page on your website that hosts that image. That is your opportunity to tell users about your product or service.

Etsy, a popular commerce website for small businesses and individual users to display handcrafted and vintage products, uses Pinterest to display various items that its vendors offer. Because Pinterest users seek craft-related ideas and links to specific products, Pinterest has become one of the largest drivers of traffic to the Etsy website, according to USA Today.

3. Add a Pinterest icon to your shopping cart page

In addition to driving traffic from Pinterest to its website, Etsy also offers a "pin it" button next to the products on its site. Doing so gives users the option to share what they bought or shopped for on Etsy with their friends.

You should consider doing the same if you are in the retail industry or you otherwise sell products via your website. All it takes is one pin or repin to get your product noticed by more people.

4. Drive users to your company's blog

Many bloggers have started using Pinterest to get the word out about their blog or blog posts. The key is to use a compelling image to accompany your post to intrigue users. The better the image, the more likely a user will want to click on it to learn more thus giving you the opportunity to get more traffic to your blog.

Traffic to Nesting Place, a blog about home-decorating ideas, increased as Pinterest users pinned its blog posts to their pinboards. The blog received 100,000 pageviews in September 2011 from Pinterest.

Mobile-Friendly Images and Content

Because many more people are accessing the Internet from their smartphones nowadays, use images on your mobile site and blog that are Pinterest-friendly. One way to do that is to pin the photo on Pinterest yourself to see what it looks like there. Users (including me) have tried to repin something from a website or blog, and the image appeared completely different on Pinterest.

Also, mobile users want quick access to information, so accompany your images with clear and concise content that will tell users exactly what the image is about. A couple of times, I have repinned an image only to receive comments from people asking me what the image was or what it was about.

To avoid confusion and eliminate the guesswork for users, write your own compelling copy for the images you post.

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How do you plan to use Pinterest for your business?

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Push Pin)

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Christina Dowers specializes in Web content and social media marketing at Lion SEO UK, a search engine optimization agency. Reach her via Twitter @Chrstndowers.