Pinterest, the popular image-driven social network, is one of the hottest topics du jour. In the past year, traffic to the virtual pinboard site has shot up more than 9,000% (source: Compete). Companies are jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon, and your brand, too, can benefit from what is now one of the world's largest social networks.

The following are tips—beyond the basics—on how to use Pinterest to get results.

1. Don't be the dullest kid on the block

After signing up for Pinterest, you might be tempted to hurry through the boring set-up stuff and skip right to the pinning. But you won't be doing yourself any favors in terms of "searchability," both within and outside of Pinterest. Make sure you complete your profile and include links to your other social network profiles and accounts.

The first impression you make should not be one that shouts, "I am marketing at you." Pinterest presents a great opportunity to show a more personal side of your company or brand than what can be found on your corporate website.

Demonstrating a little personality will help you stand out. For example, instead of posting your logo, post a picture of your staff or even an image that presents what you do in a more creative way. You can also create interesting boards on your profile that represent your company's values or aspirations as opposed to just its core products.

2. Keeping it interesting... one board at a time

With Pinterest's recent profile-layout change, you have more control of how boards look on your profile. Boards now feature one large image, which users can select, followed by four smaller thumbnails that appear below it.

Because users can have more than one board, those who don't plan on regularly pinning should have a few good-looking boards populated with five carefully selected images. Doing so will enable those users to develop an interesting presence without the need for constant upkeep.

If you're looking to use Pinterest on an ongoing basis, you should still consider developing a few inactive boards alongside the active ones. A mix of the two can help keep your important boards looking great while affording you a place to pin great new content.

3. Conduct equal opportunity pinning

When pinning, always consider your source. You can use various methods to pin images to your boards. But, if your objective is to drive traffic to a specific website, do you know the best way to pin relevant images and cultivate interest?

For example, you have the perfect image saved to your hard drive. You know, the super fun image that you used in a brochure? Yes, you can upload the image directly from your desktop. But what happens when a user clicks on it? Well, the image leads to a dead end. So, although desktop uploading works, it won't necessarily deliver the results you want.

Enter Pinterest's add-on, Pinmarklet, which makes grabbing images online a breeze. Once installed in your browser, Pinmarklet provides a "Pin It" button that allows you to grab an image from any website and add it to one of your pinboards.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not quite.

Websites have not yet been designed to accommodate Pinterest. Some images, therefore, won't render properly. They might appear blurry, or they might be cut off, or they just won't look good. But if you're using only Pinmarklet, you have no choice. You have to use the images that are available on the source URL to which you want to drive traffic.

Never fear, a workaround is near! Trumpets blow, and the angels sing...

By customizing a URL and pasting it into your browser's address bar, you can pin the exact image you want—from anywhere on the Web—and specify both the description and its location.

Here's a step-by-step procedure:

  1. Choose the image you want.
  2. Right-click on the image and select the source URL.
  3. Paste the following URL into your browser bar, inserting the appropriate text and URLs where indicated: LINKBACK_URL&media=REPLACE_WITH_ORIGINAL IMAGE_SOURCE&description=REPLACE_WITH_DESIRED DESCRIPTION

    When you click "enter" with the revised URL, you will be redirected to Pinterest, and the button will be ready for you to pin to your board.

Now you can start populating your boards with great creative that directs interested users to a specific landing page. As a channel, Pinterest will have suddenly brought you a little closer to achieving your marketing targets.

4. Aim to rank high in Pinterest search

At the moment, no one outside of Pinterest headquarters has a clear idea of how the site ranks search results. Are results ranked by number of likes? Upload date? Number of shares? At the moment, all signs point to a combination of how recently an image was uploaded and what keywords were attached to it. That makes pinning often and writing descriptions of images really important.

If you're pinning an image of a product, options in the description field allow you to add a price. Take advantage of that feature! Simply add "$" or "£" followed by the amount in the description. Voila! Your pin is now automatically added to the Pinterest Gifts section.

Also, hyperlinks can be used in descriptions to generate traffic. Hashtags, too, can be used for linked Pinterest searches.

5. Integrate to make great email marketing campaigns

Email marketers are thinking of creative ways to integrate their email campaigns with this new, hot social network. Some are integrating social buttons into their messages (including ones that lead to their Pinterest page), but is doing so truly sufficient?

What email marketers really want is higher open rates, more clicks, and more people viewing their campaigns. We at Emailvision have picked up on this trend, having developed "Pin Your Inbox," which allows marketers to "pin" their email campaigns with links to the online version of that campaign.

6. Vote! Like! Share! Win!

Remember, on Pinterest (and, really, in life... no?) in-your-face self-promotion is not looked upon kindly. But creative marketing can be. Is your campaign new, different, and clever enough?

Emailvision, for example, is running a competition in which email marketers and subscribers are invited to share their favorite email campaigns on Pinterest. The competition not only drives traffic to the submitted campaign but also elicits constructive feedback from peers (users are encouraged to vote via "Likes" for their favorites).

Of course, a contest requires a prize, and that's another big plus: The most popular campaign will win custom-design services from Emailvision's in-house creative team.

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Pinterest Beyond the Basics: A Marketer's Guide to Successful Pinning

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James Medd is social media marketing manager at Emailvision, where he is responsible for managing the company's online presence via social networks. He is co-founder and organizer of Social Media Paris, which hosts networking events where enthusiasts can meet to discuss the latest in social, tech, and the Web.