The surprise smash-hit social networking site of 2011 wasn’t Twitter, Tumblr or Google+. In fact, it was a site that, even today, is still an invite-only social network. The Palo Alto site Pinterest has skyrocketed into the top ten most visited social networks of the past year and continues to gain traction and popularity.

The image-based platform is a simple enough concept: Users create and name Boards anything they like (Places I’d Like to Visit, Pretty Dresses, My Cookie Creations, etc.) and post relevant photos on corresponding Boards, while categorizing Boards under one of the 32 general Pinterest categories. Users follow one another based on interests, and photos are displayed in a pin board-type feed that is simple, yet visually stunning.

But how can brands and companies utilize this platform to their advantage? Here are five ways to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon to reach an already established female audience and a rising male audience.

1. Contests

Brands and companies can connect and build buzz among their audiences by hosting various types of contests on Pinterest. Contests can range from creating the “Best Board” to a earning the most Repins. Users could post photos of the best outfits they put together or of sculptures built from products bought at a specific store. Similar to photo contests on Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest offers a way for brands to build visually stunning interaction between themselves and their patrons.

2. New Product Approval

When launching a new product, whether a new dress, dinner dish or cellphone, companies want to determine initial reactions to the product’s look and feel. Because of Pinterest’s commenting ability, it’s an ideal platform on which to introduce a new product and gather firsthand opinions. Because Pinterest’s popularity hasn’t reached the caliber of Facebook, brand managers can easily organize, analyze and determine sentiment from the results. As users Repin a photo, brand managers can gather more intelligence, and ultimately decide whether their companies should move forward with mass production. Think of it as a social media focus group.

3. Showcase Brand Personality

For companies that don’t necessarily have product lines to show off, the social networks allows photos to communicate a brand’s personality. For instance, a mayoral candidate could have a Pinterest Board of photos that features his philanthropic outreach and community relations. A magazines can post past and present photos that showcase places it has sent journalists, events it has covered, etc. Each Pin allows for a description and a link to the original story. Therefore, any company can quickly connect an audience with its story, mission and future plans, all via photo Pin.

4. Display Various Sectors of a Company

Larger operations can use Pinterest to nicely organize areas of focus and relay them to the public. For instance, an integrated marketing agency may host several individually themed Boards. One Board showcases photos of its public relations efforts, while a design department Board displays logos and web pages it has created, and a final Board hosts photos of employees in action. These types of organized displays would also allow other businesses to view similar work, effective strategies and innovative teams, making Pinterest a strong B2B community.

5. Creative Communication Between Brands and Customers

Using Pinterest, brands can create Pins and Boards that feature customers’ product interpretations, and then showcase them for entire audiences. This way customers can further relate to products, and brands have a way to thank to their supporters by integrating them into their communities. For example, a clothing company Pins a photo of a shopper in one of its outfits, and writes caption “Brandy A. paired this floral dress with our black lace stockings and brown leather boots to create the perfect fall ensemble.” Brandy feels special because the brand recognized her involvement and creativity, and thus is inspired to return, and the company creates content that keeps fans constantly involved.

Pinterest holds immense potential for brands to interact with their audiences and to visually entice current and potential customers. Using the power of image, companies can create buzz around products, display more in-depth aspects of their businesses, and ultimately create more personal and visually pleasing social experiences for their audiences.



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