How Brands Are Using Pinterest - And What They Can Do Better

This year's hottest new online service is undoubtedly Pinterest, the "virtual pinboard" website. Once a social site becomes popular with consumers, brands soon follow. In 2011 brands flocked to Google+ when it became the hot new thing. Now, in 2012, brands are beginning to make their way onto Pinterest. In this post we'll look at some examples of how brands are visualizing themselves on Pinterest, along with emerging best practices.

The appeal of Pinterest is that it's primarily a visual site, so it's fun to browse and "pin" (a.k.a. post) images. The most popular brand on Pinterest so far, according to digital marketing expert Gregory Pouy, is the DIY marketplace Etsy. Etsy has 54,000 followers and has created 26 boards, populated with 843 pins. Some of the images Etsy pins are accompanied by a price tag, with the aim of driving sales. But it also posts a lot of images that reinforce its branding as a vibrant, craft-oriented marketplace - for example its colorful "Yum! Recipes to Share" board.

Tips For Brands

In a presentation on how brands can use Pinterest, Gregory Pouy listed five goals:

  1. Promote a lifestyle.
  2. Use it like a focus group.
  3. Drive sales.
  4. Crowdsource.
  5. Run contests.
Why yes, ReadWriteWeb does have a Pinterest profile. Check out our boards!

Promoting a lifestyle is a great way for for brands to get started on Pinterest, because it shows you're not just on Pinterest to spam users with your products. Gregory Pouy points to furniture store West Elm as a good example.

West Elm has created a number of "moodboards" with images that aim to inspire its customers. Pouy describes what West Elm has done on Pinterest as taking the customer through "the first stage (psychological) of the buying process."

Alright Then, You Can Showcase Your Products Too...

While brands don't want to appear advertorial, there's nothing wrong with pinning attractive products! Volkswagen USA has 18 boards, each representing one of its popular car models.

Pimping your products is less of a concern on Pinterest, than on say Facebook, because many people are using Pinterest as a shopping companion. For example I used Pinterest this week to help me research bar stools, which I am looking to buy for my house. I started by googling for bar stool designs and saved the ones I liked to Pinterest. That's a win-win for both users and brands.

It's important though for brands to inject color and fun into your boards, to encourage people to repin or like your images. Fashion clothing store Neiman Marcus does a good job of this. It has 30 boards and 505 pins at time of writing, but more importantly it's being creative. It features a number of themed boards such as "Spring 2012: Fancy Pants," "Spring 2012: Dramatic Earrings," and "Resort 2012: Pop of Yellow." Of course it also has a bridal board, a nod to Pinterest's first early adopters: women pinning photos of wedding dresses.

Our Recommendation

ReadWriteWeb recommends that brands jump in and experiment with Pinterest. Consumer product companies, go ahead and pin images of your products. But also try to post images that complement your brand and match the lifestyle you want to promote. For service-oriented or information brands, like ReadWriteWeb for example, pin images that represent your brand in some way - or maybe just have a bit of fun with it.

The ReadWriteWeb Pinterest has boards on food porn, infographics we publish, behind-the-scenes photos and more. We're experimenting to see what works. If you're a brand owner, let us know if you've started to use Pinterest - and if so how?