Put a Pin on It: How to Use Pinterest to Market Your Online Business

  •    Freelance journalist covering women, business, policy and social good.

If you're not using Pinterest to market your online store, you may be missing out. While Pinterest is smaller than some of its social media cousins, it's a network that customers specifically consult for ideas on what to buy. According to eMarketer, Pinterest has more influence on U.S. social media users' purchasing decisions than any other social media platform other than Facebook.

Find Your Audience

Over 90 percent of Pinterest's 200 million monthly customers use the network to plan new purchases. Two-thirds of those customers have discovered a new brand or product from Pinterest's business content, and half have made a purchase after viewing a promoted pin (either an image or video), according to the company.

Pinterest is also a valuable tool for reaching out to younger customers and women: Half of millennials in the U.S. are Pinners, along with nearly 70 percent of millennial women ages 25-54, reports the company. Men are catching on to Pinterest as well – about 40 percent of new users are male.

Families are another strong demographic on Pinterest with seven in ten U.S. moms and one in three U.S. dads using the platform. If these are your target customers, you may want to give give Pinterest a try.

Set Up Shop

It's important to understand how people shop on Pinterest. Many Pinners start with an open mind, searching images and personalized recommendations for inspiration. And brands like Nordstrom understand that customers are more likely to look to Pinterest for ideas than to use search engines or consult family and friends. Pinterest shoppers are browsers, but they're also ready to buy.

The best way to use Pinterest to successfully promote your eCommerce store is to create a Pinterest for Business account, which includes access to marketing materials and advertising resources.

Business accounts can also use Pinterest Analytics, a newer feature that provides tracking information with insights on how viewers are responding to your pins. Business accounts also allow you to use your business name to help create awareness for your online store.

Seek Attention

To create eye-catching pins — remember that Pinterest is a very visual platform – think about the best ways to use images and videos to tell your business story. Use high resolution images for a more professional look, advises market researcher Kissmetrics. Other tips: Lighter images are more popular than dark ones and images without faces get more repins.

Don't forget to connect your Pinterest account to your existing Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can get more followers — and enable all your current social media customers to connect with you in a new way.

A great way to engage with new and existing customers on Pinterest is to create an Open Board, where users can add their own pins. Home improvement store Lowe's, for example, created a number of open boards, such as "Curb Appeal" and "Build it!" to enable customers to show off their projects and landscaping ideas.

You can create a Pinterest board for your eCommerce store and ask people to add pins for their favorite products. Or you can create a board for a favorite event, location or season. If you're having a summer sale for your online store, for example, you can create a related Pinterest board where customers share their favorite images of summer.

Get Rich (Pins)

Rich Pins include additional information to increase engagement and drive traffic to your site by adding context about an idea. There are four different types of Rich Pins: app, product, recipe and article, and each has its own features.

Rich Pins include real-time information, A product pin, like this one from Shoes.com, for example, makes shopping easier by including a link to your eCommerce site. It also provides real-time pricing for your product. A recipe pin, such as this one for Tangy Cilantro-Coconut Dressing from Whole Foods includes ingredients -- and where to find them in the store.

An article pin enables users to save stories. You can use an article pin to share a link to a blog post on your eCommerce site, for example, or to an article that mentions your store. Article pins also show the story's headline, author and description. Because Rich Pins are relatively new, they can help you stand out from the competition.

Pinterest may not be the largest social media platform, but it's one of the more powerful networks for inspiring purchases. Consider these tips for how to use Pinterest as a valuable marketing tool to share your business story and drive more traffic to your eCommerce store today.