Pinterest

Move over Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Another social media site is stepping up as a valuable marketing tool for businesses.

Pinterest, an online bulletin board for your favorite images, launched in 2010 and is already experiencing wild growth. The site registered more than 7 million unique visitors in December, up from 1.6 million in September. And it’s driving more traffic to company websites and blogs than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, according to a recent report from Cambridge, Mass.-based content-sharing site Shareaholic.

Why should small businesses care? To answer that, you first have to understand how consumers are using the site. Pinterest allows you to organize images — maybe pretty sunrises or wines you’ve tasted — into boards for specific categories. When you “pin” something new, your followers will see it. They can like, comment or re-pin it to their boards. Like Facebook content, your Pinterest pins can go viral.

Brides-to-be can pin pictures of different wedding dresses to review, and people shopping for a new car can pin images of their options. When I joined Pinterest I started a board to show the Major League Baseball stadiums I’ve visited. The possibilities are unlimited.

Here’s a look at why some business owners — particularly retailers — might want to seriously consider starting a business profile on Pinterest now.

How It’s Being Used
Perhaps the most powerful business application is the ability to post images of your company’s products on your Pinterest board and link them back to your website. It works as a sort of virtual store catalog.

But remember that this is social media. If you simply display images of your products without contributing other content or sharing other users’ pins, you’ll likely find that people don’t pay much attention. After all, no one likes a self-absorbed blowhard.

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