March 7, 2012

Does Pinterest Make Sense Even If You’re Not Trying To Sell Anything Online?

Pinterest seems to be all the rage right now.  And, in fact, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a few articles about how you might consider using Pinterest for your own small business.  However, several people raised some very good questions about whether Pinterest was right for them if they weren’t actually trying to sell anything online. 

It should be noted that one of the people who contacted me was my sister and she raised a really good point.  You see, my sister runs a retail store (she sells lingerie – not food) in a beautiful small mountain town.  She sources quality merchandise but doesn’t make any of it herself and doesn’t sell any of it online.  The products in her store are mainly sold to those who live in the area year-round and to the seasonal tourists who visit in the Winter and Summer.

So, she wondered, Pinterest sounds really interesting but since it’s not going to drive online sales for her, it’s not really going to grow her customer base (what are the chances you’d schedule a vacation to a specific town simply because of a cool store you saw on Pinterest?), and it’s unlikely to increase foot traffic since she already has a very active Facebook following made up mainly of locals.  Or, to put it more succinctly, does Pinterest make sense for a small business if it’s only being used for brand-building purposes?

The quick and dirty answer is that yes, Pinterest is an effective brand-building tool.  But, as always, there’s a catch:

  1. If you’re planning to use Pinterest for brand-building purposes you have to carefully think about what you brand stands for before getting started.  Perhaps, as in the case of my sister’s store, your brand is about women’s health and happiness, affordable luxury, and a place that is central to the local community.  You notice that I’m not talking directly about what it is you sell but more about what your company and your brand stand for.
  2. Once you’ve outlined what your brand stands for, determine whether it would be feasible to create boards and pin images that would resonate with people around the country (and around the world).  Once again, in my sister’s example, this might translate into a “Motivation” board (with motivating pictures and quotes for women – perhaps around breast cancer survival since she does a lot of work with post-mastectomy women), a “Beauty Comes In All Shapes And Sizes” board that would feature images of women regardless of their size (something along the lines to the Dove Campaign), an “About Town” board that might be where she pins images from around the town, and then there are the more specific niche-boards for things like “Mother’s Day”, an “I Do” board for her bridal customers, and a “Handcrafted Jewelry We Love” board that could showcase jewelers she finds and loves even if she doesn’t sell it in her store.
  3. What would boards like this do for my sister’s store?  It would help reinforce with her existing customer base that hers is a business and a brand that is not limited to just selling bras but is instead a business that understands women, understands their concerns and their worries, and is there to help make their lives easier.  This doesn’t necessarily mean more people will walk through her door but, done right, being on Pinterest can only enhance her brand.
  4. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that my sister is a very visual person so a social media tool like Pinterest makes sense for her.  She and I had talked previously about whether she should incorporate a blog into her website but the truth of the matter is that writing several posts a week was just too overwhelming and not realistic in her case.  However, as a graduate of one of the nation’s top art schools, she relates much better to images and graphics than to words.  In her case a site like Pinterest makes sense because it will play to her strengths and thus is a tool she is more likely to use consistently rather than start up an account only to never actually access it.

That being said, with so many social media tools at your disposal you do have to carefully decide which ones you will use and which ones simply aren’t worth your time.  Just because everyone is talking about Pinterest right now doesn’t mean you need to jump in with both feet if you don’t think its right for you or your business.  But, if you think it might be the right tool for you, don’t let the fact that you aren’t actively trying to sell anything stop you from using it.  As an example, Small Food Business is on Pinterest and none of what’s posted on those boards will bring me any money at all.  But my activity on Pinterest is helping to reinforce the Small Food Business brand and, truth be told, it’s also fun to spend time on Pinterest and pin images I see and sometimes, as a small business owner, that fun factor is just as important as measuring the expected financial return-on-investment!

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