Pinterest is growing at record speed as more individuals and businesses are paying attention to this unique, image-based social networking platform.

While Pinterest’s terms of service clearly state that direct sales content is not allowed on the site, that doesn’t mean businesses can’t get creative and use Pinterest to build their brands and drive revenue. Here are 10 creative ways that you can use Pinterest in your social media marketing mix.

Indirect Marketing with Pinterest

Indirect Marketing with Pinterest

Like most social media tools, Pinterest is great platform for indirect marketing purposes. Pinterest is a visual social bookmarking tool where members “pin” images and videos that they find online to virtual pinboards where other members can “repin,” like, and comment on them. It’s free and easy to use. The visual aspect offers a variety of opportunities for businesses to connect with consumers in creative ways. Some ideas include:

1. Custom product pinboards: Depending on the type of products your business sells, you could create custom product pinboards that indirectly market those products. For example, a travel company could create pinboards to pin images of recommended hotels, things to do at a popular vacation destination, cool resort pools, and more. A clothing retailer or fashion designer could create pinboards with specific “looks” that include shoes, clothing, accessories, and so on. Rather than simply republishing an online catalog, the pinboards offer custom combinations for specific purposes.

2. Audience-specific pinboards: Taking the custom product pinboard concept a step further, businesses can create pinboards for different segments of their target audiences. For example, the travel company could create multiple pinboards for a specific destination such as “Miami on a Budget,” “Miami Traveling Alone,” and “Miami for Families.”

3. Contests: Contests can get really creative on Pinterest and can be promoted across a business’ social media profiles (see #6 Cross-Promotion below). For example, hold a contest for the best image pinned of a customer using one of your products.

4. Market research: Pinterest is a great place for informal market research that can be used to develop better marketing programs. Publish images of products in development and ask for people to share their thoughts through comments. You can also ask for feedback on ads, packaging concepts, and more.

5. Educational and how-to video pinboards: If you publish how-to videos on YouTube or tutorials on your business blog, Pinterest is a perfect place to pin and share that useful content. Create a pinboard for all of your helpful content to give it broader exposure.

Integrated Marketing with Pinterest

Integrated Marketing with Pinterest

Pinterest is perfect for sharing and discussing images and videos, but to take that content to the next level of success, you’ll need to cross-promote it across the social web. You also need to offer ways for people to share your image and video content through their own Pinterest pinboards. Your ultimate goal should be to give your content the most exposure possible in order to build your brand and business. Here are some easy ways to do it.

6. Cross-promotion: To get broader exposure, you should cross-promote the content you publish on your blog, Facebook Page, and other social media profiles on Pinterest pinboards. You should also cross-promote marketing initiatives on Pinterest, but be careful not to violate the Pinterest terms of use.

For example, online contests should “live” on your business blog or Facebook Page, not on Pinterest. However, you could ask people to pin images to Pinterest as part of your contest. Lands’ End did this as part of its own successful Facebook and Pinterest contest.

7. Pin It button: You can add a “Follow Me on Pinterest” button to your website and blog as well as a “Pin It” button which makes it easy for people to pin your image and video content with a single mouse click. You can install these buttons within seconds, and they’ll instantly make your content more shareable.

Direct Marketing with Pinterest

Direct Marketing with Pinterest

You can’t try to sell anything through your Pinterest activities, but that doesn’t mean that using Pinterest for marketing is off limits. You just need to think outside-the-box. The ideas listed below should help you start thinking about creative direct marketing initiatives that can work on Pinterest.

8. Exclusive product bundles: As discussed in #1 above, you can create custom product pinboards on Pinterest. Why not create exclusive product bundles on Pinterest where you create pinboards with a specific collection of products that are offered at a special price? Imagine a party store that offers a specially-priced bundle of graduation party supplies or bridal shower supplies on exclusive product bundle pinboards.

9. Coupon pinboards: For businesses that publish coupons across the web, creating a pinboard of those coupons is a great way to share them with a wider audience.

10. QR Code pinboards: QR codes can be gathered into a special pinboard so people can easily find them. This works particularly well for businesses that invest in creatively designed QR codes rather than traditional-looking QR codes.

Do you have a Pinterest account? List it in the comments below and feel free to follow Sprout Social on Pinterest.

[Image credits: ManyChapters, John Spade, Quy Dinh, Clever Cupcakes, Ben Ahhi]

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