Pinterest is generating lots of buzz both in the tech world and among the general population. From a business perspective, there is still some uncertainty about how to best take advantage of the platform. However, a few companies have excelled in moving into the new network and creating a strong brand presence.

Whole Foods Market, based in Austin, Texas, is one such company. The supermarket chain specializes in natural and organic foods, and also promotes local, sustainable agriculture. It has also developed a large, dedicated following for its Pinterest page — and not just by using beautiful photos for its pins. Here’s how Whole Foods made it happen.

Go Beyond Just Business

One of the most successful ways to approach a social media platform is to behave like a person rather than a company. An individual is much more than his or her job, so don’t let your page focus solely on commerce. Whole Foods has taken this idea in several directions.

First, the company has pinboards related to its charitable programs. The board titled “Whole Planet Foundation” includes pictures of microcredit clients and their merchandise, and some pins link through to websites where followers can donate to microcredit programs in specific regions.

Whole Foods also created boards for Earth Day and for recycling. These are particularly relevant since the company counts sustainability as a key element of its mission.

But your brand’s personality doesn’t only need to have a global angle. Whole Foods also has two pinboards promoting its local pride: #WhyAustin and Texans are Pinning it BIG! The content of these pins has very little bearing on the company’s merchandise, but they help create a bigger picture of the brand.

Know Your Audience

There is some speculation that Pinterest’s heavy focus on food, home decor, and fashion make the platform less useful outside those industries. But why see those subjects as restrictive? Granted, Whole Foods has a major advantage in fitting squarely into one of those topics, but the company hasn’t limited itself to pinning recipes and pretty dishes.

Its page has boards dedicated to kitchen design, gardening ideas, and food tech. Spreading its pinboards across both popular and niche topics gives Whole Foods’ page a broader appeal. Keeping an eye on which images are most frequently re-pinned gives the brand a clearer idea of what others find most intriguing. That’s the type of content you’ll want to provide as well.

Stay Engaged

Once you have a grasp on your followers and their interests, be sure to maintain those connections. For example, Whole Foods is following 1,111 other Pinterest members. A few are relevant companies, such as Lindt Chocolate, or strictly food-related pages, such as, but the vast majority are ordinary people.

A key factor in Whole Foods’ success with Pinterest is that it actually communicates with those people. Scanning the company’s recent activity shows that it regularly re-pins images from the pages it follows and adds new pages to that roster. It also replies to comments left on its own images. That type of interaction is essential to keeping followers interested in your page and your pins.

Another option is to allow other people to post to your pinboards. Some of the most high-traffic boards on Whole Foods’ page permit anyone to add an image. When managed well, this can create a sense of community and sharing among your followers. It also reduces the corporate atmosphere and increases the human element of your Pinterest presence.

Keep Up With Regular Pinning

It might seem obvious, but a key part of building a strong presence on any social media platform is having a regular presence. Keeping up a regular stream of pins will keep your brand in the forefront of your followers’ minds and makes it easier for them to engage with you.

Whole Foods adds new images several times a week. But the company strikes a good balance, never generating an unmanageable volume of information for its followers. People will likely unfollow you if your company’s content starts to overwhelm the pins of their friends.

Do you know of a company that’s a superstar on Pinterest? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Whole Foods, becky becks, Max Wolfe, zeevveez, Emilian Robert Vicol]