Social media networks are all about building communities. For a brand, that means creating an online space where your fans want to spend their time, learn about your business, and support your activities. From sharing news to improving recognition, a strong community is crucial for a company’s social presence.

Pinterest is a platform that largely places the focus on individuals. Members are encouraged to collect and showcase the pins and products that they find most inspiring. While friends can respond to pins, interactions aren’t built to be front and center on the network. That means businesses may face some challenges in building the same level of follower involvement on Pinterest as they do on Facebook or Twitter. Here are some tips for getting your Pinterest community active and engaged.

1. Use Group Boards

Several of Pinterest’s newer features can help businesses to create a better sense of community among fans. One element of the network that has great potential for brands is group boards. These are shared locations on Pinterest where multiple members can pin images.

A smart company can unite a select group of fans to collaborate in pinning relevant content that a wide array of people will enjoy. Group boards can serve two purposes. First, they give your contributors an ownership stake in your brand’s Pinterest presence. Second, they are a source of an even bigger spread of interesting content than your internal company social media team may be able to provide.

The key to succeeding with group boards is to be clear with your goals. Make sure it’s obvious to your group members what the expectations are for pins. Specify the type of content you’d like to see, along with any hashtags you’d want attached to the pins, in the board’s description.

Also, make sure you think about the best approach in terms of people to invite. A small, selective group of supportive fans will probably supply a high quality of pins. A large base of contributors may not always be as on the mark in terms of content, but will probably yield a higher volume. Go with the strategy that best suits your brand and its social media ethos.

2. Repin and Reply

One of the key elements of building a community on any social media network is engaging with your audience. That means your brand should take the same approach on Pinterest as it does on Facebook or Twitter. Start by following other Pinterest profiles and repinning relevant images from those people.

Don’t expect to create a community if you operate in a vacuum. Your company may need to make the first step of reaching out to build those relationships on Pinterest. Share other pins and show that your brand knows the unspoken rules of social media.

Once you’ve started to create a network, be sure to continue engaging your fans by leaving comments when appropriate. Also, take the time to respond when followers comment on your pins. Conversations are a focus in any social media platform, and Pinterest is no exception.

3. Stay Savvy

The real-time nature of social media means that fans have come to expect lightning-quick responses to current events. If your brand is able to jump on popular memes or trends, your followers will appreciate your web savvy. For example, General Electric has an entire pinboard titled “Hey Girl” that spoofs the popular Feminist Ryan Gosling Tumblr, but highlights inventor Thomas Edison in place of the actor.

Humor is a powerful tool for engaging fans, but make certain that it’s a good fit for your company. CNET places a large emphasis on tapping into geek culture with its Pinterest presence. Rather than create unique pins of its own, the brand has chosen to highlight clever nods to Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, and other sci-fi icons that its news team comes across.

4. Give the People What They Want

Once you have a following on Pinterest, don’t pat yourself on the back and call it a day. Pay attention to what content gets the biggest response and monitor which items are not so popular.

Fans will make it clear what material they want to see with their repins, comments, and likes. Provide them with more of the content they want, In turn, you’ll demonstrate that your brand is responsive to your followers and understands their priorities. Your audience will respond by continuing to visit and interact with your images and your brand.

[Image credits: Parker Knight, Adam Heath, Geishaboy500, AlicePopkorn]