PINTEREST is a social network centred around sharing images and the odd video. Users sign up to share their favourite images by creating (pin) boards to match their interests.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

To each board they can “pin” relevant images and leave a small explanation or definition. Any image can be pinned, either by uploading a picture from a computer or by “pinning” it from the website you saw it on. Pinning the image from a website is the same as liking something on Facebook. The Pin appears on your relevant board to your audience.

The growth of Pinterest has been phenomenal. In November 2011 Pinterest had around 4.9 million users. By July 2012 the social network had 21.2 million. In context, this is nothing compared to the Facebook audience nearing one billion, but still an impressive number.

With a largely female audience, Pinterest has become an important social channel for any business wanting to put their product in front of this fast growing audience.

But why are people pinning? What is the point? A Pinterest user is most likely pinning for inspiration, aspiration or recognition.

Creating a board allows the user to pin images that are relevant to a theme. It could be “home decor”, “new kitchen” or “my honeymoon”. These boards become a collection of relevant images that act like a virtual scrapbook of ideas.

These boards can be used as inspiration, an easy way to collect inspirational ideas around a theme, from a wedding outfit to decorating a new home. The social nature of sharing these boards means the user can be seeking other opinions on the choices, or allowing others to add suggestions to the board.

Aspiration is another key theme for pin boards. “My style” is a common theme for users with an eye for fashion. Often this style is big name brands like Chanel, Christian Louboutin or aspirational items like Ferraris or luxury items. We all like to dream and these aspirational boards are key for sharing those aspirational images whether it be pure pipe dream or desire for an amazing holiday.

By sharing images for inspiration or aspiration the user is also expressing an element of themselves. Like any other social network there are basic metrics - how many followers you have, and how many likes, comments and repins you have achieved. Being the first to share amazing images or collect a great board of inspirational images and gain those followers, likes and repins can create an element of recognition, being the ‘tastemaker’ or influencer - a key target for large brands.

So should business be Pinterested? The short answer is yes. One of the reasons Pinterest has captured so much attention is because Pinterest is driving clicks, visits and sales to business websites.

You will recall that anyone can “pin” an image from any website to Pinterest. When the image is “pinned” it maintains a link back to the website. If a pin is popular it will give more views and more repins. That link then acts a bridge back to the website which drives traffic. By adding a price in the comment section, the price is then shown on the pin itself driving further traffic and sales.

Pinterest can be successful for your business even if your content is not obviously “pinnable”. Like any other social channel, businesses can succeed by sharing a combination of their own content, others content and engaging in the social network.

So, if you are a fashion retailer you can be pinning your own content, pictures of your stock linking back to your site. Travel providers could be sharing images of inspirational destinations or half term holiday ideas. Even a cafe can be engaging on Pinterest by sharing recipes, pictures of ingredients or anything relevant.

Having your own content will greatly help gain tangible benefit from Pinterest. That link back to your site is crucially important. Where you would have social sharing buttons “Like”, “Tweet” and “+1” you can now add “Pin this”, encouraging users to pin your images to their boards.

You can still benefit without access to your content or amazing images. Just consider elements that are relevant to business. If you are a fitness instructor or dietitian, think about what images inspire you. Find them on Pinterest and share them. Make yourself valuable by sharing engaging images that reflect your business or the values of your company.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In social business terms they are worth a lot of potential clicks. On Facebook the most engaging content on Fan Pages is pictures. The rise of Instagram and the subsequent purchase by Facebook (for an initial 1billion dollars) showed the value of an image. With continued growth and expansion away from a female dominated audience you should expect to see a lot more of Pinterest.

: : Jamie Riddell is a director of Suffolk-based V4 Technical, a developer of websites and mobile apps.

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