We’ve all got used to the idea of using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as a marketing tool. Many marketers have figured out how to spruce up their profiles, participate in discussions and update wall posts effectively.

However- just when we’ve become comfortable with the whole social media phenomenon – out springs Pinterest from nowhere.  Can it be used effectively by businesses for marketing purposes? Or is it just an excuse for slackers to gaze at fancy images all day?

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of Pinterest to help you decide if it is going to be beneficial to your business.

Why you should be Pinterested!

Pinterest is a social sharing website that allows users to sign up and pin content they’ve found on the web to share with friends and followers. According to ‘ComScore’ it now has over 11.7 million unique users a month making it the fastest site in history to grow beyond the 10 million a month mark. Virtually all content that is popular is imaged based, therefore Pinterest tends to attract businesses that are able to present its product or services through images – such as restaurants, retail stores and product designers.

One of the reasons Pinterest has taken off (and a major reason why certain business sectors are using the site) is that it offers a value proposition that’s unique from other social networks out there. None of the other social networking sites do exactly what Pinterest does. Of course you can share images on Facebook and Twitter but image sharing is not the primary purpose.

It’s also a great place to connect with female users, one study showed as many as 97% of Pinterest fans are female – making this a good potential marketing opportunity for lots of businesses, particularly if your sector has a higher number of female consumers.

Pinterest also makes it very simple to share content on the web. It encourages users to download a pinmarklet (pinterest toolbar bookmarklet) that allows users to pin any content they find on the web that they want to share, it’s that simple! There’s no need for copying and pasting or switching between windows.

The main advantage of using Pinterest is that it’s an image driven site and let’s be honest, people love images far more than they love words. If you analyse Facebook, images and videos are the most shared content on there. If you’re a product based company, sharing images of your products on Pinterest is a great way to control the tremendous power of visuals on a popular site that is committed to sharing images.

Why you should be unPinterested!

Pinterest focuses mainly on visual content which can make it inaccessible (and irrelevant) to some businesses. Most exchanges on Pinterest are concerned with design, lifestyle and fashion and good quality images are a must. If your business does not lend itself to display through a visual means, then there is probably little benefit of you taking this route. Some B2B companies have taken the risk and experimented on Pinterest but it’s important to note there could be a backlash if you’re perceived as a marketing maniac.

Pinterest also has a lack of dedicated brand pages. Other social networking sites such as Google+, Twitter and Facebook have all developed space designed for companies which has helped rid some of the frustration users feel when being bombarded with advertisement. For Pinterest, businesses will need to figure out how to market without seeming like marketing. In other words create visual content that is valid in its own right – not just as a tool to drive traffic to the site.

The most pressing issue Pinterest faces is the images that are copyrighted. They have received a growing backlash from media owners and users over their somewhat ‘laissez-faire’ attitude to copyright. Pinterest’s ‘Terms of Use’ claims that it’s the user who is responsible for making sure there are no copyright  or licensing violations so it could be you, the user who would be sued!

The image based site in itself has many flaws when you choose to use it for your business, but on the other hand it’s a free website where you can advertise your business in any way that you want and you are almost guaranteed to have an increase in traffic.  So, for product-based businesses with good quality images and stylish products, absolutely – sign yourself up. For service-based  businesses I would tend to avoid this site as it could end up doing more damage than good.

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