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What do Chobani Yogurt, Drake University, and Oreck Vacuums all have in common? They are all rock stars at leveraging Pinterest to brand their business. Each plays to their unique demographic – Chobani dedicates their pins to delectable treats, Drake boasts boards of bulldogs and study guides, and Oreck features re-pins of furry friends that their vacuums will be cleaning up after – just to name a few.

As you have read from Lauren’s and Suzanne’s past Pinterest posts, this social network is quickly becoming a major contender within its realm, as evidenced by a 429% increase of unique visitors to the site from September to December 2011 via 11 million monthly visitors, making it the fastest growing website to surpass the 10 million mark.

In this final piece of our three-part puzzle, I will be discussing how to take advantage of Pinterest’s potential to build your brand. Branding is all about the real estate you take up in someone’s mind and Pinterest occupies this real estate like no other social media tool. Allow me to discuss four monikers (similar to the site’s “Pin It” mantra) for successfully leveraging Pinterest’s branding potential.

Number 1: Start It

The largest and simplest way to brand your business with Pinterest is by simply starting. I mean it kindly, but the more you put in to the network, the more your business will get out of it. Create your profile, build your boards, and let the fun begin. Leverage the site to introduce new products, show off best sellers, and present your business directly to your customer. For example, Etsy showcases 26 boards that feature products from its marketplace including Gift Ideas, DIY Projects, and Etsy Kids.

Remember, like all social media sites, content is king. Curate your brand by featuring content that is applicable, pleasant, shareable and adds value to your brand. As Suzanne mentioned in her post, Pinterest has great potential for your internet marketing strategy, make sure you utilize keyword-rich captions for your pins. As appealing as “Awwwww” or “Cuuuuute” may seem as captions, it does not add to your credibility, creativity or SEO.

Number 2: Personalize It

Let me illustrate my next point with the archetype example of how NOT to pin. I am sure you are well familiar with the sleazy sales guy who is constantly pushing their product through your window after you slammed the door. Pinterest is not the place to be “that guy”. Nothing destroys value like the constant, straight-up sales pitch.

Don’t misunderstand my first suggestion, obviously there needs to do some self promotion, but there is a limit. One of the best statutes of social media is the 80-20 rule, and it is as applicable to Pinterest as it is with Facebook or Twitter. Let 20% of your content come directly from your site and pin/repin the other 80%. It is essential to share content from sources beyond your website and your brand.

One of my favorite fashion powerhouses, Nordstrom, does this quite well. For every product based board, there are boards for inspirations like NYC Fashion Week, and color palette ideas. Your boards should be a commemoration of things that invigorate your business, your best services, and specific stylistic representations of your brand.

Pinterest goes beyond simply featuring your products; it is an opportunity to interpret the lifestyle of your clientele. Feature your items together – not only does it make it easier to up-sell, it makes your posts look more organized. By doing this, you resonate with your customer’s needs.

By personalizing your brand, you humanize your business. Leverage a board to showcase employees with photos and bios, give a glimpse of behind the scenes of the office, commemorate special events, or provide tutorials. Additionally, Pinterest allows for multiple collaborators on their boards – having employee contribution not only adds to the human element, but builds office unity.

Number 3: Engage It

Next step: engage your customers. Respond to comments, feature their boards, run contests – the possibilities are endless. Pinterest is another venue for customer interface, so interact, socialize, and connect. One of the best ways to engage is to promote others’ pins through likes, comments, and re-pins. Pin images that flatter your brand and provide a diverse mix of images from your industry. ModCloth shares pins from bloggers and websites that share their mutual admiration for all things eclectic, and vintage.

As far as contests go, reach beyond the typical “Pin It to Win It”. Harness the creative power of your Pinterest followers. Engage your followers by asking their opinion on the next marketing strategy, comment on the new office designs or vote on the trends they most want to see in your next collection. Choose the winners by awarding points based on likes, comment and re-pins.

One final way to engage your customer base: add the “Pin It” button to your product pages to help your customers build the brand. For example, Etsy includes the “Pin It” button on all listing pages, alongside the usual “Tweet” and “Like” buttons, allowing their 55 thousand followers to actively participate in the content distributed on Pinterest.

Number 4: Learn From It

Pinterest also provides ways to do some quick research that is directly corresponding from your customer base. Every pin displays consequential information such as comments, “likes,” other images in the same board and more. However, the most interesting information presented is the exact URL from which the image was pinned. Remember, each of these images could have been pinned from any page your site. Pinterest conveniently collects them all in one place for you.

Want to leverage it? Type the following URL into your browser http://pinterest.com/source/”yourdomain.com” and replace “yourdomain.com” with your own web site URL . You’ll quickly be able to see the images pinned directly from your site with additional information like re-Pins and comments. Furthermore, you are able to understand how your customer perceives your product. Pinterest can give you a little insight into that by simply taking a look at the name of the boards that users have pinned content from your web site. You may see board names like “Products I love…”, “I Want”, and “My Future Home”. What are they saying about your product? If nothing is said, a simple pin/re-pin shows generated interest. Use this free information to your advantage!

Conclude It

Successfully making branding via Pinterest is not difficult, and there are multiple ways of leveraging it. It is now your chance to go and explore how your business can utilize the newest social jewel to brand your business. Get your free Pinterest invite today.

Let’s talk in the comments section – what do you love or hate about brands you’ve seen on Pinterest?

Here are the links to the previous two Pinterest Posts in the series.