Just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of social networking for your business a new site comes along. Pinterest, the latest social media craze, takes full advantage of the Internet as a way to display visual media and a way to share and connect or “pin” your visual ideas to a virtual bulletin board.
Is Pinterest just a fad? Does your business need to be there? Hilary Morris, a public relations specialist who helps businesses navigate the complex waters of the social networking world, says the answers to those questions are both yes and no.
With more than 4 million unique visitors a day, Pinterest is now the number three most popular social networking site in the U.S., behind only Facebook and Twitter. It may be a fad, but those numbers mean it’s a fad you should check out. Is it a must for every business owner? No, says Morris. While Pinterest is perfect for certain businesses, others really don’t need to be there at all. The trick is deciding if it is for you.
Morris, whose business, Hilary Morris Public Relations, is located in Princeton, calls herself a “New Jersey Digital Mom,” though she was a digital girl several years before she became a mom.
“I think I did it backward,” she says. Her website, www.hm-pr.com, reflects her digital influence. In her bio there she describes herself as “a PR girl, event planner, digital marketing consultant, blogger and influencer, and a WAHM (short for work at home mom).”
Morris’ mother, Sharon recently retired after 29 years at a private school in Morristown, where she spent the majority of her time as the head librarian. The latter half of her career she worked in development and admissions. Her father, Greg, had his own printing/design business and then he wrapped up his career with NJ Transit as a printing manager. Her step father, Steve, is a judge in North Jersey.
Morris entered the digital world in 2007, as Mrs. Mo, the blogger identity for the now-retired blog “Mrs. Mo’s New Jersey.” But blogging was not her first career.
She graduated from Bucknell University in 2001 with a degree in education and taught middle school math for several years, leaving education when she realized she could develop a business around her blogging and social networking skills.
“Her leap into entrepreneurship coincided with the birth of her first daughter and in 2009 she launched two careers: motherhood and public relations. She now has a new blogging site focusing on fashion for little girls, titled A Fancy Girl Must. She offers a variety of public relations and social media services, and has both businesses, school, and nonprofit clients. She also teaches and speaks on social media. Her husband, Rob, is an attorney in Cranbury, specializing in Estate Planning.
Who is on Pinterest? Pinterest differs from most of the other social networking sites in that it attracts many more female users than men. The site has almost 75 percent women members, as opposed to about a 50/50 split for other networking sites.
The emphasis on pictures, making it essentially a virtual bulletin board, seems to be particularly attractive to women, and makes it an extremely good place for retailers selling items aimed at women.
Men who use the site tend to be in creative fields, particularly photography and other visual media.
Should Your Business Use Pinterest? Maybe, says Morris. While Pinterest is a great place for anyone selling clothing, women’s accessories, furniture, or other highly visual goods, with a little creative thinking, other businesses can also use the site to promote their services.
Morris uses examples of local business owners she has worked with to help develop their Internet presence. Khurt Williams, pinterest.com/khurtwilliams, for instance, isn’t one of the “typical” Pinterest users. A former web developer and project manager, he is an Internet security expert and a photographer. Pinterest suits his varied interests. His Pinterest “boards” (pages where one “pins” photos and links) include technology, automobiles, information on diabetes, and photography.
Debbie Schaeffer, pinterest.com/Mrs_gs, owner of Mrs. G TV & Appliances on Route 1, uses Pinterest to showcase what’s new in the kitchen appliance world, while Joyce Hoffman, pinterest.com/joycehofmann, a nutritionist, showcases her services with recipes and photos of food.
Morris suggests restaurants, pool and spa dealers, landscaping businesses, schools, and any other business that can think of a visual way to promote their service should consider using Pinterest.
Who Shouldn’t Be There? Not every business needs the new social networking site. If your business is best described with words rather than pictures, Pinterest is probably not for you. An accountant, for example, would probably not do well in attracting new clients through a Pinterest account.
“I can’t really imagine Pinterest working for a plumber or an HVAC company, either. But that doesn’t mean that those companies shouldn’t be using social networking. Instead of Pinterest they should consider Twitter and Facebook for putting out ‘tip of the day’ messages,” she explains.
Using Pinterest. The first thing to learn about Pinterest is that you can’t just hop on and start pinning within minutes. You must first receive an invitation. Of course, social networking is not about exclusivity, so it’s pretty easy to get that invite. If you don’t know anyone on Pinterest, click on the site, www.pinterest.com, and request an invitation. You’ll receive one in about 24 hours. You can then start using the site.
But before you do, Morris suggests you read the short explanation on Pinterest strategy and courtesy provided by the site.
Pinterest does allow you to copy and “pin” photos, links, and other information not just from other Pinterest users, but from other internet sites, as well. This means that you must be aware of intellectual property rights before you pin.
“I feel like I should make a disclosure statement before talking about copyright issues and Pinterest statements,” Morris laughs, since the site’s policies were questioned widely a few months ago in several articles on the internet. “I’m not an intellectual property attorney, but I do think that if you use common sense and courtesy you can protect your own rights and those of the sites you pin as well,” she says. Some of the basic rules are:
• You may pin anything that you own the rights to or that you have licensing for. For instance, Mrs. G’s sells certain appliance brands and so has the license to use promotional photos from those dealers.
• If you pin something from another site, credit it with a link to that site.
• If you pin your own work, a photograph for example, you should protect it with a watermark. Morris suggests embedding your own website URL as the watermark. You should also make sure that your URL link is listed on the photo.
• Make sure that you understand that what you pin may be shared throughout the world. If you are fine with that idea, go for it, says Morris. Pinterest is about taking your name and your reputation to the world.
Georgianne Vinicombe of Monday Morning Flowers and Balloons — at 111 Main Street in Forrestal Village — pinterest.com/mondayflowers pins photos of the bouquets she designs. “She’s had feedback from other florists throughout the world who love her designs and copy them. She doesn’t mind if someone in the UK uses her floral design. She’s told me she’s happy that other people are enjoying her ideas.”
In Vinicombe’s case, Pinterest is allowing her to gain an international reputation for a local business. If you do plan to use Pinterest for your business, take some time and look at several other sites for similar businesses before you jump in. “Pinterest is a fun and simple site, but there’s also a lot strategy involved,” says Morris.