Pinterest, the latest darling in social media, represents a significant opportunity to share content and products with a wide audience. Pinterest recently beat out Twitter for referral traffic, according to Shareaholic, a social sharing tool that aggregates data from more than 200,000 publishers reaching more than 270 million unique monthly visitors.
That makes Pinterest a force to be reckoned with, but the explosive growth doesn't mean it's necessarily a good fit for every marketer.
Pinterest lets users "pin" images and other content they like to the virtual pinboards they create, essentially creating an online mash up of scrapbooking and social bookmarking. Other users can "repin" those pins to their own boards, allowing content to be easily shared.
To take advantage of Pinterest's growing reach, you can encourage your followers to pin content from your website or create your own pinboards to promote your products and services. Because each Pinterest pin provides opportunities to link back to your web page, you also can build the backlinks needed to improve your search engine rankings and to attract more traffic.
Related: Five Steps for Using Pinterest for Business (Video)
Here's how to get the most out of promoting your website on Pinterest:
Charts courtesy of Ignite Social Media
1. Determine first whether Pinterest is a good match.
Pinterest's users tend to be women, and the majority of them are 25 to 54 years old, according to recently released demographic data.
Although there are some exceptions, most content on Pinterest falls into stereotypically female niches, including home décor, recipes, crafts and apparel. Marketers in these niches will naturally have a larger audience on the site.
See if your niche is represented on Pinterest before trying to build traffic from it. If the majority of your buyers are young men, for instance, you may not reach enough prospects to justify your efforts.
But Pinterest's demographics haven't discouraged all marketers in traditionally male-oriented industries. As an example, Home Depot has featured its paint lines and home décor ideas on Pinterest.
Related: What Magazines Can Teach You About Using Pinterest
2. Avoid a hard sell.
If you decide to pursue marketing opportunities on Pinterest, be sure to take a low-key approach. Pinterest users tend to view overt advertising messages as intrusions on a "safe space."
To encourage sharing of your content on Pinterest, consider the following techniques:
• If you have articles or images that could be a good fit for Pinterest's audience, recommend that your readers pin your content to their boards by specifically asking them to do so in your articles or image captions.
• Install the Pinterest "Pin it" button on your website using social sharing plugins. By putting Pinterest alongside other social sharing buttons within your website's articles, you will make it easier for readers to pin your content.
• Create your own Pinterest boards to seed your content, and then make your boards diverse and interesting by adding other people's images, as well.
Avoid posting content that could violate copyright laws. To play it safe, pin only images that you're certain offer Internet-wide usage rights, which you can verify on the website from which you download your pictures.
Related: How Pinterest Is Becoming the Next Big Thing in Social Media for Business
3. Reclaim link opportunities.
To drive traffic to your website, you will want to "reclaim" pins that feature your content but lack links to your site.
Chances are if you operate in a niche that's popular with Pinterest's core market, some of your content has already been pinned to the site. But the users who shared your content probably weren't concerned about providing proper attribution and backlinks.
To find any of your content on Pinterest, search the site for your target keywords or the titles of your most popular pieces. If you find some of your material without proper attribution, contact the person who shared it and politely ask her to add the appropriate credit and backlink to her pin. Not all users will agree to your request, but those who do add backlinks could send substantial traffic to your website.