Using Pinterest for Business – INATS Class Notes

Posted by admin     Category: Business Talk, Starting Up

What is Pinterest, and how can a small business use it to their advantage?

Pinterest is a little like Flickr. The purpose is to “park” images of things you like in a place where you can organize them or find them a little easier.

But wait, you say. We already have bookmarks, and folders for our bookmarks, in our browsers. And what’s more, we can also right click on an image and just save that! If we’re browsing on our phone, we can even take a screenshot.

old skool ways to steal ideas.

Yes. That is true. But then, you can’t share it with your online friends unless you post it to your Facebook wall or some other social media site such as Instagram.

However – a lot of people use mobile devices to browse these days, and the Pinterest “app” can be very handy to store this information to the “cloud”, since mobile browsers may not be very convenient to use when retrieving that information, or have very much space to store photos. Also, since it’s a website and not on a device, Pinterest can be accessed from anywhere.

 

Want to see if anything has been pinned from your website?
Go to http://www.pinterest.com/source/YourSite.com

(Of course, you would replace “yoursite.com” with your own domain name.)

 

So, Pinterest. It started out as a prototype in 2010, and was “invitation only” for several months. The developers opened up the membership to anyone who wanted to make an account in 2012.

When Pinterest was still invitation only, some people thought the elitism was cool. Others found it pretentious.

When Pinterest was still invitation only, some people thought the elitism was cool.
Others found it pretentious.

 Pinterest opened it up for anyone to join later in 2012, and it got so popular that the site was the fourth most-visited site on the internet. There are a lot of articles from September 2012 indicating that many people thought this was going to be the next big thing. Bigger even than sliced bread.

It seems that popularity peaked in 2012 although today it remains a well-travelled website.

THE NUMBER ONE REASON TO USE PINTEREST FOR YOUR BUSINESS:
Using Pinterest to create backlinks to your own website can help your overall SEO.

Real time ranking of Pinterest

From http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/pinterest.com — 6/27/2014
Click on the image to see its current ranking.

Who uses Pinterest? Click on that image above and scroll down, and you will find it’s predominantly women with some collge education, surfing Pinterest from school. The demographics are discussed on the Wikipedia page for Pinterest.

The most popular category of “pins” is recipes. About 60% of the pins are recipes. Other things are wedding ideas, baby registries, fashion and makeup ideas, and home decorating.

HOW THEN, can a business use Pinterest to its advantage?

When you get in some new inventory, you can take pictures and put them up on a themed pinboard. Some users prefer to browse a business’s pinboard instead of going to their website. This is bad for a website’s SEO unless you are clever about it – host your pinned images on your own site, so that when someone clicks on the pin to view or share it, your website has an incoming link from a high-ranked site and that helps SEO.

The second best reason to use Pinterest is to get your customers to look at your wares and share the photos, which might result in a sale. If you click on that link, you’ll go to an image that I shared online (not on Pinterest, though) that got me a new customer. The path it took was pretty twisted, but it still brought me a sale.

THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON TO USE PINTEREST…
TO INCREASE YOUR CUSTOMERS’ COMFORT LEVEL WITH YOUR BUSINESS

These days a lot of people like to check out a store online before coming in. They want to know what they’re getting into, connect with you, get a taste of your “vibes” before actually visiting. People are stressed out about every little thing these days, so “pre-visiting” a store can take some of the anxiety out of actually getting in their car and coming in. Weird, but true. So you don’t have to sell anything online or have a webstore if you have a physical location, just give enough to get people excited about what they might see at your shop.

If you have a physical store, posting images of what your shop looks like as well as incoming products or custom made items you’ve created for your customers, maybe even some classes and pictures of the staff, engages the viewer and can maybe even entice them to pay you a visit.

For a metaphysical business, you can also make up some educational pinboards, such as assembling pictures scrapbook-style to demostrate what you might want to put into a spell bag, different kinds of things to include on a Kwan Yin altar, a few minerals and crystals that are good for healing, etc.

Other information about Pinterest.

— Creating an account and verifying your website —

Pinterest has a policy about how businesses should use the site. They DO allow loads of self-promotion for a business, where with a private user it’s seen as a bit spammy. If you want to pin a lot of stuff from your website, you’ll need to create a business account.

The process is simple – you go to…

http://business.pinterest.com/en

Please note, this is not the same thing as pinterest.com/business. Very stupidly they have made that into a pinboard about business, not a redirect to the above link. In fact, if you Google for Pinterest, one of the top keyphrases is “pinterest for business”, which indicates that they are unaware of how people think.

Fill out their little form. Include your web address. They’ll send you an email that you have to click on. Verify that you’re not a robot, then proceed with the “verify website” function.

Although the verification process is easy enough (regardless of whether you choose the file upload option or the metatag option), from reading many forums and comments, it seems that after you click the “verify website” button, the next thing that will happen is you’ll get a popup saying that it didn’t work. So just expect to have to fill out a help ticket and send a couple of screenshots showing that you did it right.

— A word on website verification —

There is not actually a good reason to verify your website. It doesn’t help you much at all in the functionality of Pinterest. You can still create backlinks, post pictures, etc just like you would if you were using a non-business account. But while a business account will let you, even encourage you, to self-promote, the other alleged features are either worthless or frustrating to the average business user.

Don’t get me wrong, if you are a huge company, you might find some way to wrangle value out of the other features, but don’t hold your breath waiting for verification of your website.

What you DO get out of verifying your site:

  • Your web address is now a hyperlink to your site. Marginally important, -ish.
  • You get access to Pinterest Analytics (more on this in a moment)
  • You may apply for specially encoded pins (“Rich Pins”).

 

PINTEREST ANALYTICS – what do they do?

You will  be able to see a chart of how many people clicked on your pinboard, and how many people shared a pin or link to the board. THAT IS ALL. It’s pretty useless, because you can get much, MUCH deeper analytics information from your own website’s logs. This is where it’s helpful to host your photos instead of pinning them from other places, or directly uploading them to Pinterest.

ALL of the analytics within Pinterest read as if they are generated BY Pinterest. In other words, you do not get to see where people are, what kind of browser they are using (this can be very informative – are your customers using mostly mobile devices? If so, you probably have a younger crowd), how long did they stay on your site? Instead, all you can see is that your pinboard(s) had X views that day, Y clicks on an image, and Z re-pins.

Pinterest analytics do not tell you how someone found your page, nor do they tell you any keywords a person was using when they found you, or even how many unique individuals looked at stuff.

Since the Pinterest Analytics function isn’t very helpful, by hosting the images yourself, you can use Statcounter (a WordPress plug in) and/or Google Analytics to get much deeper insights about the kind of person who is looking at your pinboard.

And with deeper insights, you can understand who is interested in your site, and therefore where and how to focus your advertising money and even get ideas about what kinds of merchandise you should carry.

The Pinterest developers, they seem to just think all we want is to go “oh look, someone clicked on my thingie, how neat!” — which is NOT why a business owner is using their website for promotion. If you really like spending your personal time on the site, that’s great, but for most of the people I know, when we’re doing it on work time, using a social media site instead of making product or doing paperwork is part of our marketing scheme. A necessary evil. Do it or be forgotten. So we need to know that it’s paying off, otherwise we’ll spend our time doing something else, right?

 

— RICH PINS —

Businesses are supposed to be able to use something called a Rich Pin – whether it’s a recipe, an article on your blog, an item that’s for sale, or a movie listing – there is special markup language which you can use to encode your pin so that it sticks out as being special (and in the case of a product pin, tells the viewer whether it’s in stock or not). Again, Pinterest isn’t terribly helpful here, because each and every Rich Pin has to be approved and they seem to take forever.

I’ve applied for ones for my products, but then my online shop is on Artfire, and it won’t work with any second tier store. So your Product Pin would not work with an Amazon Affiliate link, Artfire, Etsy, eBay, or any other site where the website is http://www.topleveldomain/yourstore or www.yourstore.topleveldomain.com

This took a really long time to find out, and it wasn’t through Pinterest. I would have liked to know that right up front before I spent a lot of time being frustrated about trying to make it work.

However, you can still pin your product listing, so the Product type of Rich Pin just seems superfluous. There’s a ton of stuff pinned from Etsy, for example, and I’m sure that the sellers are quite happy that people are looking at their wares. A Product Rich Pin — if they worked — would tell a Pinterest user if that item was in stock without having to click through to the Etsy site, but if they wanted to look further, they’d still have to visit that seller’s store. The seller would be able to see, in their Etsy analytics, that they’d had a view, even if the product was sold out. An interested party could send the seller a private message (through Etsy) if they wanted to enquire about future availabilities.

It would be nice if the Product Pins worked for everyone, but they don’t. Still, plenty of buyers and sellers hook up every day via Pinterest, and somehow manage to exchange money for goodies without using Rich Pins. You do not need a Product Pin in order to sell a product. You just need to write good descriptions and get yourself out there so you can get found!

Recipe sites are already encoded for recipes, so these should work for you. Maps also seem to work, so if you want to pin a map to your board, you can do this, but I don’t know why you would. Articles, such as a blog post with no picture, are supposed to work, but this is another one I haven’t gotten to work. Movie listings all appear to run through IMDB so they’ve probably built a special relationship with IMDB.

If you want to work around the Article Rich Pin (you have to do a bit of coding to get them to work, and then still apply — and it STILL hasn’t worked for me) to pin a page with no images, upload an image from somewhere, and just include the link in the caption. If you want to track that link, host the image on your website.

Maybe in the future the developers will spend less time hanging out surfing the San Francisco Bay and get this stuff working for us, but at this time, the functionality for small business users leaves a LOT to be desired.

Don’t worry about Rich Pins. Focus on building brand awareness. Show things that define what your store is about, and what the customer will see when they come in to visit your shop. What a customer, or potential customer, wants most of all today is to have less stress in their lives. It seems that a lot of people have some anxiety about going into new places, and want to know what they can expect from an experience with your store. At the very least, they do not want to be unpleasantly surprised or feel they have wasted their time, possibly gas money, visiting your store.

Your internet presence is like looking inside a sugar egg.

Readers and viewers will see your enchanted world and want to come experience it. Give them some peepholes into the magic of your business!

Getting a Business Started, Part Two: Customers

Posted by admin     Category: Business Talk, Starting Up

 

You know what you like to make, but do you know who your target audience is?

This might sound like a ridiculous question. You might be thinking, “I make beaded jewelry, so anyone who likes beaded jewelry is my target audience.” If this is what’s going through your head, you have much to learn.

We’ve kind of begun the series with an imaginary seller of handmade jewelry, so I’ll keep that example all the way through the articles, but what I’m writing about is going to apply no matter what you make. So just go with it, and apply what I’m discussing to your own craft.

By all means, if you have questions, please ask them in the comments section! That way everyone can learn from your question (including me).

So, back to our Crafter. Let’s assume the items are of good quality, visually appealing, made by someone who knows their technique pretty well. Our Crafter is a nice person who enjoys stringing beads, making bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.

You know, I feel we’ll need a name, so I’ll just grab one out of the hat and go with Marla. And now we can properly speak of her in the third person. Ah, literary devices!

Marla has come in my store with a box of handmade stuff. I don’t have time for her, because it’s a very busy day, tons of customers, and on top of that I’ve just got in a shipment of magick widgets that have to be entered in the computer, priced, and put on display. So I ask her to briefly describe what all she has there in the box, so I can determine if I want to take her card and try to look at her website from my phone the next time I have a minute.

Marla says, “beaded jewelry.” I ask her what kind of beaded jewelry. “Natural stones,” she replies. Okay, that’s pretty good, I like natural stones.

“Who’s the target audience?” I ask, because maybe I have too much of one kind and need to diversify, the season’s changing, the moon is in outer space, or some other vaporous reason of my own. “Do you have a specific style? What age group people would like your stuff?”

Marla looks like a deer caught in the headlights. “I use natural stones, so people who like natural jewelry–”

And she’s thinking, “I make nice stuff, everyone will love it, what a stupid question.” Read more…

Getting a Business Started, Part 1: Getting in the Door

Posted by admin     Category: Brick and Mortar, Business Talk, Promotion, Starting Up

 

I’ve been asked about how to start up a crafty, arty, retail-flavored business so much that I’ve decided to write a series of posts about it.

Today’s topic is “how to get started”. By this, I do not mean “how to find your calling in life”. If I had the answer to that, I’d sell it for a zillion dollars, and I would be my first customer.

Actually, today’s topic is “how not to get kicked out the door by a shop owner”. We will proceed to the actual Getting Started bit in the next post. I actually didn’t intend to write this one today, but it happens with such frequency that this post more or less wrote itself.

Let’s assume that you are the typical person I’m chatting with on my sales floor. You have come in with a ziplock bag full of handmade sparkly stuff, no price list, no business cards. What you have, in spades, is a drive to Make Stuff. You are an artisan crafter, but you need to destash, sell, or consign some of your pretties so that, mostly, you can buy more beads, silver, or other supplies. Alternately, you have fallen heir to someone else’s stuff and just want to get rid of it. That’s a different matter, but some of the following advice still applies.

You probably did not call me for an appointment but instead just walked in, pulled the bag out of your purse, and started detangling your finished projects from the wire and pliers and laying them on the counter. Probably in front of actual customers (“civilians”).  Or perhaps you sent me an email or PM to ask if you could come over, got all excited, didn’t wait for a reply and just came on in.

Just for the record, this is never cool. At the very least you should call the shop and ask for an appointment. If you were to call me, assuming I were in the mood and/or budget to buy stuff this week, I would say, “text or email me your website and let me get back with you later.”

I’m a pretty easy-going, open-minded individual, but when I am at the shop, if I do not have customers, I am working. I, like most independent retailers (“mom-and-pop stores”) have a hundred thousand things on my to-do list at any given time. Writing blog posts, for example. Making lists of things I need to restock. Thinking ahead to the next major holiday or change of season, and it’s probably just around the corner. Planning promotional ads or flyers for the psychic fair coming up this weekend.

So to just come in and try to sell us stuff is really inconsiderate to a lot of shopkeepers simply because we have to drop anything we were planning on attempting to achieve that day and deal with you right then and there. As awesome as your wares surely are, it is highly unlikely that they couldn’t wait for an appointment.

Generally speaking I will stop you before you get your stuff out of the ziplock and ask if you have a website or Etsy shop. If your answer is “no”, you will get no further, because I will know you are not serious about selling your stuff. You might drop by this one time, but if I bought your things and they sold well, I would not be able to get in touch with you again to restock. Maybe I don’t have money today because I just went to a trade show and spent it all, but in a couple weeks I might like to pick up some more stuff, maybe yours. Do you really want to make it hard for me to buy from you?

If your answer is “well, I’m working on it….” you are going to want to read all the rest of my blog posts in this topic. I am writing these for you who mean well, maybe have even purchased a domain, but the big world of computers and websites and blogs are, you feel, over your head.

Trust me. They are not and we will get you through this. It’s not hard and can be quite a lot of fun!

So then I will ask, “Flickr page? Anything? Paper brochure with some pictures and a price list? Business card?” and if your answer is still no, I’m going to send you packing, unless what you have is something you inherited or a one-time sale of basically estate wares, in which case I will request to see you after hours, away from the prying eyes of civilians.

So that’s what you can expect if you just show up at a shop. You might not even get to speak to the owner, in which case you’ll certainly wish you had a card and at least a Flickr page for your items, so they can take a look and get back with you. If we happen to be bored AND flush at the same time, you might get a look-see, but it’s still very inconvenient, because we will have to stop and deal with customers. Sometimes customers can stand around and talk an ear off, or we may get a four-hour rush. In either case most shop owners don’t want someone they don’t know hanging around in their office unattended.

So the take-away for today’s lesson:

1) Phone ahead and get an appointment – no cold calls ever. You can also drop in and make an appointment, but do not pull out your stuff unless you are asked to do so. You want to avoid stressing out the shop owner.

2) Have some way to get in contact with you. A business card is best.

3) Be able to leave behind some way for the buyer/owner to peruse your things when they are not in the middle of running their store – website, brochure, even a color flyer with a few photos and price guide.

If you make a lot of the same kind of stuff, such as soap, it’s okay to phone ahead, ask the shop owner if they have a moment to speak with you (a customer might be standing right there so maybe they don’t). If no, ask when you can call back – after hours? Before opening? Or would you prefer that I email you?

If they are able to talk right then, introduce yourself and ask if you can send a sample. Try to get their mailing address and confirm it rather than asking them what it is or assuming that they receive mail at their shop (we don’t). But oh my god please be brief.

“Hi, my name is Ande Spenser and I have a soap-making company, Magickk Suds. I was wondering if I could send you a free sample of our castille soap and a one-page brochure.” [Shop owner says sure, hey free soap, awesome.] “We also do private labelling with your shop name and logo, would you be interested in that information as well?”

Please note – we little guys love private labelling, so if it’s possible, try to offer that!