"If your brand isn't on Pinterest, you're getting left behind!" "Pinterest drives more sales than Facebook!" Advice like this, from consultants, social media experts, and--yes--websites like this one have a lot of truth to them. But they've pushed some small companies into jumping into Pinterest without taking the time to think things through. And that's led to a lot of mistakes, according to Debba Haupert, creator of the blog Girlfriendology, and channel director at Collective Bias, a company that connects brands and retailers with social media influencers.
Here are the seven biggest mistakes she sees companies making when they use Pinterest:
1. Starting out without a strategy.
"We have to be on Pinterest because everyone else is!" isn't a strategy. And if you don't have a strategy, you may be wasting time, Haupert warns. "Know your keywords and use them in profiles, pins, and boards," she says. "Know the categories where your customers will find you. You have to put some thought into it before you jump in."
2. Using lackluster graphics.
Pinterest is image-driven and your pins are competing against professional photography from landscapes to kittens doing cute things. "You can't be cheap about your photography," Haupert says. "If you're going to make the effort and dedicate the budget and hours it takes to be on Pinterest, you have to have engaging, amazing images that will get you noticed and re-pinned." For instance, she explains, if your product is a vacuum cleaner, don't just post shots of your product. Post a before-and-after image of a carpet after it removed a stain. Pinterest users with stains on their own carpets will take notice. Another option is to skip the photography and create interesting graphics with text or charts, she adds.
3. Being boring.
Brands become boring if they appear overly corporate, Haupert explains. "Legal worries have scared some companies away from pinning stuff. That's too bad because nobody will follow them if all they're pinning is their catalogue or images from their website. I'll just go to the catalogue or the website if I want to see that stuff." If this is you, she suggests adding a line to your bio explaining that your pins are merely intended to share what you find interesting, not necessarily endorse it.
4. Leaving boards unchanged for too long.
"That shows a lack of engagement and a missed opportunity," Haupert says. "If you start it and then forget it, there's no reason for anyone to follow you."
At least move boards around from time to time, she says. And pay attention to seasonal issues--don't have summer fashions on your board in January.
5. Using representatives who don't understand the brand.
Companies often hire recent college graduates or other young folks to pin on their behalf only because they know Pinterest better than their older colleagues do (and they're often available cheap). "A lot of small business owners tell me their friend's son will handle social media because they 'get' it," Haupert says. "But they may not know your brand or the tone you want to convey."
6. Forgetting your audience.
It's too easy to get lost in pinning what you find interesting or what represents your brand without paying attention to what your target customers care about. So pay attention to what people like, Haupert says. "Notice what they re-pin, then just do more of that," she says. "You need to interact, respond to questions, and make sure you have boards aimed at your specific audience."
7. Ignoring the competition.
Notice what other companies in your field are doing, and mine their pins for good ideas. For instance, Haupert noted that both a local coffee shop and Starbucks had Pinterest boards. The Starbucks' board featured appealing shots of coffee drinks that were getting re-pinned frequently. The local coffee shop had merely posted its logo and left it at that. "Make sure you know what companies going after the same customers are doing," she advises.