Greatist, the website and company I founded, has been the fastest-growing health and wellness site on the Web since November of 2011--and that's thanks in no small part to our presence on Pinterest.
The super-popular pinboard site continues to be our No. 1 traffic referrer (to the tune of a whopping 30 to 40 percent of our total traffic). With more than three million unique visitors per month, we're working to build a trusted brand in our space--and we couldn't have gotten where we are today without Pinterest.
But, as many brands have already discovered, it's not just about sharing photos and waiting. Through much trial and error, we at Greatist have identified 10 Pinterest strategies that yield the best results:
1. Use Pinterest yourself.
Brands on Pinterest are no different from regular users--everything works exactly the same. Getting a sense for how people really use it is key--as with any social platform, familiarity is uber-important before wading into the dangerous waters of self-promotion. Reading articles (like this one) isn't enough!
2. Get great visuals.
Visuals are key because, well, there needs to be something worth pinning (and re-pinning and re-pinning) in the first place. When we decided to go all-in on Pinterest, step one was to go on a "find every awesome contributing photographer and illustrator possible" spree. We wanted not just good visuals, but the best--and now almost all of our content has original photography or illustrations (see our healthy recipes for example). Plus, each article has what we call a "header image" of some sort, one purposefully Pinterest-worthy and unique.
3. Follow small brands.
We'll get to the big brands in a second, but it's the small ones that will collectively move the needle for you. Brands see who is re-pinning, commenting, and liking their pins. So do those things--and they'll pay them back in dividends.
4. Befriend power users.
You don't need celebrities to succeed in social media. You need to re-think how you define "celebrity." On Pinterest, it's owners of Pinterest boards with over 10,000 followers. Making friends with them is easier than you'd think--most have their Twitter handles, blogs and other links readily accessible in their profile. Reach out to them, be friendly, and start cross-promoting.
5. Cozy up to big brands by showing off your content.
Most big, well-known brands suck at Pinterest. They may have a solid following, but they're still trying to figure it out. You can help them. If you're consistently sharing awesome visuals that lead to high-quality content on a topic that's relevant to their audience, they'll re-pin your stuff over and over again. Every major brand in the space has shared Greatist's stuff--because it's good and because, well, they need good stuff to share! Make it easy for them (then grab some of their audience members who are still just figuring out this Pinterest thing, too).
6. Put the article title in the description first.
The toughest challenge on Pinterest is getting a user to click on the pin instead of simply sharing it. It's easy to get frustrated when a lot of sharing is happening, but nobody is clicking through. The question to ask, then, is: "Did they know to click in the first place?" Make sure the description of your pin is crystal clear--and mentions what it's leading to.
7. Put the article title on the image.
Early on in our Pinterest experiments, we came up with a surefire way to make sure the pin descriptions didn't get overlooked: literally add the title into the "header image." (For example: 30 other satisfying 100-calorie snacks.) I'm pretty sure we were among the first on Pinterest to start doing this. Sure, it's difficult to do in a way that's visually appealing, but the truth is, it works. Almost all of our top traffic-driving pieces of content on Pinterest fall into this category.
8. Organize your pinboards.
Believe it or not, users may not want to follow every topic or category you cover (celebrity news and horse grooming, really?). Let them pick and choose. Don't have too many of them, either--if a user has to scroll to see more boards, they likely won't. Focus on well-curated boards with defined categories.
9. Name your pinboards wisely.
Don't over-complicate your pinboard names with clever names (e.g. "Happy Hollandaise!"). We made this mistake early--and the good news is it's easy to fix. Pinterest users make a split-second decision to follow or not follow...and then never return. That said, I wouldn't recommend going too generic either (e.g. "Food"). Somewhere in the middle is probably best, like "Snack Smart."
10. Optimize your pin's size.
Pinterest automatically resizes images into its pinboard grid, and rectangular images get it the worst. We've found that, for the most part, the longer the visual, the more re-pins--and it's probably because vertical pins are more prominent in the feed.
Derek Flanzraich is the founder and CEO of Greatist, a health and fitness media startup on a mission to make better choices easier for everyone. He loves theme parks, theme bars, and helping people. Follow him @thederek.