How Pinterest works for businesses, large and small

The fast-growing image-sharing network is attracting all kinds of brands—and not only the design and decor firms you'd expect.


Lauren Rae Orsini

Internet Culture

Published Jan 26, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 10:14 pm CDT

People use Pinterest  to visually organize the Internet, but what’s in it for you? In our ongoing series, Pinterest for Your Interests, you’ll find out. Our last two columns were for animal lovers and geeks. You can look forward to weekly columns on a wide variety of topics and interests. We’re confident you’ll find something just for you.

Pinterest is growing at breakneck speed and its traffic has risen more than 4,000 percent in just six months. In order to take advantage of those 11 million visits a week on average, smart business owners are setting up their own presences on Pinterest.

Here’s our advice for entrepreneurs who want to make the most of the image-sharing network.

People to follow

For the master list of businesses on Pinterest, be sure to follow Kelly Lieberman’s Brands on Pinterest board. Lieberman, who runs an ongoing discussion on Twitter through the #pinchat hashtag, keeps track of the diverse array of companies that are making themselves known on Pinterest, and the list is very up to date—in fact, it was updated today.

One misconception about Pinterest is that it’s only suitable for businesses in a visual industry like home decor or architecture. They’re not! It turns out that even businesses like Cabot Cheese and Half Price Books can succeed.

Keep in mind that Lieberman’s board tracks brands that are getting buzz on Pinterest, not necessarily brands with their own boards. You’ll have to click through each pin to find exemplars of well-pinned businesses.

Boards to build

Pinterest boards present unique challenges for entrepreneurs. For one thing, Pinterest’s house rules, known as Pin Etiquette, ask that pinners avoid self-promotion on their boards. What’s a company to do?

Here are our suggestions for creating boards that draw attention to your business without being overbearing.

Depict a lifestyle
Many Pinterest users use the platform for creating vision boards of their ideal lives. Why not create a board that shows how your product fits into that dream? If you sell yogurt, for example, build a board of delicious recipes that include yogurt as an ingredient, like Chobani did. Or if you sell furniture, you could build a board of gorgeous rooms to put it in, like West Elm did.

Showcase employees
What if you don’t sell a tangible product? Just because your product isn’t visual doesn’t mean you don’t have photos to pin. Creating a board of employee photos helps customers put faces to names, and connect them emotionally with . That’s what we’re doing right here at the Daily Dot with our Daily Dot Staff pinboard.

Let your customers take over
Take advantage of Pinterest’s multiple-contributor feature and invite some of your business’s customers to pin their own related photos. That’s what indie-clothing retailer Modcloth did with its Guest Pinner Gallery, comprised exclusively of customer pins. You’ll get to know your customers’ interests and tastes, and maybe even spark some conversation.

Hot repins

If done right, promotional pins are not only valuable contributions to Pinterest; they can also go viral and boost your customer base. Here are a a few businesses which have attracted sizable followings on Pinterest:

  • The Today Show keeps it real by repinning other users as often as they contribute their own items.
  • Whole Foods’ boards about gardens and kitchen supplies take these pinboards out of the grocery store.
  • The Travel Channel goes beyond TV with its own travel bucket list.

One more thing

Repinning other peoples’ contributions isn’t the only way to interact with customers on Pinterest. Don’t forget to comment on your own and others’ pins to keep followers remembering that you’re human. Nothing screams “impersonal corporate account” like a board full of text-free pins!

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*First Published: Jan 26, 2012, 4:50 pm CST