Ah, Pinterest. The social media darling of the moment. You probably know by now that Pinterest is a great place to share drool-worthy pictures of your product, use interesting imagery to help drive folks to your website and otherwise convert casual browsers into serious buyers. One of the reasons Pinterest is so successful is because it drives people to action: click here. Read this article. Buy this product. But even if your product doesn’t lend itself to impulse purchases, Pinterest can still be an invaluable tool to fuel other aspects of your marketing. Here are a few ways fast, free ways to start using Pinterest now:

  • Testing. Sometimes having a small following is a good thing. It lets you quietly test content without attracting too much attention. Pinterest’s structure is unique in the social media world. Unlike on Facebook or Twitter where most of the content you see is from people you’ve made a conscious choice to friend or follow, on Pinterest, a great deal of activity on the site comes from browsing all recent pins in a category. For the consumer, this is great because it opens you to new and diverse content you might never have seen. As a marketer, it means you can get in front of a diverse audience even if you don’t have a major following yet. If even one person repins you, you’ll show up in a whole new set of pin feeds and on and on, in a truly viral spread of information. Take advantage of this. If I’m considering sharing something on a Facebook fan page with an established audience, I’ll first pin it on Pinterest and see what happens. If it immediately ripples with likes and repins, I know I’ve got good content on my hands and share it over on my primary network. Nine times out of ten, content that performs well in pin tests performs well on Facebook. And the inverse is true–if the content doesn’t pop, it lets me go back to the drawing board before I bore my primary audience. This allows you to share only the very best content on Facebook, preventing user fatigue with mediocre content, while still allowing you to get in front of new eyeballs on Pinterest.
  • Customer research. All right, this is going to sound a little creepy. Screw it. Knowledge is power. The more you know about your customer, the more effectively you can sell to her. And let’s face it, Pinterest is a gold mine for figuring out what people are interested in and how to present your own content. What books are your targets pinning to their “Books Worth Reading” list? What memes are they pinning to their humor board? Where do they shop for clothes? What’s their general aesthetic? By understanding all aspects of your target audience, you’ll be able to speak their language when it comes time to do your own marketing. Jump onto zeitgeists. Use language and imagery that’s relevant to your marketing. Understand your target’s core aspirations and use them to build a compelling case to buy. Yeah, you’re being a little stalkery, but sometimes it’s okay to embrace the creepy.
  • Inspiration. No matter what you do or how much you like your job, sometimes you just need a little something that sparks your imagination and gets you back in your groove. Maybe it’s a board of quotes–motivational or otherwise (consider using the fun Pin a Quote to pin any text you find on the web, quickly and easily). Maybe it’s a board with pictures of your cat or things that make you laugh. For me, it’s a board with things I find beautiful and intriguing. There’s no rhyme or reason to them except that I like them (they’d almost surely confuse the heck out of anyone trying to study me for customer research purposes), but they get my creative writing juices flowing. Whatever inspires you to keep going in your business, you might find that Pinterest can be a refuge for creative renewal.

What’s your favorite unconventional way of using Pinterest?

Bio:  Allison Carter is the director of communications at Roundpeg, an Indianapolis marketing agency. She specializes in helping small businesses become big businesses through smart, targeted marketing strategies including social media, web design and traditional marketing tactics.