By Deborah M. Todd
For Shawn Wall, the 35-year-old reigning champion of Pittsburgh Pinterest users, hopping onto the site’s bandwagon in 2012 was low on a list of priorities.
At the time, the 3-year-old San Francisco-based social media upstart where users save photos, block quotes and other digital images onto boards shared with friends had built a somewhat frilly reputation.
“I saw a lot of recipes, hairstyles, clothes, things like that. I thought it was a female-driven site,” said Mr. Wall.
But once the mobile developer began sharing screen shots of new iOS apps, modern architecture, contemporary furniture and the ongoing renovation of his vacation home, a spike in followers that eclipsed 1.7 million in less than two years proved Pinterest had a reach far beyond what might have seemed possible at first glance.
In an age where using the Internet and social media has become essential to businesses, Pinterest is hitting home nationwide with entrepreneurs as a potential source for targeted advertising.
And Pinterest has responded to the need in kind, with business accounts featuring analytics showing small businesses how many people Pin from a website or click on items for sale.
The company also provides a “Pinning Principles” breakdown telling businesses to assess followers’ desires for Pins, to design targeted boards, to share Pins posted by other companies and to show off the inspiration behind products for sale.
In October, the company began allowing companies to use Promoted Pins, an option to pay high-profile Pinners to Pin certain images — an option that Mr. Wall briefly exercised.
Add to that an email marketing plan that Pinterest claims helps retailers gain thousands of new followers, and the site gives small businesses the potential to promote their brand to new customers without using direct advertising. The only real cost is the investment of time.