social media, Branding
How to use Pinterest to build your brand story
plus a guide to brainstorming Pinterest boards that are tailored to your target audience
by Brittany Taylor
published november 12, 2017
updated june 4, 2018
¶ I’ve used Pinterest since Pinterest was an invitation-only beta. When I worked the online editor at The Magazine, I watched our pageviews skyrocket from week to week, thanks entirely to Pinterest referral traffic. Since day 1, Pinterest has been a boon for web content creators—particularly for those of us producing visual content.
When I left The Magazine, with all its vibrant visual opportunities, I was a little lost. Here I was with a blog devoted to writing. What was I going to share on Pinterest? Pictures of notebooks? My embarrassingly large collection of RSVP pens?
Gag me with a spoon, y’all. Blech.
That problem resolved itself quickly when graphics became “the thing.” Now that I wasn’t stuck with stock (or my own awful snaps), I was feeling more confident. I could come up with snappy copy and shareable designs!
But Pinterest still wasn’t…well, it didn’t feel like me. There was nothing that set me apart from anyone else sharing business pins on the social site. We all had boards about entrepreneurship and plenty of quotes and all sorts of infographics. And it was all feeling very cookie-cutter. On Pinterest, one boss was much like any other.
And that, my friends, is not how I want to run my business.
The moment I figured out how to build my brand on Pinterest
At first, I did the wrong thing: I stepped back from Pinterest. I abandoned my account, ignored it for months. I was frustrated with the sameness of it all, and the more I looked, the farther I fell down the homogenous rabbit hole.
Then, I fell in with Lauren Hooker and Melyssa Griffin, two bosses who have Pinterest traffic wrapped around their pinkies. Hearing them talk about how the social platform was transforming their businesses made me give Pinterest a second look. And instead of looking at other bosses, I decided to look at a few brands I love, like Keds, Penguin Random House, and Bon Appetit.
As I scrolled through their boards, my eyes widened. I could see their brands and their values coming to life on my screen.
They weren’t just sharing their shoes or their books or their recipes. They were sharing everything they could that connected to those things, that people who were interested in those core items would also be interested in. Keds had summer party ideas. Penguin Random House had gift ideas for readers. Bon Appetit had city guides for foodies.
The potential Pinterest had not only as a web traffic referrer but also as a tool for brand building was clear: Here, I had the chance to build an image of my business and myself that was more than words and a collection of ideas and graphics. I could create a series of vision boards that illustrated what I believed in, what I loved, and who I aspired to be—and in doing that, I’d attract like-minded followers because that’s what Pinterest (a social network, remember!) is designed to do.
Want to see what a brand story looks like on social media? Follow me @seebrittwrite on Pinterest!
How to use Pinterest to build your brand story
Using Pinterest to build your brand story comes down to knowing your audience. Is that ideal reader (and client/customer) someone like you? Or is that ideal reader someone else? The end result is similar, but the strategy you’ll use to get there is a little bit different.
Let me explain:
How to use Pinterest to build you brand story…when your target audience is you
When you are your target audience, you can focus entirely on the elements of you, your life, and who you want to become—and how they relate to your business and the people you want to funnel from Pinterest to your website.
As you brainstorm Pinterest boards, begin with topics that are directly connected to your business. Then, think about the subjects that are slightly removed from that first tier of topics.
If you’re a brand designer, that could include mood boards for the seasons. If you’re a wedding photographer, that could include dreamy Airbnbs couples might want to honeymoon to. If you’re a fitness trainer, that could include cheat day recipes.
How to use Pinterest to build you brand story…when your target audience isn’t you
When you aren’t your target audience, you need to work a little harder on visioning that ideal customer. If you’ve focused on brand strategy and your business plan, chances are you’ve done some work crafting an avatar.
Your avatar is a character-like embodiment of your ideal customer. They tend to have names, jobs, homes, family, histories, and aspirations. They like certain bands, vacation in certain locales, and spend their discretionary income on certain hobbies. It’s a drill-down on everything Your People are interested in.
The idea behind the avatar is that is gives you someone to market to. It tends to be easier to write and speak toward one person than to a horde of strangers. And, the more you know this person, this avatar, this ideal customer of yours, the better the content you create will be. Why? Because it’s targeted. It’s specific. It solves a unique set of problems.
Avatar in hand, it’s time to brainstorm your Pinterest boards. As we did above, you want to start with topics directly connected to your business, and then branch out. While you do this, keep your target customer in mind. It’s that person you’re thinking about rather than yourself.
Wait, what's a brand story? Get the scoop here.
How not to use Pinterest to build your brand story
A brief word of caution as you think about adding personal elements to your business Pinterest account:
This isn’t a personal account. This is your business account. You’re adding personal elements, yes, but you aren’t allowing your personal life and non-business interests and hobbies overtake your business account.
Lately, when I’ve followed other bosses involved in marketing and branding, I’ve found myself unfollowing most of their boards because they were focused on batch cooking and bathroom organization and vacation planning.
A handful of boards that aren’t business related is fine! That’s what I’m advocating. If someone loves your business pins but isn’t down for your winter style inspo board, fine. They can unfollow that one thing very easily. When your personal life or tangential content monopolizes your business account, however, it’s easier to just unfollow you than all of your miscellaneous boards.
A good ratio to keep in mind is 80:20. That’s 80 percent business, 20 percent tangential.
These personal boards should be related to your business aims. They should align, somehow, with your target audience and ideal customer. There should be an interest overlap there. It’s not just about you; it’s also about them. Keep that in mind as you pin.
My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.