12 Things You Should Know About Pinterest

If you’re starting a business in midlife, you don’t have time to noodle around. Here’s how Pinterest can help you ramp up fast.

For midlife entrepreneurs starting a small business, Pinterest can be a powerful tool for quickly getting attention, driving traffic to your website, and boosting revenues.

Pinterest is one of the fastest-growing social media networks ever. It’s the third most popular social network in the U.S. in terms of traffic, according to Experian Hitwise. It’s also one of the best social networks for driving social commerce.

For example, the average e-commerce order from a Pinterest user is $179 compared to $80 for Facebook and $69 for Twitter, according to Danny Maloney, the CEO & co-founder of PinLeague, a Pinterest marketing platform for businesses. Maloney, who spoke recently at the Online Marketing Summit in Silicon Valley about how businesses can leverage the free Pinterest network, also says that Pinterest now accounts for over 20 percent of social commerce.

Pinterest users create visual pinboards (photos and videos) of things they discover online or create themselves. You’ll find everything on Pinterest from wedding dresses to tech gadgets to toothbrush holders to crime suspects. (The Washington, D.C. police department is among a handful of metro police departments posting photos of persons of interest on Pinterest.)

Last fall, Pinterest launched free business accounts, too. Small businesses, especially those that sell highly visual products or services (such as landscape design) are flocking to Pinterest.

The following are 12 Pinterest facts and success strategies small businesses should know, in no particular order of importance.

1. Pinterest has about 25 million monthly unique visitors.

Pinterest passed the 10-million-visitors-a-month benchmark in record speed. “I haven't seen another stand-alone site that has reached 10 million visitors faster,” comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman told The Wall Street Journal in February 2012.

This fall, Pinterest broke into comScore’s Top 50 U.S. Internet properties, ranking number 50 with 25 million monthly unique visitors. By comparison, Facebook ranked number 4 of all U.S. websites with over 150 million monthly unique visitors; LinkedIn ranked 26th with 39.6 million; and Twitter was number 27 with nearly 37 million.

2. Pinterest users are primarily female.

According to a recent Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey, 19 percent of female internet users are on Pinterest versus 5 percent of male web users. Among Pinterest users, about 80 percent are women, some studies suggest. Growth is primarily among women aged 25-to-44 who live in the middle of the U.S., Maloney says.

3. Some businesses haven’t figured out how to use Pinterest.

Over one-third of the top 1,500 brands in the U.S. are on Pinterest as of fall 2012 but only have an average of 124 followers, according to Maloney. The data suggest that businesses are still trying to figure out the best way to use Pinterest to speak to their target audiences. Even so, Maloney estimates that 90 percent of the top 1,500 brands will be on Pinterest by late 2013.

Some big-name brands with strong Pinterest followings include Harper’s Bazaar (4.6 million followers), Better Homes and Gardens (268,409 followers), and Real Simple magazine (228,498 followers).

4. But many small businesses are making money on Pinterest.

Many small businesses use Pinterest to pin images of products they sell on their websites, on the e-commerce crafts site Etsy, or other places online. (The images on Pinterest can contain links back to their products on those sites.)

For example, Carl Christensen and his wife Ina operate small businesses for photography, art, and jewelry that link Pinterest images to the relevant products in their Etsy stores. The Pinterest-Etsy combo accounts for about $60,000 in revenues annually, Christensen recently told Entrepreneur magazine. Similarly, Amy Squires, co-founder of The Wedding Chicks LLC, told The Wall Street Journal that Pinterest helped her small business achieve $540,000 in 2011 revenues compared to $340,000 in 2010.

5. Pinterest is a positive place.

There’s a lot of snark on Twitter and Facebook. But less than 1 percent of posts on Pinterest are negative in tone, according to Maloney. This could change as more businesses join Pinterest, of course. But for now, Pinterest is a happy place to be.

6. The best time to post on Pinterest is Saturday morning.

This datapoint comes from, the URL shortening service, as quoted in a Mashable article. tracks clicks on the links created by its users as well as the origin of those clicks

7. A Pinterest post lasts longer.

The half-life of the average Twitter update is 5 to 25 minutes, says Maloney, compared to 80 minutes for Facebook. However, Pinterest pins often have a half life of over one week. The net result: Your Pinterest posts may be seen by more people over time.

8. Pinterest is aspirational

“Twitter is about what I’m doing right now,” Maloney says. “Facebook is about my online identity—who I am and who I know. Pinterest is about who I want to be.” Businesses that appeal to users’ aspirations—such as interior decorators—tend to do well on Pinterest as a result.

9. Start by creating 12 pinboards.

Maloney recommends starting a new Pinterest business account with 12 different themed pinboards, to give users a sense of who you are as a brand and what you like. Some examples include a pinboard for "Five Things I Love," :Five Things I Have a Hard Time Finding," and so on.

10. Act as a resource.

Pinterest isn’t about blatantly selling a product or service, Maloney advises. It’s about acting as a resource for target customers. In other words, don’t just pin items you sell; pin things around the web you like and want to share, too. That’s the way to a Pinterest user’s heart; if you’re lucky and good at Pinterest, the revenue will follow.

11. Promote your pins on other social media.

When you post a new image to a pinboard, you can also share a link to it on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks—which is a great way to spread awareness. And don’t forget to post a ‘Follow me on Pinterest’ and/or a ‘Pin It’ button on your website.

12. To grow your audience, follow other Pinterest users.

As with Twitter and other social networks, following other users will often encourage them to return the favor. This is especially important when those users are in your local area, field of expertise, or are target customers. Comment on and share their pins, and endorse their pins by clicking the "♥ Like" button. As with any social media network, the old "do onto others" rule applies.

James A. Martin is a social media and blogging consultant and author of the blog A Southerner in San Francisco. Follow him on Pinterest and Twitter.