Summer 2012
Make Your Store Pinteresting! By Gary Wollenhaupt

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Pinterest seems like the perfect social media platform in an industry where visual impact counts for a lot. Here’s a peek at the hot new social media tool that’s making waves.

It was a few months ago when customers were walking through Heidi Hill-Haddard’s store in Gardiner, NY, HiHo Home Market, and something they said caught her attention. “Your store is like walking through Pinterest,” they told Hill-Haddard.

So she decided to go exploring. Add Pinterest to the list of social media tools that could put your gift shop in front of shoppers around the world.

Think of Pinterest ( as a way of sharing things you’re interested in, a kind of virtual corkboard where you pin pictures of things you like—new products, funny photos, inspirational sayings, recipes—anything you want to share.

A pin is an image, either one the user uploads or found elsewhere on the web. Users create “boards,” or categories of pins such as “Cute Kitchen Ideas.” Each pin links back to the site it came from. Users can follow boards and other users to stay linked to the latest trends. For example, for your gift store, you can have boards related to seasonal merchandise, community involvement page, ideas for product use at customers’ homes, and more. Crystal Vilkaitis, the Director of Social Media for SnapRetail, says gift retailers should consider boards that showcase the store, staff and products. Ideas include seasonal boards such as “Take Me to the Beach,” and boards featuring popular vendors such as Vera Bradley or Yankee Candle.

For Hill-Haddard, Pinterest seemed like a great opportunity to organize seven years of photos and it quickly turned into a marketing experiment. “[It became] a place where I could put photos from the web for instant inspiration and get a fast feel for what displays were hot here at HiHo through repins and who was repinning,” she says.

Social strategy

For retailers, Pinterest should be a part of a broader social media strategy, says Jason Miles, vice president of marketing at Northwest University, and a Pinterest blogger at

Miles recommends that rather than simply create a showcase of a store’s products, a retailer should create a personality for the store. The key is to move beyond generic product shots.

“If you’re in an interesting location, you offer a unique product, you have a funny and entertaining staff, or you have a cool mascot, those would be more compelling items to pin than mass-market product shots,” Miles says.

Then you can pin those compelling items to create an engaging personality for the store. The point of Pinterest is to share things you love with people who like the same things. Vilkaitis agrees. She cautions retailers against being too self-promotional, as is the rule for all social media.

It’s okay to change boards, delete old ones or create new ones depending on customer feedback. For example, Hill-Haddard found that her customers loved any pins featuring shop dog, Humphrey—so she decided to dedicate an entire board to him. Humphrey’s board is one of HiHo Home’s most popular Pinterest boards.

Pinterest tips

To get the most out of Pinterest, link Facebook pages and websites, Miles says. You can add a Pinterest tab to your Facebook page.

Use the “Follow Me on Pinterest” and “Pin This” buttons on blog and websites, and pin your blogs. On Twitter, tweet about things as you pin them.

Here are some tips to share your passions and establish your Pinterest presence:

1. Establish a collection of six to 10 pinboards and pin items to them regularly, over months, rather than all at once.

2. Follow people within your location or market niche, and begin commenting on their pins, repin their items, and “like” what they do. This way the social power of Pinterest starts to help you.

3. Consider promotional efforts or contests that can be facilitated by Pinterest. For instance, ask followers to select their favorite items for a room in the house, or have users help select items your store will offer. Vilkaitis says that the British department store, Harrods, invited consumers to design their own window displays. Three finalists’ boards were put on the store’s Facebook page and Harrods invited fans to vote for a winner. The winning concept will be used for store window displays.

4. Solicit customer feedback, or testimonials, and then share them on Pinterest. Use it as a place to collect positive customer feedback from your website.

Catching copyright issues

One caveat and controversy around Pinterest is the issue of copyright for the images that are pinned. Miles says the wisest strategy is to create your own images and original content and share it. Otherwise, make sure the pins for any images you use point back to the original source or copyright owner. “If you use a copyrighted image, and have the link point back to your website, or store, then you open yourself up to some liability,” Miles says.

If a copyright holder complains about misuse of an image, Pinterest will most likely remove the image. It’s also wise to keep an eye on any original content you post to ensure you’re being credited. Miles acknowledges copyright issues can be scary, but “just do the ethical thing and learn enough to be smart,” he says.

Image is everything

In an industry driven by the “Gotta Have it!” visual factor, Pinterest might just be the perfect social media tool that fits. ‘Visual imagery drives inspiration; it’s what makes you want to buy it,” Vilkaitis says. Heidi Hill-Haddard agrees. “I have always felt pictures tell the story of HiHo better than words,” she says.

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is a professional writer based in Russell, KY. He provides content for a wide variety of print and online publications and corporate clients.

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