Information Technology consulting isn’t usually considered a creative field. Managing wires, servers, networks, and IP addresses is certainly crucial. But how can a tech-services company stand out with such complicated work?
Baroan Technologies does it—and on the image-heavy Pinterest, no less. The Elmwood Park, N.J.-based company has created a creative, engaging board full of clever ideas and gadgets, help-desk humor, coffee regalia—and plenty of information about its own work as well as its vendors and partners. In an industry known for its ones and zeros and often-impenetrable lingo, Baroan manages to show a personality and a human side of a business that’s usually more about machines.
“Having a non-creative business does not mean that you also have an uninteresting business,” says Yvonne Miaoulis, Baroan’s marketing manager and chief “pinner.” “You just have to look at your business through Pinterest goggles, which is why it’s important to start off by familiarizing yourself with what’s being pinned already.”
Since Pinterest started rocketing into the collective consciousness this year, everyone from crafty do-it-yourselfers to companies large and small have scrambled to establish a presence on the free site. It’s easy to use, has a huge female audience (80 to 90 percent of 11.7 million users, at last count) and is highly addictive (how long did you spend checking out Baroan’s cool office gizmos?). Some small businesses in particular have seen an uptick in interest and sales after being discovered on the site.
But for enterprises lacking an obvious artistic side, Pinterest can be a challenge. How can you communicate through images when you’re working with fairly mundane materials and still attract customers? The short answer: Don’t just think about capturing a photo of your product or service.
Here are tips from a few small-businesses pinners on how to start thinking visually, no matter what sector you’re in:
First, know why you’re there
Why do you have to be on Pinterest? Not every company should be on every shiny new social-media platform just because it’s there. The big questions: Who is your target market—and what is your goal? “Pure and simple, it’s about driving more traffic to your website,” says Christine Pietryla, vice president of public relations and social media at David James Group, an integrated marketing agency in Chicago. “Everyone wants to use the new and cool thing. It can be difficult for companies that don’t have a picture-based product to wrap their heads around Pinterest.” If you think it’s a wise investment of social-media time and resources, then it’s time to get started.
Follow the community rules
Use the “Pin It” widget and Pinterest logo in all of your marketing materials. Make sure every page on your website has a “Pin It” button that will allow visitors to pin your high-quality images (with your company’s URL) to their boards. Aim for a 50-50 split of your images and re-pins from others—it will keep your board from looking too self-promotional and will show that you appreciate and share others’ work.
Tell your story
Look at how Australian ad agency Holler assembled their board—they’ve even made their home page their Pinterest page. In a few minimalist, eye-catching cubes, you can learn what they do, where they do it, and get an indelible idea about their style. For your company’s pin board, think of drawing a comic-book origin story (with you and your business as the hero, of course). In each panel, add to the backstory, filling in the details of your entrepreneurial journey—do you have vintage photos of your neighborhood, an industry pioneer, relative, or mentor who inspired you?
Show your human side
Being human is something a lot of businesses don’t communicate well, but by bringing out the personality on Pinterest, a small business can be associated with more than just a product or service. Be a bit transparent—show what’s behind the curtain at your company—get employees involved and show what motivates them. “If they’ve got little tchotchkes or crazy stuff on their desks, show that,” says Rebecca Scott, a business consultant and owner of Scott Project Solutions in Flower Mound, Texas. (And here’s part of her Pinterest board that’s pretty nifty.) “It gives insight into who you are as a company and who works for you. Companies put up mission statements all of the time, but this can lend credibility to that. Show what life is like there. If people see these dark, little veal cubes and there’s no personality, then they’re going to know your mission statement isn’t very real.” Scott says she often works with very small companies that are entirely online—three or four employees scattered all over. When there’s no one office to feature, she advises her clients to opt for an “inspiration” or “my style” box. “You want to try to make it a little more personal. This will help in building the relationship with your brand champions: your customers.”
Show your motivation
Dana Leavy doesn’t have a physical product to sell—she owns a small-business and career consultancy in Brooklyn, N.Y., called Aspyre Solutions. But what she does communicate via her Pinterest page is that she is a creative person at heart, which she hopes resonates with her target audience: creative professional females who are starting up small businesses at mid-career. Her board includes her company’s blog and useful small-biz, career and job-search tools—but also her own illustration and fine-art work, which gives an insight to her passions. “I think it’s important to show that relevancy to the creative community,” Leavy says. “Part of that is showing the tools I developed, while not being overly promotional, and that I’m part of the same community and can relate—I read a lot of the same publications, too, and these are the things I like.”
Show your community
Is there a great view of your town from the roof of your building, or office window at sunset, or after a snowfall? Pinterest users often search for other local pinners, so be sure to include where you’re based in the caption and your image will likely be re-pinned. Feature a board of your public service and outreach work. And don’t forget to band together with other local small businesses—maybe a staff guide to ‘Where We Eat’ as a board, with pictures of the usual haunts like outdoor cafes, coffee spots, a go-to lunch place or an especially nice spread from your favorite office caterer.
Show your industry
Pinterest isn’t just about images—you can also pin interesting online stories, quotes from customers’ testimonials, or trade-publication references. Motivational quotes are also ubiquitous and often re-pinned. Try to make the keywords the biggest and boldest to grab users’ attention. One notable aspect of Pinterest—text contrasts with the stream of images and photos, making it stand out. One other smart feature for small businesses to add: infographics. These content-rich, colorful charts contain a wealth of information in an easy-to-digest (and share) package.
A dental practice could show before and after smile pictures. A divorce lawyer can utilize famous quotes about relationships or art that speaks to people going through a painful chapter of their lives. Pinterest users often follow boards about offbeat topics. Find something that’s only tangentially related to your business and make it a fun destination. “You have to decide the best way to connect with your target audience,” says Pietryla of David James. “My guess is that if they are on Pinterest, the best way to connect with them is not by showing them the widgets you have in your warehouse. There are community-service projects, employee outreach, there can be motivational quotes, things you do at your office that radiate your key message.”
“Some things will never change,” Pietryla explains. “You have a target audience, you want them to buy your stuff, you want them to visit your website—how do you do that? It’s that simple."