You've probably heard of Pinterest by now. It's a new social networking site that literally everybody is talking about. Pinterest's growth is staggering - the site already has over 1 million members, and it receives almost 12 million unique visitors a month. The whirlwind of excitement that surrounds Pinterest provides online store owners a great opportunity to leverage it's popularity (and overall awesomeness) to bring attention to their online store.

Whether you're already setup on Pinterest or you're a complete newbie, this is a guide that will teach you the basics, and also help the more experienced pinners get the most from this popular social media platform. 

The Basics

What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a pinboard style social photo sharing website that allows people to share and discover beautiful images, videos, products, and discussions. For an ecommerce store owner, it can help your best products get discovered by other users. 

How to Get a Pinterest Invite
Pinterest is still "by invite only" so you'll have to request an invite to start using the site. This sounds more annoying than it is - most people receive an invitation within a day or so.

How to Get Pinterest Mobile
You can download Pinterest Mobile from the Apple App Store or you can get it from Pinterest's website. The mobile App will allow you to browse pins, repin, like, and comment all from your phone or tablet device.

The Buttons

How to Get a Pinterest "Pin It" Button for your Browser
The "Pin It" button is a button that you install on your web browser's bookmarks bar. Once installed in your browser, the "Pin It" button lets you grab an image from any website and add it to one of your pinboards. Pinterest automatically grabs the source link so the creator of the image gets credit. This is the easiest way to start pinning items and images. To get started, you can add the Pinterest “Pin It” Button from the Pinterest Goodies page to your browser's bookmarks bar. 

How to Get a Pinterest "Follow Button" on your Website
The Pinterest "Follow Button" is similar to the Twitter "Follow" and Facebook "Like" button - it allows other Pinterest users to follow your account. To get the button, just go to the Pinterest Goodies page and select the button you want to embed. Currently that have 4 to choose from. Simply click on your favorite button and it will generate the HTML code that you can cut and paste onto your site. Below is a Pinterest "Follow Button" that links to Shopify's Pinterest account:

Follow Me on Pinterest

The Product Specific "Pin It" Button
This is the most important button for online stores! These pins will allow customers to pin a specific shirt, hat, gadget, or anything that you're selling to their pinboard. To get these buttons on your online store, you have two options:

  1. Shopify store owners can simply add a free app called ShopConnection, and it'll get you setup with Pinterest, Tumblr, and Fancy buttons for your products. If you just want Pinterest that's no problem. This app is absolutely free and is the easiest way to get your store setup with Pinterest buttons. 

  2. If you want the DIY version, here's a step-by-step article on how to get a Pinterest button on your Shopify product pages

Pinterest Gift Tab

Pinterest has a special drop-down menu that allows users to browse a random collection of "gifts" between certain price points. There are currently six different price ranges: $1-20, $20-50, $50-100, $100-200, $200-500, +$500. 

When a Pinterest user clicks on one of the prices it takes them to a screen with various products selling in that price range. To have your products show up on these curated gift pages, you need to make sure you have a price in the description of your post. Pinterest will automatically apply a ribbon that displays the price onto your image. That product will now show up in Pinterest's gift search. Every ecommerce store owner should make full use of this functionality! 

Six Strategies to Leverage Pinterest

1. Don't Just Pin Your Own Products
Pin products and images you find interesting and any cool stuff your customers might like. This will boost your reputation as a tastemaker and not merely someone who spams their followers with their own products. Shopify store HOLSTEE has a great Pinterest account - they currently have 8 different boards, and many of them don't link to anything they sell. Check out their "Appreciate Every Last Bite" pinboard - none of these pins link to a product in their store:

2. Don't Pin Every Item You Sell
You may think you're missing out on a great opportunity to list every product you sell, but you're not. It's better to tease your followers and other Pinterest users by giving them a glimpse of your best few items, and encourage them to visit your store to check out the others.

3. When you Do Link to Products - Do it Tastefully
It's okay to link to products you're selling, but you have to do it right. HOLSTEE's famous "Holstee Manifesto" is in their "Words of Wisdom" pinboard along with other non-commercial interesting material. Check it out below, you'll see their Manifesto at the bottom left:

4. Think Visually with Product Photography
Pinterest is all about gorgeous design so it has a huge emphasis on aesthetics. It's really important that you have beautiful product photography that displays the items you're selling beautifully. If your product photography sucks - nobody is going to click on it. 

5. Create a Re-Pin Board
A re-pin is when you pin someone else's pin on one of your boards. This is an awesome way to make Pinterest friends and engage others. You'll boost your Pinterest follow count and you'll also have a pinboard of great curated content. Shopify store Hopps Limited sells fashionable athletic apparel and accessories. They have a re-pin board on Pinterest that has nothing to do with their own products - but it brings attention to a whole bunch of awesome stuff their customers will undoubtedly enjoy:

6. How to Get Pinterest Followers
Chances are you already have a pretty good following on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ (Maybe). Stream some of your followers to your new Pinterest account by frequently posting Pinterest content to those streams. Remember to keep the focus of your posts on things that are visual appealing. 

Check out Shopify on Pinterest