There's been quite a bit written about how affiliate are using and can use Pinterest, but I wanted to lend my voice to review and possibly add a few new thoughts and observations. I'll cover the basics pretty quickly. Also, want to make a quick note that some have used it quite effectively as a marketing tool, and some haven't been able to get any traction. Your mileage may vary, but it's worth exploring and considering none the less.
What is Pinterest?
It's a social sharing community for sharing images. The intention is to share things you like or desire. A user can “pin” images to a “pin board”. Similar to a real world bulletin board, the Pinterest pin board usually contains a bunch of like images. You can then share out the pin board to friends and then they can comment or re-pin (similar to re-tweeting or sharing) the pins you posted. The vast majority of Pinterest users are women, over 80%, in the prime shopping demographic.
I want to take a quick side-note to say, that since user are primarily women, the typical categories do very well, such as clothing, health and beauty, food, children/baby products, home accessories, etc. I've seen a couple comments that “tech/gadget” type products don't garner as much interest, but I imagine it's just not the right type of gadgets. I'm sure mobile phone accessories might do very well, and some software….especially educational software for children. Things in the travel category also do quite well (images of exotic and interesting places).
There are 3 main benefits I see for publishers to leverage from using Pinterest:
When you first join Pinterest, start to build up a community. Pin a couple things (without any commercial connection), and start commenting on other peoples postings that might have an interest in your site. Once you've taken the time and care to build up your community a bit, then I'd recommend pinning pictures of commercial interest for you. The easiest thing is to simply pin straight affiliate links, however there is a risk as Pinterest has recently started stripping affiliate link information. My advice would be to write a post on your site about a particular product, put up a very compelling and high quality image that will draw interest, and pin that image along with a link to your site. Put your affiliate links for the actual product in your post. You might want to consider adding a little branding to your images (to make impressions in visitor minds). Once you start pinning, don't exclusively post only your own links but rather mix in some other pins too as Pinterest tends to frown on blatant and narrow self-promotion. You WILL see traffic from these links to your site if you pin compelling and interesting images.
Pinterest is very useful for back-link and social marker benefits. They recently started mixing in no-follow tags on some of their links, but don't get too wrapped up in that. I still think the link will carry some benefits, especially as people start to re-pin your items and the keywords that you've associate with your pins propagate across the site. Those images are indexed by Google, and they are indexed by the keywords you associate to them. We know that social has gained a much higher importance in Google search result rankings (especially with the recent Google algorithm updates), and Pinterest has quickly become an important social signal site.
Lastly, Pinterest is great for research. A little trick, if you use the url http://pinterest.com/source/SOMESITEHERE.com/ you can see all the things pinned from a particular URL. For example, if you want to see everything pinned from Apple: http://pinterest.com/source/apple.com/ I think this has some incredible potential! You can see what exactly people are interested in from a particular site, be it your own site, the merchant you are promoting, or even your competitors. You can click on those pins and read the comments to see what people are saying about the products. You can find more people to possibly link up to that are interest in a type of product. Lots of good stuff there, so use it.
For merchants, there are a few things to consider regarding Pinterest and how your affiliates use it:
Pinterest can be a great tool for both you and your affiliates, but it's important for your affiliate program manger to lay out a clear strategy and guidelines in your affiliate program. At the very least, do just check it out and browse around a bit.