Pinterest Tips for Business

Pinterest is reported to have over 70 million users and has surpassed email as one of the top sharing platforms online according to Share This.  It’s no wonder why so may businesses are riding the wave of Pinterest. With these stats, I became curious as to what made this channel so darn powerful. So, after getting past the learning curve, I went on a hunt to figure some things out. If you still don’t get what Pinterest is all about take a look at this cute and short video  (less than 2 minutes) to gain some understanding on how it works.

pinterestlistFor businesses, Pinterest is a great tool because you can share content by way of appealing images, graphics, pictures etc. that can ultimately increase your sales. Since many people absorb better through visuals, the growth of Pinterest is  expected to continue to stay on the rise.

So, in light of this predicted growth, I set out to research the most recent and popular articles online related to Pinterest in an effort to gain some understanding. Learning some Pinterest tips for business will improve my overall interaction level on this platform through the use of methods and tools in order to bring more visitors to my websites. Here’s what I found:

Copyblogger's Pinterest WorksDoes Pinterest convert? According to Copyblogger’s Pinterest Works article, heck yeah and they have proof to show it. Copyblogger is considered one of the pioneers of blogging so when they have something to say, I usually listen. I enjoyed this article because I was a skeptic myself on the power of Pinterest for business. Delineated in it is some social proof of how this amazing tool drives thousands of referral traffic to a couple of online publishers. It also offers a simple step-by-step process on how you can use Pinterest to drive more traffic to your website. Copplyblogger debunks the the Pinterest naysayers.

Smart Strategies for PinterestNeed more proof? Here it is. This blogger shrugged Pinterest off because she thought her “marketing” and “tech” themes weren’t visually enticing enough to use Pinterest. Therefore, she embarked on a research bend and now Pinterst is her second top referral source for social traffic. She offers 40+ strategies to drive more traffic.

Optimize your imagesHow do you optimize your images for more traffic? This is one of my favorites because Cynthia Sanchez offers a video on how to do this exactly through the use keyword rich descriptions to help your pins be found. She also offers a podcast that may be helpful.


Hashtags for PinterestHow are Hashtags used? Hashtags are profusely used in in many social marketing platforms. Hashtags use on Pinterest, as per this article, is used differently than on twitter. If you want to learn to use of Hashtags for Pinterest for better search results, this resource offers 7 tips.

Must follow Pinterest BoardsIf what you’ve heard is that Pinterst is mostly a social media platform for recipes, arts & crafts and shoes well, here is a list of 15 bloggers using Pinterest for their blogging efforts. From SEO to Internet Marketing and social media pinboards, take a look at how these bloggers use Pinterest. It will give you a some ideas on how to combine blogging and Pinterest in creative ways.

Tools for PinterestWant to know what the best tools are to heighten the efficiency of Pinterest for your business? Here are 9 tools shared in this article by Business 2 Community that can help you make the best of your Pinterest pinboards. From Pinterest analytics to creating an online store on Pinterest you’ll be able to find at least one item on the list that you’ll be able to put to use right away.
Tricks for Pinterest

Besides tools, learn some Pinterest tricks that all bloggers should consider – 7 to be exact. In this article, Hello Society dishes out some cool tricks that can catapult your blogging and put you on the  Pinterest map. Up until know, I have just been posting my social friendly images attached to my blog content all over social media but with this article, I learned to not only have an exclusive blogging content pinboard but also exclusive images for Pinterst. This entices people to keep coming back for more so you can continue to optimize this avenue further in your marketing. There are also examples of blog content boards that just got my creative juices flowing all over the place.

Pinterest PlacesIn November of 2013, Pinterest introduced Place Pins which as per Pinterest, combines the imgery of a travel magazine with an online map. Social Media Examiner shows you 6 ways in which you can promote your business with this new feature. It also has a tutorial on how to create a Place Board.


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The Three Kinds of Sponsored Conversations: Paid, Trade & Straight

As more advertisers move into social media, you may have noticed that the blogosphere is all abuzz with posts about “Sponsored Conversations”. When the medium first emerged years ago, a thriving economy cropped up around paid posts, with companies angling to help match bloggers with paid writing opportunities.

But in the fall of 2007, Google came down hard on the practice, lumping sponsored conversations with the practice of paid text links and labeling them as ‘unethical’. Flagship A-list blogs as well as trusted news sources such as Forbes and the Washington Post all saw a Google Page Rank drop. It was a strong warning from Google: stop the link selling, or we will drop you from our search engine.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with Google, in order to get their traffic, we now had to play by their rules. They even encouraged people to ‘snitch’ on sites by telling people how to report paid links. Matt Cutts, the most public voice of Google, reiterated Google’s position again recently, in response to the release of Forrester’s report that Sponsored Conversations are here to stay.

The problem with Matt’s post isn’t that there is something unethical about selling links or posts. The problem is that the world of social media marketing has evolved faster than Google’s policies have evolved. Sponsored conversations come in three main ‘flavors’, yet it is Google’s position to lump all of them into the first kind, “Paid Posts”.

The First Kind of Sponsored Conversation: #1 – Paid Posts

Google has a problem with people paying bloggers to put up a post with organic links to other websites. Specifically, if a post is paid for, then Google considers any link in that post to be influencing the search engine unfairly. It doesn’t matter if you truly endorse the product or service or not, any link in a paid post is subject to disciplinary action (i.e., getting your site dropped out of search engine results).

Matt cites a great example as to why Google would have a problem with this in this image and post:

Example of Paid Posts Done Wrong

Example of Paid Posts Done Wrong

On this blog (more like a ‘splog’), random posts are thrown onto a blog with no disclosure that they are paid, and they cover unrelated topics from ‘colon cleansing’ to ‘auto loans’.

I have to say that I don’t think any self-respecting blogger would ever stoop to this level of Paid Posts.

Why they are wrong:

  • The links pass page rank
  • There is no disclosure that the posts are paid for
  • Their intention is to truly manipulate search engine rankings
  • None of this is in line with the ethical standards set out by WOMMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association

Now, a blogger might write a paid post without the intention of gaming the search engine, they might actually only write paid posts that fit in with their topic, and only about products or services they believe in. To Google, they are all the same. Paid Posts = Bad.

The Second Kind of Sponsored Conversation: #2 – Trade

“Trade Posts” are somewhat different yet similar to Paid Posts, and are somewhat self-explanatory. Instead of giving a blogger money, they give them something in trade to put up a post on their blog, which almost always includes links. Examples include:

  • Guest posts (trading free content for links)
  • Contest posts (trading a contest prize for links)
  • Link swaps (trading a link for a link on another site)

All of these seem fairly harmless, and I’ve not ever seen an instance in which Google has penalized a site for engaging in these practices. But Trade Posts can become a slippery slope in a number of ways. Giving 10 bloggers a free book to give away to their readers is pretty dang cheap compared to trying to buy links from these blogs. In other words, Trade Posts can be exploited. But since it is incredibly difficult to track, Trade Posts are flying under the radar for now.

In the past, Google has even encouraged these practices. Link exchanges date back to the beginning of the web. Yet ultimately, people are still trading something of value for a link. This is why I personally don’t understand why Trade = Good and Paid = Bad. And I’d love for Google to weigh in on this answer, but they have a vested interest in keeping people guessing.

The Three Kinds of Sponsored Conversations: #3 – Straight

A “Straight Post” is a term I made up, but I think it’s the right meaning for what true social marketing is all about – being straight with your advertisers, with your readers, and with the search engines. This means disclosure to your readers as to how you are being compensated, only picking advertisers that can add value to your readers, and putting a “nofollow” tag on your links so that the search engines aren’t fooled into thinking this is an uncompensated endorsement.

In Straight Posts, bloggers are extraordinarily picky about what kind of Sponsored Conversations they are willing to engage in, because they know full well that their name is on the line. They are walking a fine line between ensuring readers’ interests come first, maintaining their integrity, and being compensated for the value they bring to their advertisers.

What value are they bringing to their advertisers? Quite simply, Straight Posts are in a sense a ‘Co-Branding’ campaign. Companies align themselves with bloggers who have their own brand with which they want to be associated. Bloggers, in return, are selling access to their readership. And finally, Straight Posts create separation between sponsored and editorial content.

Great examples of Straight Posts are usually not limited to a single blog post, either. Rather, they are more frequently an ongoing relationship between bloggers and advertisers, or part of a larger campaign. Some recent ‘Straight Campaigns':

Now, Marshall Kirkpatrick from ReadWriteWeb would disagree with me on characterizing his advertorials as anything close to a Sponsored Conversation, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Marshall has clearly stated his love for his Advertisers in unpaid posts, and everyone who knows Marshall and his reputation know full well that he wouldn’t sell Advertorial spots to just anyone. So, Marshall has met the criteria I outlined above, in which he has associated the ReadWriteWeb brand with a product he loves, and he has sold access to his readership to this advertiser. It isn’t a Paid Post, but it is a Straight Post.

Why Google Wants to Lump us all into the Paid Post Category

Now, I could go on for pages and pages as to why I don’t think it’s Google’s place to be regulating bloggers. But I do understand their obligation to keep spam out of their index.

The problem is this – there is a fourth factor in these three categories, which I’ll call the Fade Factor. This means that not all Sponsored Conversations fall neatly into these three categories.

What if a blogger doesn’t even know what NoFollow means?

What if a guest post on a blog links to a site that is later turned into a porn site?

What if a blogger wants to talk about a sponsor in a random post as a natural part of the conversation?

Now you might understand why Google wants to treat all of us the same way. I think most of us can agree where it’s OK for Google to say “hell no’, but we might not all agree on how that Fade Factor makes one link right and one link wrong.

Sponsored Conversations Aren’t Going Away

The fact of the matter is that after measuring social media influence over the last few years, advertisers now know that engaging in Sponsored Conversations will produce real, trackable results.

Google simply can’t continue to say “NO PAID POSTS” and have that be their blanket answer for all social media marketing campaigns that include a link.

Additionally, consumers now expect to have a say in how brands market to them. Never again will people be willing to put up with untargeted, intrusive advertising now that brands have become a part of the conversation.

We can’t ask consumers to stop talking about brands.

And we can’t expect brands to not participate in online conversations.

Nor can we expect consumers to help brands market their products for free.

There is no going back to the way marketing used to be.

The reason that WOMMA was established was to provide an Ethics Code in line with the Federal Trade Commission’s fair advertising goals. The blogosphere doesn’t need people telling them that they shouldn’t be compensated for the value they bring to advertisers. The blogosphere DOES need more education and awareness on how to ensure that word of mouth marketing is done in a way that adds to our community, rather than detracts from it.

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Viral Marketing Case Studies: Epson & Kmart

Many of you know that last year, Epson sponsored the Sparkplugging team’s trip to the BlogWorld Expo conference. Many of you may not know the extent of the entire campaign that we worked on with the brilliant Barbara Jones from One2One Network. And I bet even fewer yet know of the fantabulous results that Epson saw at the end of our campaign.

I’ve written up a word of mouth marketing case study on the project from start to finish over at my finally-revamped

Another project that is a hot topic lately is the Kmart / IZEA campaign that was done last December. Ted Murphy released a fantastic case study on it a few weeks ago, but I decided to take it one step further and dissect the differences between the bloggers that participated in the campaign, Chris Brogan, Loren Feldman, Julia Roy, Jeremy SchoemakerMichelle Madhok, and myself. Thus, my post is a true case study of how different influencers bring different assets to every campaign they work on. And most importantly, it does pay to find the right influencers with the right following to match your campaign goals.

Both of these campaigns had strong viral components that created significant buzz – buzz around the brands, buzz around the agencies, and even buzz around the bloggers. I’m very proud of the work I’ve been able to do with these campaigns thus far, knowing they were great brands that I would put my own name on the line for without hesitation.

Being Paid for One’s Influence

With the furor around paid posts and sponsorships of late, I’d also like to make a very important point to those who think that mixing money and content are somehow immoral or bad. Besides the fact that these kinds of sponsorships date back to Olympians in ancient Greece, and besides the fact that these campaigns were all run with the highest ethical standards recommended by WOMMA, and besides the fact that we’ve been asking brands to do ‘Conversation Marketing‘ for years… there is one more thing I would like to add.

If I were to add up the amount of money I have turned away over the three years I have run this site due to my unwillingness to endorse the companies for whatever reason, I’d guess it would easily add up to $50K, if not more than that. And although many people think I am getting rich off of Sparkplugging, for the first two years I didn’t make a penny, so I certainly could have used that $50K at some point along the way.

The fact of the matter is, the bloggers that took part in the Kmart campaign aren’t people who really needed $500 in Kmart merchandise. We did it because we believed it would add value to our readers first, and to the brands, second. But most of all, it is completely unjustifiable to judge a blogger’s ethics based on what they are paid for, unless you also know how they are unwilling to be bought at any price.

I’m going to shut up now on this subject, because I will go on a never ending rant about people who think their self-defined “morals” should be everyone else’s morals too… and neither one of us wants to go there. :)

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The Do’s and Dont’s of Promoting Your Business on Twitter

If you have an online business, you’ve probably been told at least once to get on Twitter.  Maybe you’re already on Twitter but don’t feel like you’re getting anything out of the space.

Truth be told—Twitter can be great for promoting your small business.  And while proponents of social media like to say “anything goes, there really are no rules”—that’s not necessarily the case.

There are a few unspoken etiquette rules when promoting your business on Twitter and if you don’t pay attention to some of the tips mentioned below, it can cause people to ignore your friend requests or unfollow you all together.

Just remember, Twitter is a community—not advertising space.  People will accept the promotion of your business in balance.  Don’t expect to sign up for twitter, put out a few of your links and have whopping sales or clients pouring in overnight.

Seriously– not gonna happen.

But, if you work to make relationships and connect with your target audience, you’ll be on your way to getting sales or clients in no time.

And I do say this from personal experience.  As a freelance writer, all of my well paying writing gigs have come as a result of the connections I’ve made on Twitter.  Same goes for my network marketing business. While the venture is relatively new, I’ve been able to speak with prospects and sell a few products because of my connections in the space.

So without further adieu, let’s get started with some basic do’s and dont’s in promoting your business on Twitter:

  • DON’T sign up for twitter and follow hundreds of people all at once.  Instead, sign up and follow people sloooowwwly (You don’t want to be mistaken for a spammer).  If a person follows me and they have one update, 500 friends and 2 followers, I just assume it’s a spammer and won’t follow.
  • DO follow a manageable number of people and try to keep your followers to followee ratio relatively equal until you get the swing of things.
  • DON’T make all of your updates about your company, blog or service. Instead, have REAL, friendly conversations until people get to know you as someone they can trust.  This requires you following what other people are saying and engaging in conversations that go beyond yourself or your business.
  • DO post links to your latest blog entries, sales, etc.—but KEEP IT BALANCED.
  • DO share (or Retweet) links to other people’s giveaways, blog entries or sales items.  By paying attention to what other people are saying, those people will be more likely to give your stuff a look when they see it come across the screen.  It’s called karma and it works.
  • DON’T auto DM! Auto Dm’s are those pesky little personal messages you are probably sending out to your followers that say “Hi! Thanks for following!  Here’s the link to my site _______!”  If that’s you, STOP.  Again, get to know the people you are following before you hit them with your links.  Anything a person needs to know about you can be found on your bio line.  Keep it that way.
  • DO DM someone about something that relates to THEM (again stepping outside yourself).  For example, I followed back someone today that wrote how she had 50 some followers and her husband was impressed because that was more than Jesus.  Well of course that made me laugh so I DM’ed her to say hi and that I was cracking up over her comment.  Friendly conversation in a DM is A’ok 😉
  • DON’T announce to the world how many followers you have!  I know it gets exciting when we feel like we are finally connecting to our target audience and people want to hear what we have say, but keep your numbers to yourself!
  • DO use twitter to invite people in your target audience OFF the space and onto your blog.  From there you can be more promotional of your products, your services, etc.  On twitter you’ll make and foster the connections—but you’ll actually convert sales, clients, etc. on your own turf.  Keep that in mind before you spam 😉

And to help the Twitter newbies out there, please weigh in below with the Twitter habits that annoy you the most.  By nicely telling people what NOT to do, we can have a much better experience in the world of social media.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Artist wisleywoven

About Amber Watson-Tardiff

Amber Watson-Tardiff is a freelance writer, virtual assisant and solopreneur.  When shes not writing or teaching people how to start their own home business, Amber can be found starting trouble here on Twitter or hanging out on her own blog, To contact amber, email ambertardiff at gmail dot com.

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Presidential Election 2.0 :: How Social Media Forever Changed Presidential Campaigns

In many ways, this presidential election is unlike any we have ever had in history. Either a African American man or a woman will be elected to one of two of the most powerful positions in the world. We face an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. And the history books will certainly mark the 2008 election as the first to be influenced by social media.

It has been both a blessing and a curse for both candidates that this election has been the most recorded in history. A blessing, because sites like YouTube have been able to carry their campaign messages to the voters that they have been unable to reach via traditional media. A curse, because both candidates are getting attacked with past words that contradict current positions.

It’s too early to tell if YouTube made or broke the election for either candidate’s bid for the white house. But I can guarantee you that YouTube made or broke millions of independent votes for both of them. Highlights of campaigns like the “Joe the Plumber Moment” or the “Colin Powell Moment” spread rapidly within minutes via email, Facebook and of course Twitter.

But the real fascinating story thus far is how the Presidential campaign turned the tables on social media and changed the way we used it – most of all via Twitter. Whether you love Obama or hate him, I believe this was one of the most brilliant moves his campaign made: we’re only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq. Learn more at from web.

– Barack Obama’s first post to Twitter

By being such an early adopter of Twitter, Obama forced his opponent, his fans, and even mainstream media to pay attention to this little tech startup based on the simplicity of sending 140 character messages to your friends.

Election 2008 on Twitter

Election 2008 on Twitter

Twitter can now be found being incorporated into live broadcasts from CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. CurrentTV broadcast all of the debates with a stream of live Twitter commentary captions beneath the candidates. And now if I want the absolute latest news on the campaign, I know I will find it on before I will find it anywhere else.

I honestly think that Twitter is now on the way to becoming a part of all of our everyday lives.

Obama and McCain Battle for the Small Business Vote

Obama & McCain Battle for
the Small Business Vote

Barack Obama’s
Small Business Plans

John McCain’s
Small Business Plans

The Brilliance of Campaigning Via Twitter

To make this relevant for business owners, the use of social media and Twitter in this campaign was a strategic and brilliant marketing move straight out of Seth Godin’s book Unleashing the Ideavirus. Based on the premise that in order to induce a viral response to your campaign, one must first sell the idea to the “Sneezers”. Sneezers are at the core of any ideavirus. Sneezers are the ones who when they tell ten or twenty or 100 people–people believe them. Obama found his sneezers on Twitter. And McCain has now, too.

Step By Step, Here’s how Seth Godin’s Ideavirus Tactics Work

· Make it virusworthy.

If it’s not worth talking about, it won’t get talked about.

· Identify the hive [Target Market].

You won’t get the full benefit of the ideavirus until you dominate your hive.

· Expose the idea.

Expose it to the right people, and do whatever you need to do to get those people deep into the experience of the idea as quickly as possible.

· Figure out what you want the sneezers to say.

You’ve got to decide what you want the sneezers to say to the population. If you don’t decide, either they’ll decide for you and say something less than optimal, or they won’t even bother to spend the time.

· Give the sneezers the tools they need to spread the virus.

After you’ve got a potential sneezer, make it easy for him to spread the idea. Give him a way to send your idea to someone else with one click.

· Once the consumer has volunteered his attention, get permission.

The goal of the ideavirus marketer is to use the virus to get attention, then to build a more reliable, permanent chain of communication so that further enhancements and new viruses can be launched faster and more effectively, under your control this time.

· Amaze your audience so that they will reinforce the virus and keep it growing.

Why do some viruses burn out more quickly than others? The simplest reason is that marketers get greedy and forget that a short-term virus is not the end of the process, it’s the beginning. By nurturing the attention you receive, you can build a self reinforcing virus that lasts and lasts and benefits all involved.

Whether or not either of the candidates’ Twitter strategy works to get him into the white house is yet to be determined. But it did work to change the rules of the game – and no presidential election will be the same again.

Edited to add side note: A story came up today about the McCain campaign’s frustration with blogging coverage of the election:

“[The McCain campaign has] become to be rather disdainful of the hyper-blogging that takes place on the press bus, and they think it has increased this mind-set of “gotcha” journalism, where every time John McCain would say something, instead of asking a follow-up question, people would go scurry off to their laptops and post to their blogs. And the McCain campaign believes that’s not what journalism ought to be.”

I agree that the immediacy of reporting via blogging is changing the dynamics of campaign coverage. Stories are indeed breaking faster and over shorter periods of time as blogs break news. And it brings up the old argument of the fuzzy (extinct?) line between mainstream media and blogs.

I guess the question is that if blogging is not going away (which it isn’t), what, if anything, should bloggers and candidates do about it?

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