Best Practices for Food Brands on Pinterest

Janet Helm is the chief food and nutrition strategist of North America for Weber Shandwick. She is the author of the blogNutrition Unplugged and co-founder of the Nutrition Blog Network and Healthy Aperture. She has been a contributor to Cooking Light magazine and is currently partnering on a book with Cooking Light.

Pinterest has become the fastest growing website ever, now with nearly 12 million monthly users. The site illustrates the evolution from the “social graph” to the “interest graph” – or the shift from friend-based networks to those that connect people based on their shared interests.

Food is one of the major niches or shared interests on Pinterest. In fact, food lovers were among the first on Pinterest; they saw the benefits of pinning instead of clipping recipes. These foodies used boards to plan dinner parties, collect holiday baking ideas, and create their own virtual cookbooks.

Not surprisingly, food bloggers have also become Pinterest power users. The Food and Drink category has become one of the largest and most active in terms of pins and repins.

While the Pinterest terms of use prohibit commercial use of the site, Pinterest’s lack of enforcement means that marketers are rapidly turning to Pinterest to help visually curate their brands. (No doubt the legal issues surrounding Pinterest will be worked through and the terms of use will likely evolve.) In the meantime, there are numerous opportunities for food brands to leverage this easy-to-use, image-sharing social network, although it’s best for marketers to work with experienced legal counsel to minimize risks.

Here are eight tips and best practices to get you started.

1. Add Value

Offer helpful advice and useful ideas that your followers would find valuable. Cooking Light, one of the early stars on Pinterest, has created a series of boards that feature timely holiday recipes, seasonal menu ideas and how-to cooking techniques, along with DIY projects and kitchen resources. Most content originates from CookingLight.com, which has made Pinterest the most important social media referral source for the site, according to Allison Lowery, who manages Pinterest for the magazine. Cooking Light was also quick to add “pin it” buttons to all online recipes to make it easier for readers to pin to Pinterest.

2. Tell Stories

Pinterest was made for visual storytelling. Grocery delivery service Peapod tells a tale with its “Delivery Trucks” board. The pins share images from the road by showcasing the various trucks in transit. One truck got stuck in an NYC blizzard; another donated food in Connecticut as part of Peapod’s Kids Give Back program. A separate Pinterest board provides the back stories of Peapod’s delivery truck drivers.

3. Host a Contest

Several food brands have achieved success with “pin and win it” contests on Pinterest. Saveur magazine created a dinner party pinboard contest, asking pinners to build a dream dinner party on their own boards using at least three recipes from Saveur.com. Participants tagged pins with #saveur and #dinnerparty to help extend the reach (the hashtag searchability function of Pinterest is similar to Twitter). The winner will be featured on Saveur.com. Similarly, Relish magazine created a three-day “Pinathon” to see who could pin the most content from Relish.com to win prizes. Before launching a contest, be sure to consult Pinterest’s terms of use.

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Posted on March 13, 2012 and filed under Restaurant Marketing.