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Pinterest, the fastest-growing social-media website ever, needs to justify its valuation of US$1.5 billion in a recent financing round. And that could be good news for your business.

The online scrapboarding site has become the world's third most visited social-media site, behind only Facebook and Twitter. Now, Pinterest is under pressure to monetize this traffic. And the key to that is to get more businesses to tap into Pinterest's impressive ability to drive online sales.

A survey by SteelHouse, a Los Angeles-based online marketing and research agency, estimates that 59% of Pinterest users have made purchases based on having seen products on the site. "Pinterest is about shopping, about stuff people want," says Maggie Fox, CEO of Social Media Group, a Toronto-based social-media marketing agency. "It makes sense for Pinterest to figure out a way to get businesses more involved in that."

Pinterest has made several changes to become more business-friendly, and is planning more. It has introduced business accounts that include buttons and widgets that make it easier for users to pin items from a firm's website and follow its pinboards. The site also now verifies business accounts to stop anyone from creating fake ones.

As well, for firms keen to use Pinterest but unsure where to start, the site has launched a "what works" page. The extensive advice includes using Pinterest not just to showcase what you sell but also what you care about, as Whole Foods has done with boards on gardening and volunteering.

Fox offers a tip not found on the "what works" page: customize the captions for images you pin so they work in the Pinterest context and include a call to action. And Jacquelyn Cyr, principal of Keen Collective Inc., a Toronto-based brand consultancy, suggests you entertain Pinterest users while spotlighting product benefits. If, say, your product is unbreakable, pin photos of your staff subjecting it to hilarious stress tests.

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