As brands have quickly discovered the power of Pinterest to drive traffic and sales, they are quickly joining to reap these benefits. The downside is that many are jumping in without observing some very basic niceties of the social network.

Here are five most common business etiquette mistakes I see on Pinterest.

1. It’s All About You

In staff meetings and internal memos and traditional marketing, the talk is probably 100% about the company. It actually isn’t all about you for your Pinterest followers, and the odds are good that people don’t want to only see you share your own content. That is a bit like the friend who only talks about herself. That is interesting for about 30 seconds.

On Pinterest, be sure you are sharing things of interest to your followers. Some of those things can be about you. Most of them should be from other sources, but of interest to your followers, customers, clients and so on.

2. You Needn’t Lower Yourself to Following People

I am not sure what it is about following people back that is so distasteful to brands on Pinterest, but it truly is the quickest, easiest way potential followers can determine if you are engaging or not. Many brands have thousands of followers, and only follow a handful of members.

Obviously, you may not be able to (or want to) follow everyone back but you can follow most. When a Pinterest member lands on a profile with oodles of followers that isn’t following anyone back, it sends a clear message: we want to do a lot of taking (pinning our content, having you repin it, getting traffic and sales), but we don’t plan to do much giving. Also be sure to follow members (by clicking Follow All on their profile) rather than just following a single board here and there.

3. You Run Big-Puffy-Heart “Pin It to Win It” Contests

Pin It to Win It contests have become all the rage on Pinterest. Unfortunately, they can be extremely annoying and they aren’t the best way to engage. There have been creative campaigns run by brands on Pinterest (see the Kotex one , for example). They tend to be overshadowed by the less creative and more annoying pin for a contest entry-style promotions.

Beyond any debates over what is or isn’t effective (I would argue they have very limited effectiveness), they are also not in violation of Pinterest’s brand guidelines , which state brands on Pinterest should not:

  • Encourage spam: Steer clear of contests that encourage spammy behaviour, such as asking participants to comment repeatedly.
  • Run a sweepstakes where each pin, repin, or like represents an entry.
  • Ask pinners to vote with a repin or like.
  • Overdo it: Contests and promotions can be effective, but you don’t want to run a contest too often.

4. You Pin with Abandon

Pinning and repinning is fun. I totally get it. Still, it can sometimes be almost too fast and easy to pin in rapid-fire fashion. When you are pinning, avoid doing too much of a good thing all at once.

For example, don’t pin several images from your own site in a row (space that out!). Don’t do 20 repins in a row to your teal scarf board.

Beyond over-pinning, also be thoughtful in what you pin. Are you pinning or repinning an image from the original source (not sites like Google search or Tumblr that is search results and shares of other people’s images)? Does it link properly to the full, permalink for the article or product and not just a homepage?

Does the description accurately explain what people will find when they click through (and avoid providing so much detail, no one needs to click through)? Remember that Pinterest should curate the content from other sites, but the original content creator should get the traffic by proper linking and attribution.

5. You Keep It All Business 

The best thing on the business side about Pinterest is that it makes it so easy for brands to humanize their companies. There are some who are doing it in fun and engaging ways, such as Cabot Cheese’s Moo board filled with cow pictures and and Modcloth’s geek style board.

You don’t have to completely pin fast and loose, but Pinterest is the place to have fun in ways that tie closely to your business and brand.

Another way to loosen up is to create a collaborative board to let others share. For example, my Type-A Parent Conference account has a Conference Chic board where attendees can pin outfits they would love to wear to my events.

The bottom line is you want to interact and not simply broadcast. If you do so, you will have a much more engaged following, and one that is much more likely to share your content, click through to your site and buy from you.

Kelby Carr

Kelby Carr


Kelby Carr is the founder and CEO of Type-A Parent.