It seems like everyone is jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon these days and creating boards of their favorite images. I have to admit, I too, have found it quite pleasurable to browse the hundreds of pictures that range from cool products to delicious food to interesting architecture.

During my time on the site I’ve noticed that Pinterest is creating a new type of online sharer, the social image curator. This activity goes way beyond normal photo sharing that’s done on Flickr or Facebook. Users are connecting with images to self-identify with their needs, wants and desires. And it’s interesting to see how people are approaching this new art form by the items they “pin” and the boards they create. It’s important for marketers to understand this trend and learn from it in order to create and display images that users want to pin and share.

Visual Bookmarking and Storytelling

The truth is Pinterest gives users a care-free way of categorizing content on their terms. It’s such an effortless process without the labor of the creating a series of tags.  Frankly, it’s the modern equivalent of online bookmarking. It’s no wonder that bookmarking tools such as DeliciousPearlTrees and others have developed sophisticated visual interfaces for their platforms. Finding and consuming information is much easier and quicker when it’s in a visual format.

Let’s not forget the current fascination with data visualization, a.k.a. infographics. Those creative illustrations combine information with compelling graphics (hence the name) to create perfect vehicles for storytelling. The popularity of them has many companies clamoring to produce their own infographics that convey authority or tell a story associated with their business. It’s no surprise that infographics have made their way to Pinterest as well with users collecting them like baseball cards.

Developing a Visual Content Strategy

While users are busy searching for images that resonate with them, marketers are looking for ways to attract those users and integrate this activity into their outbound efforts.  Professionals in marketing, PR and social media functions not only need to quickly learn how to curate images for business-branded accounts, they need to think about content marketing in the visual sense. That means developing a visual strategy for blog posts, white papers, research insights, and other collateral produced for external consumption.

The challenge for many marketers will be how to represent text and numbers into compelling visual references. If your organization has a dedicated graphics designer on staff then you should leverage them to full tilt. If not, you should consider subscribing to an image database such as Getty Images where you can select and purchase images that suit your brand and content. I’d also recommend Flickr for its large inventory of images labeled under the Creative Commons license.

Visual Content Drives Traffic

The visual display model that Pinterest has built is actually an enormous driver of website traffic. It was reported by Techcrunch that Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than Twitter, according to recent research from Shareaholic. With a growing number of people being conditioned to click on images for more information, it’s an opportunity for marketers to take note.

This is quite the eye-opener since most images we create and post online do not have links embedded in them. Start inserting URLs into your images to seamlessly create digital pathways to destination sites. In doing so, you may boost your SEO rankings in the process on sites that follow directives for links. (Note: Pinterest has implemented a "no follow" rule on their site.) While the majority of images on many sites represent consumer goods, there’s also plenty of opportunity to drive interested buyers of B2B services through imagery as well.