Pinterest, the new social media darling, has gotten the attention of media brands like Martha Stewart, Cooking Light, Home & Garden, Elle Décor, House Beautiful and Country Living. This interest is beginning to pay off in terms of driving significant amounts of traffic to their respective websites (even more than Facebook), but there is a revenue angle these brands are beginning to exploit, as well.

In a post at PaidContent, Paul Armstrong, social media head at eLearning company Mindshare, has some advice for media brands that have definite implications for retailers wishing to engage in social commerce:

1. Turn Abuse in Advantage – Though legal issues regarding the re-use of copyrighted content are of concern both to media and retail brands, Armstrong suggests that they remember who they are there for. “As with all platforms you borrow space on, it’s how you use it, not how it uses you,” he says.

2. Court Women – The majority of Pinterest users are women (81 percent according to DoubleClick Ad Planner). Since women are the primary purchasers in households, it pays to appeal to them.

3. Think Visually – Every avid Pinterest user I’ve spoken with regales the virtues of Pinterest’s visually-oriented user interface. “A picture paints a thousand words” certainly applies in Pinterest’s case, so much so that other sites are beginning to borrow the concept. Facebook’s new Timeline interface is one example.

4. Go Beyond the Story – Armstrong suggests that media companies accompany articles with pinboards that contain exclusive content, including images of products that are available for purchase. Retail brands could mimic this approach by providing similar content to accompany new product launches, special offers and exclusive deals.

But, “go beyond the story” could just as easily imply that brands take a different, non-product focused approach. For example, Whole Foods uses its pinboards to display recipes that use products sold in stores. However, the emphasis is on the recipe, not the products themselves.

Yogurt manufacturer Chobani follows suit with its Chobaniac Creations board, but includes others that have either no (or minimal) product references – Nothing But Good and Nutrition are two examples – that are designed to provide inspiration and information its customers would find helpful.

Social commerce brand Birchbox puts fashion first in several of its pinboards, including boards that focus on fashion-related events like New York Fashion Week and the 2012 Academy Awards.

Our advice to brands considering the use of Pinterest is:

1. Make your customer’s lifestyle and taste graph top priority - Pinterest provides a canvas – indeed a tabula rasa – for creative expression. However, this demands that brands get beyond a product push mentality and adopt a social mindset that puts the interests of consumers first. People are interested in what they are interested in, and that may or may not include specific interest in your products. Subjugate your own need to sell stuff and defer to the lifestyle interests of your consumer.

2. Mix in product pinboards – The above point does not suggest that you can’t include pinboards focused on products – even birchbox has a few. No one can deny you the privilege of sharing product images that contain links back to your e-commerce site, just don’t make those the main driver of your Pinterest strategy.

3. Think in terms of social utility – By that we mean provide a social service that helps people find social solutions to problems or that solves social problems. Think of Pinterest as a tool to help people discover, evaluate and decide socially based on their shared experience.

Whole Foods Market Pinterest pinboard

Whole Foods pinboard puts emphasis on recipes

Chobani nutrition pinboard

Chobani nutrition pinboard

Birchbox put fashion first in pinboards

Birchbox put fashion first in pinboards