Photo-clipping social network Pinterest may be the next step for banks and payment companies seeking to add a visual kick to their mobile, tablet and online marketing strategies.

Most banks have so far ignored the site, which allows users to "pin" images they see as they traverse the Web. Mobile-payments company Square is one of the few to take an early and aggressive stance on its use of Pinterest. Square launched its Pinterest page, or pinboard, in early April.

One way Square uses Pinterest is to explain the Register app it launched in March (see story). The company says its new software for the Apple iPad is capable of replacing a traditional point-of sale terminal. It's a sleek sales pitch but a tough one to visualize in practice, and Pinterest helps Square in that regard.

Its pinboard includes images and videos of customer testimonials. In these videos, cafe owners and other merchants describe the experience of using Square's technology as their only means of accepting card payments in a retail environment. The videos include images of other products, such as Square's iPhone app, that can be used to make mobile payments.

"Small-business owners are often inspired by other entrepreneurs, so we wanted to reach them where they might be looking for such inspiration," Lindsay Wiese, the Square spokeswoman who created the company's Pinterest board, wrote in an email.

The pinboard also includes other things that might help persuade small-business owners to use a mobile device in place of a cash register. One of Square's galleries depicts iPad stands that are meant to be used in retail stores (one of the stands even has a built-in cash drawer). Another gallery depicts wireless receipt printers that work with Square's app.

The Pinterest page is not just one big sales pitch. Square's pinboard has a gallery depicting employee life, for example.

"From Square's perspective I understand where they are going with this … this is a way for them to promote merchant partnerships," says Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst with Celent. "It's also a way for them to push out the iPad … if you use the iPad as a cash register, you will need a stand for it. Their Pinterest board has visual shots of iPad stands."

Some financial services companies using Pinterest in a business-to-business context say there has been strong interest from current and prospective customers.

"There is the opportunity to visually and emotionally express the application of your brand to a consumer in a way that connects with them," says Tim Pannell, the chief executive and president of Financial Marketing Solutions, a marketing firm in Franklin, Tenn., that State Bank and Trust works with.

Banks, which often have commercial clients or credit card processing relationships with merchants, could construct Pinterest boards that promote their small businesses.

"Any bank with small-business clients could leverage the marketing potential of Pinterest and the [commercial] knowledge they have of their customers, and share this with their small-business clients to help them succeed," says Nicole Sturgill, a research director at CEB TowerGroup.

A longer version of this story is on AmericanBanker.com.

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