Until several months ago, financial advisor Angela Dorsey didn’t know anything about Pinterest, the visual search engine where users “pin” (or post) photos, images or other content to their individual pinboards on topics ranging from cooking and interior design to travel and crafts. The site has been popular with women, but companies increasingly are using Pinterest to create pinboards to promote their business.

And that includes financial services companies, as well as a small number of advisors such as Dorsey, who runs a solo, fee-only financial planning practice in Torrance, Calif. Her daughter showed her what Pinterest is about and helped Dorsey create her own site. Now she says she’s hooked and views it as a great marketing tool for herself and her advisory practice. “Pinterest is my favorite form of social media,” says Dorsey, whose company website also links to Facebook and LinkedIn.

Pinterest users set up pinboards, and each is like a category or topic with different pictures or links pinned to it. As of mid-May, Dorsey’s Pinterest site had eight boards and 623 pins.

“I think Pinterest is really good for RIAs, particularly for single-owner firms like myself, because financial planning is very personal, and people need to be able to trust you,” Dorsey says. “People do business with people they know, like and trust. For me, Pinterest is a way for people to see my board and get a sense of my personality.”

Dorsey specializes in finances for women, and she has a Pinterest board entitled “Be A Wealthy Woman,” which provides generic financial tips and offers a glimpse of her financial philosophy.

Another board on Dorsey’s Pinterest site spotlights books she’s reading, while another contains inspirational thoughts that Dorsey says create a vibe of positivism and the notion that people can shape their future if they set goals and stay focused. Other boards highlight her personal interests in travel, the beach, cats and the color blue. One board is titled “Funny.”

“Financial planning can be dry, so I like to lighten up things a bit,” she says. “My take on Pinterest is if a prospect sees my Pinterest board and they like it, then they’ll like working with me. It focuses on the soft side of the relationship.”

Dorsey’s Pinterest site includes a link to her financial planning website, and through Google Analytics she knows people are finding Dorsey Wealth Management through Pinterest. “From my website, they can see more about the financial planning side of working with me, and then they can decide to contact me and pursue it further.”

That said, Dorsey says Pinterest has yet to generate any client leads. She notes it can take time for people to research a planner’s credentials before finally contacting them, and she feels Pinterest eventually will bring her new clients. “I can see that people are reaching me through Pinterest, so it’s a good way to get my name out there. And my existing clients think it’s fun, and some are following me on Pinterest.”

Pinterest, which was founded in March 2010, has been evolving from a place to pin recipes and decorating tips to a legitimate marketing tool for companies.

“Pinterest is coming out with more opportunities to encourage innovative advertising, and I see this space continuing to grow,” says Joan Kagan, senior research associate at Corporate Insight, a New York City-based financial services research company. “We’re seeing it in retail, and I think there will be more opportunities for financial firms to improve their marketing and advertisement experiences and to educate Pinterest users.”

Kagan’s research focuses on annuity and life insurance providers, and within that group she says Genworth, Northwestern Mutual, Transamerica and USAA are among the companies that have created Pinterest pages that share basic financial and other information to boost their interaction with customers and the general public. She adds that online brokerage TradeKing is another prominent company with a Pinterest presence.

Rich Hagen, president and co-founder of TradeKing, says the company started using Pinterest a couple of years ago as a new way to provide visual information for customers that complements its existing social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Tumbler.

One of TradeKing’s eight boards contains info graphics created for its client surveys, while other boards include a visual display of 28 strategies on how to save money for investing; product updates for its trading platform; blogs from company CEO Don Montanaro; and a board dedicated to personal finance topics.

Hagen says TradeKing Group, the parent company that includes separate broker-dealer, RIA and foreign-exchange trading divisions, is keenly aware of compliance issues and has developed an internal approval process to vet content that gets distributed online.
For now at least, wealth management companies haven’t been flocking to Pinterest, even though it could potentially be a good way to reach new clients.

“Pinterest provides companies an opportunity to reach out to women and millennials who make up the majority of Pinterest’s user base,” Kagan says. “And these are groups that are also underserved by financial advisors.”

Perhaps, but it’s too early to tell whether Pinterest can become a client-generating magnet. Sheri Iannetta Cupo, a principal at SageBroadview Financial Planning LLC in Morristown, N.J., and Farmington, Conn., says her firm puts a lot of effort into its blogs and uses mainly Twitter and LinkedIn to further engage readers.

“Pinterest is not a site I feel will have a tremendous impact on our social media efforts,” she says. “Yet I do feel that since we spend time creating custom images for each blog post that perhaps a more visual learner will be drawn to our Pinterest site and might be intrigued enough to check out a post or two on investing or financial planning topics.”