Should businesses be interested in Pinterest? On the surface, you might not think so: the service would appear to be little more than a showcase for cool jewelry and favorite recipes.

However, it's also a great way to drive traffic to your site. That's according to a new HubSpot ebook: "How to Use Pinterest for Business".

This free 43-page tome introduces you to the white-hot social network and explains how you can leverage it for lead generation.

For starters, what the heck is Pinterest, and why does it matter? The explanations here are clear and straightforward, with some interesting stats to back them up. For example:

  • In October, the website of Time Inc.'s real Simple magazine got more traffic from Pinterest than Facebook.

  • In February, 2012, Pinterest has been driving more referrals to HubSpot's blog than Google+. This insight proves that Pinterest presents a serious challenge to other social media channels and offers a competitive advantage to businesses that have started leveraging its potential.

The book teaches you how to set up a Pinterest account, attract followers, and use the service to generate B2B leads and e-commerce sales - often a tricky proposition when you're selling a product or service that doesn't have much in the way of visual content. One sample tip:

  • Infographics are all the rage right now, and they are doing very well on Pinterest. If you have any industry data that you can visualise, do so before someone beats you to it.

HubSpot also recommends holding contests, adding the Pin It button to your Web site, and letting other users contribute their own pins to your pinboard - especially if their content includes your product.

Perhaps best of all, "How to Use Pinterest in Business" concludes with examples of companies that are already on Pinterest (like Etsy, below), and what they're doing right.

In short, there's a lot of good material here, all of it neatly and attractively presented. The only price you pay for this freebie is a bit of personal information: name, email address, and a few details about your company. Seems like a fair trade to me.