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June 2012

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What's all the Interest in Pinterest?


By Ken Sabey

Let's see if I can count on my ten fingers all of the popular social media websites: 1-Facebook, 2-Twitter, 3-YouTube, 4-LinkedIn, 5-FourSquare, 6-Tumblr, 7-Goolge+, 8-Digg, 9-MeetUp, 10-Yelp, I've run out of fingers. And I didn't even get to the new girl on the block, Pinterest (www.pinterest.com).

Why does Pinterest think it can successfully compete for our time, when we already have so many other options to while away the hours? Well, turns out that it knows, not just thinks, that it is the third most popular website in terms of U.S. traffic (Experian) and has over 10 million members (RJMetrics). Its user base has increased by 145% just this year (Mashable) and it currently consists mainly of women, 80% female (comScore) with 32% of those between the ages of 25 and 34 (Ignite). OK, now I'm paying attention, especially if I'm a company with a product or service that targets women and that can be well represented in a visual format.

You see, Pinterest is unique in that it is all about images, and I mean any kind of image. From wedding dresses to exotic cars, cute dogs to bathroom sinks, inspirational quotes to painted fingernails. The idea is that once you become a Pinterest member (currently by invite only, visit their website to request one), you then create your own boards, like "My Style" or "Products I Love". Now the fun begins. As you surf the web and run across images that you like, you pin them to one or more of your boards. Then other Pinterest members who are either following you or who just come across your image can then repin that image to their boards, and so forth. Each time an image is pinned, the person pinning it can also include a comment and even a link. For example, let's say Mary finds a red and yellow polka-dotted raincoat on a website and pins a photo, description and link of it to her board. Her friend Tiffany, who is following her, sees the photo and repins the raincoat onto her own board, which in turn is seen by another person who follows the link to the original website and then purchases the coat.

One thing that Pinterest has done very well, it has made it very easy for members to create boards and pin images. Pinterest even gives its members a browser plug-in to turn the process into a one click step. However, this does create a bit of a copyright issue which I'll address at the end of this article.

Okay, so now we have this new social media destination that is kind of like Facebook, "but not really" and very similar to Tumblr, "but not exactly" and sort of like Twitter, "but only sort of". Then why is it taking off and can businesses benefit from yet another channel to communicate and market on?

To answer the first part of this two part question, I believe it's taking off because it is incredibly simple to use, plus it's different and new. Yet, already the unique monthly subscriber growth for Pinterest is starting to slowdown (comScore). We'll have to wait and see if the website plateaus at around its current membership base or continues to grow into Facebook and LinkedIn numbers. But even with this slight slow-down, the site is still adding almost a million new members each month.

Now the second part of the question, will your company benefit from having a presence on this website? Just like all of the other social media websites, it depends on who your target audience is, if you have the resources to manage that presence and as stated earlier, if you have an offering that can be well represented visually. So let's take a look at some case studies to see what other companies are doing.

Din Creations is an Arvada based jewelry company that specializes in hand-made Native jewelry. They are a client of mine with a brand new ecommerce website my company created to provide a 24/7 presence for people to find and purchase their unique products. The client and I needed to make a decision about Pinterest and we decided to give it a try.

Last month we created a Pinterest account for the company and then setup a board called Din Creations Native Jewelry. We selected a handful of images from the product catalog of their ecommerce site and loaded them up to this board, with each image having the product name, description and specific link back to where the product resides on the ecommerce site. After we had several product images added to the board, we announced it on their other social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter. Supposedly Pinterest frowns on self promotion like this, but they have not said anything to us yet, plus many companies are doing it.

This board has been up for less than a month and as of the date of this writing, has had everyone one of the images repined at least once. This is about as simple a presence a company can have on Pinterest and is just the beginning for this client. We are not detecting any measurable traffic from Pinterest just yet, but I believe will take some time, because Din Creations is not a well known national brand. Ah, let's talk about some national brands then.

The popular website, Mashable Business (www.mashable.com), recently ran an article entitled "5 Interesting Pinterest Marketing Campaign" where the following companies were highlighted for their inventive use of Pinterest boards: Kotex, Peugeot, Guess, Proctor & Gamble and British Midlands International. Although all five campaigns were inventive and targeted the correct audience for Pinterest, being a car guy, the one I liked the most was from Peugeot who turned their pins into puzzle pieces and created a contest for followers to find the missing puzzle pieces within the company's other social media pages.

In another article about Pinterest, Mashable quoted the CEO of Wayfair (formally CSN Stores), Niraj Shah, in stating that shoppers referred to his sites by Pinterest are 10% more likely to make a purchase than visitors arriving from other social networks. What Mr. Shah doesn't reveal in this article is just how many Pinterest visitors his sites receive. And I think that is a legitimate question; what kind of volume can Pinterest generate for a company's web presence.

Let's look at some more statistics.

  • Over 80% of pins are repins (RJMetrics)
  • Over 1/5 of Facebook-connected users are on Pinterest daily (AppData)
  • The top interests on Pinterest in the U.S. are: crafts, gifts, hobbies/leisure, interior design, and fashion designers/collections (Ragan)
  • Pins related to trending topics see an average of 94% increase in click-throughs (Pinerly Study)

I could go on, but I think we can start to see that Pinterest is really a specialty website right now. It's not as broad or far reaching as the great standbys, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But if you are a company that is targeting mostly younger women and you have the imagination to create a stand-out campaign on a website that is growing exponentially, then I would recommend you get a presence on Pinterest sooner than later. If however, your audience is different or broader, then your resources could be better spent elsewhere.

Now let me address the copyright issues that I brought up earlier. Unlike other websites that pull image files from the referring sources, Pinterest actually stores the files on their own servers. When you become a member, you will be required to agree to a terms of use which has this statement included: "Except as expressly provided in these Terms, Cold Brew Labs and its licensors exclusively own all right, title, and interest in and to the Site Content, including all associated intellectual property rights". This in place, not to claim ownership of the images, but to protect Pinterest and allow it to provide this service. However, the way it is worded sure makes you stop and think. Then there is another issue with Pinteret's own Pin Etiquette that discourages users from uploading their own images and instead encourages the sharing of other people's images. The issue being that once again in reviewing the terms, one sees that it expressly forbids the uploading of images that you do not yourself own. Hmm, sticky place Pinterest has gotten itself into.

I would imagine that there are smart people running the company and they will figure it out and get both their terms of use and their Pin Etiquette updated to resolve these growing-pain issues, but until then, do be aware of what you are agreeing to if you use the site.

Oh and if you do join Pinterest, don't forget to follow my boards at: www.pinterest.com/webptoh

Ken Sabey
Owner, Web Point Oh! LLC

With 16 years of experience helping businesses and associations market on the web, Ken's strength lies in helping companies and associations determine the needs, goals and budget requirements for their next generation web presence and then to make it all happen.  As owner of Web Point Oh! LLC, a Denver based Internet Marketing company focusing on the user experience, Ken has the opportunity to work in varying fields ranging from social media management, to search engine optimization, to paid advertising, to tracking and analytics.





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