March 2, 2012

Chances are by now you’ve heard of Pinterest, the’ next big thing’ taking the social media world by storm. The site has been around for a while in the US, but its recent growth in the UK has been absolutely explosive.

The site defines itself as a place to ‘organise and share all the beautiful things you find on the web’. Pinterest is a virtual noticeboard or scrapbook, where users can pin what interests and excites them in different contexts and collections. It is another platform allowing users to express themselves, this time using visual content. And the good news for brands is that users are pinning images of things they lust after, want and desire.

In fact Pinterest is full of good news for brands. The majority of users, 61 per cent, are lucrative ABC1s. More than half the visitors to the site are aged 18-34. It is fairly safe to assume, then, that Pinterest is full of affluent users with a high disposable income and a keen interest in expressing themselves and investing in lovely things. As Russell Davies notes in this piece in Campaign, the stereotypical user is a bride-to-be planning her wedding, creating mood boards showcasing her perfect day. Pinterest is also attracting a substantial amount of users who are looking to redecorate and refurbish their homes and are again creating mood boards and scrapbooks documenting inspiration and their own personal style. Food and fashion are also popular niches. The site allows brands to add prices to each pin – generating a substantial amount of referral traffic and offering real business value from smart use of the platform.

At the moment, there are slightly more female users than male in the UK, although in the US a massive 82 per cent of users are female. ‘If you look at the other sites visited and other interests data for the UK, you see that SEO professionals dominate,’ says Graeme Wood, strategy director at Carat. ‘I’d guess that brands, or people working for brands, make up the majority of Pinterest usage in the UK. Clearly fashion, design and other visually-based professions are making use of the platform, but currently the linkbuilding potential for images is the most valuable usage for brands.’

What Davies also notes is the potential for Pinterest to be used to showcase good taste. Those with an eye for the visual and the ability to sniff out ‘cool stuff’ may be able to utilise that innate sense of style to generate substantial business value for their clients. In fact digital ad agency Work Club is putting this theory to the test by recruiting a creative director through the site. And brands could look to inspire consumers through designing creative and ‘must-have’ visuals to drive interest and sales.

To generate additional visibility, brands can connect with influencers who actively like their products, who in turn will expose their products to new audiences who can re-pin the item to their own board if it appeals to them. This functionality is great for brands launching new products and collections, to get them seen and shared, and offers the tantalising prospect of harnessing the endorsement of users with followers who trust their taste and recommendations. More than 80 per cent of pins are re-pins, according to this analysis of Pinterest by RJMetrics.

 The company itself has kept quiet about its data, but the RJMetrics analysis, which was based upon an analysis of nearly one million pins, noted that the site is retaining and engaging users as much as three times more than Twitter did at this early stage.

But there are still question marks around the site. No UK brands have really begun to dominate the space yet, although in the US Whole Foods, Mashable, Sony Music and Gap have all made their mark using Pinterest.

The biggest danger, however, is that Pinterest will turn into another social network that had its moment to shine but failed to really cash in. The stats show that 23 per cent of Pinterest traffic comes from Facebook, which suggests integrating the site as an app in the new Facebook timeline could have helped to drive the recent spike in growth. Of more concern is the RJMetrics discovery that the quality of new users, whilst high, is declining. Users who joined the site in recent months are two to three times less active during their first month than more established users were during their first month on Pinterest. It could be speculated that the spike in growth comes from users who have heard Pinterest billed as the ‘next big thing’, joined, and found the site wanting. In many ways the rapid growth stage is the most precarious for a new social site. Remember Quora? Exactly.

Stickability is definitely far from established, and there are issues the site needs to iron out, such as the search function that prioritises pins over people. But if brands with online retail sites can harness it, they could see a surge in referral traffic. In fact the brains behind Pinterest might do well to position the site as an affiliate marketer for brands – turning it into a social commerce site rather than just another social network. Michael Roberts, comms planning manager at Carat, says: ‘At a mere two years young Pinterest is now driving more referral traffic than Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined, with 3.6 per cent of all referral traffic in January 2012 according to Shareaholic blog. To brands looking for visual and curated storytelling opportunities, Pinterest appears to be a substantial and timely place to be.’


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