It's one thing to win a race. It's quite another to do so in successive Olympics like Usain Bolt -- or greater still, Michael Phelps, who managed the even more remarkable feat of three-peating this year in London. Pinterest, a dazzling social media darling that is akin to first-time medal winners Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin, may or may not even be in the social media game four years from now. Time will indeed tell.
But since speculating on the future of Pinterest has become a sport in and of itself, and since we no longer have the London Olympics to distract us, this seems like the appropriate moment to wrestle the topic to the ground. And perhaps more to the point, this piece gives me a chance to get my 5 best guesses together for the upcoming Social Media Insider Summit, where “what's next for Pinterest” will be a subject of great debate.
Guess #1: Pinterest will be bought before the Games get to Rio
Vegas odds-makers probably would not even offer even money on this bet, given the fact that Pinterest is already the third-most-popular social network in the world and continues to attract users at a record-setting pace. And if user growth is not enough to attract a buyer, there's also the fact that Pinterest is already one of the top “organic” traffic referrers -- and its referrals also seem to generate higher-than-average ecommerce sales. Clearly, a biggie like Google could monetize Pinterest seven ways to payday!
Guess #2: Pinterest will find more ways to generate revenue than Michael Phelps
If anyone could cash in on the Olympics, it would be Phelps, the all-time most decorated Olympian with 12 years of epic accomplishments. Yet the potential revenue pool for the freshly minted Pinterest is truly unlimited and goes well beyond ad dollars and paid affiliate links. Sponsored pins, a la Twitter, and promoted profiles like Facebook, are both strong options assuming they don't meet user resistance. Pinterest could also start licensing their API for money and setting up their own stores, splashing their way to the big dough.
Guess #3: Pinterest will spawn an ecosystem even the IOC could love
Notorious for its "you can't post that" decrees to athletes, the International Olympic Committee hoped to control the uncontrollable through its social media guidelines. Pinterest -- so far, at least -- seems much more open to letting a social ecosystem grow around it, although it may move in directions it can't completely control. Pinerly, a new Pinterest analytic platform currently in Beta, is already helping brands manage “campaigns,” while Pinreach and Pinpuff are battling it out to measure "pinner" influence. And there's even a blog called Pintology that pans bad pins and promotes the real deals.
Guess #4: Pinterest will be on more platforms than the Chinese divers
While David Boudia did the U.S. proud by winning the 10-meter platform, the Chinese otherwise dominated the boards, leaving London with 6 diving Golds! During the same two-week period, SlideShare announced its integration with Pinterest -- a move that will introduce Pinterest to millions in the B2B world and further extend its reach through recent plug-ins for platforms like Facebook, Flickr, WordPress (WP Pinner) and Tumblr.
Surely it won't be long before iPhoto dives into the Pinterest party?
Guess #5: Marketers will go for the gold with something other than "Pin it to win it"
As the Olympic torch moves out of London, we should get a respite from “golden opportunities” and other clichés that clog the airwaves. Hopefully, marketers will take a similarly fresh look at the language they use on Pinterest, which is currently dominated by no fewer than twenty contests called "Pin It to Win It" and the shorter, but equally overused, "Pin to Win." Better yet, they might pin their hopes on more “pinteresting” boards with "pintillating" comments, a combo that's already winning for the likes of GE and Kate Spade.
Final note: While Pinterest is currently running rings around emerging competitors like DartItUp and Manteresting, the social media arena is far too fluid for any brand to declare victory or, worse yet, rest on their laurels. Undoubtedly Pinterest will continue to evolve and perhaps even “gamify” the experience -- a prospect that could transform this endearing sprinter into an enduring winner.