By now you’ve likely heard of this social networking website called Pinterest. You may even be among the roughly 35 million active users of Pinterest. The newest social media darling is still riding a wave of new registrants, high on-site engagement, and plenty of media buzz. Pinterest.com has become the fastest-growing website of all time, a fact that’s mind-blowing given users must await an invitation to even join.
According to analytics company Compete.com, March produced nearly 18.2 million unique visitors to Pinterest.com, a 4,861.42% year-over-year growth. And while there has been some recent chatter about its growth rate slowing, it’s pretty clear that Pinterest has arrived. It’s massive -- both in scale and importance to the social media movement.
But despite all these “facts” and rational arguments over why I too should join, I’ve resisted. Being a search marketer means that I’m rarely persuaded without data; I need hard evidence that something is legitimate. In the case of Pinterest, I have 35 million proof points that it is legit. That seems to be more than statistically valid, yet here I am sans account.
It took a bit of reflection (and forced candor), but I was able to identify the underlying biases I hold towards Pinterest that keep me from joining alongside the other “early adopters.” A combination of personal and professional influences is holding me back:
Personal reason #1: My guy friends would make fun of me. I’m serious. You will never catch me at a dinner party commenting that, “I just pinned the most incredible thing today.”
Getting excited about discovering and sharing the latest craze in crafts or projects for around the house would deliver a fatal blow to my machismo. Yes, I realize this is a limited view of Pinterest’s platform, and that my comments may not be politically correct -- I’m just being real.
Personal reason #2 – This smells like social scrapbooking. I don’t scrapbook. My mother does.
Personal reason #3 – It doesn’t fit an unmet need. Put plainly, I don’t know what I’d do with a Pinterest account. My digital life already seems complete through a combination of tools I use daily to keep my online universe in order. I use Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, and StumbleUpon to stay in the know. If something catches my eye and warrants archiving for future reference, I turn to a combination of Delicious and Evernote.
Pinterest would only add complexity to this consortium of tools that works for me.
Professional reason #1 – it encourages the clever over the strategic. Social media has always struggled with an inability to prove its worth. Pinterest is no different.
Note -- I don’t want to open that Pandora’s box (again) by debating the utility of social media (for the record – I’m a huge believer in social).
In a professional context, clients turn to me seeking counsel on the best digital channels to invest in. With that trust in hand, I haven’t yet been met with a communications challenge that Pinterest addresses. I can’t (yet) advocate for a channel where there’s such ambiguity surrounding the would-be KPIs. What does it mean when a company has a lot of Pinterest followers? What does it mean when their content is pinned and re-pinned? I have no idea.
So for now, Pinterest is relegated to the pile of secondary channels. It’s complementary to a core, better-rationalized social strategy.
Professional reason #2 – As a social standalone, Pinterest is a fad. It’s one thing to be a part of the early-adopter crew; it’s a whole other thing to chase fads. And I think marketers are chasing fads with Pinterest.
But clearly, Pinterest has struck a chord with users. It adds a new layer of interaction and capability that wasn’t previously available from the stalwarts of social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. The word “layer” should be key for marketers, though. Pinterest seems best utilized when it extends and enhances an existing social marketing footprint.
Viewing Pinterest as yet another social media destination, complete with its own set of engagement rules to follow, is flawed thinking. Pinterest’s potential will really be evident when marketers use it to enhance core social channels, Facebook in particular.
Which leads me to…
Professional reason #3 – The real credit goes to Facebook’s social development platform. Pinterest itself is not the success story. The real story is Facebook, and what a tremendous social platform it has become. Many have pointed to Pinterest’s explosive growth, noting how it coincidentally came on the heels of Facebook’s Open Graph Apps rollout. Facebook itself has even taken credit for its role in Pinterest’s ascent:
Since launching their open graph integration less than a month ago, the number of Facebook users visiting Pinterest every day has increased by more than 60%. The virtual pinboard site has made it fun and easy to share the items you’ve pinned and follow the boards of people you find interesting.
Pinterest’s success, I believe, is really all about users wanting more options/tools across their core social experiences. Pinterest had the good fortune to be one of the first social utilities (yes, “utilities”) to capitalize on THAT unmet need.
So no, I don’t have a Pinterest account, nor would I lead a client in a direction that positioned it as a primary channel. What does excite me is what Pinterest represents: a significant first step toward uninhibited expression across familiar social terrain.