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.
One demographic point to consider...it is very popular with women
Thanks for great article, and I concur. I opened an account, but I found that I didn't want to post pictures on a board, so I stopeed. Thanks for giving me permission to stop.
Great article and I have to agree with most of your opinions (everything except the guy-friend phobia). Admittedly, my reservations are for B2B social marketing -- still trying to figure out relevance there. Having trouble seeing Pinterest as much more than a fun "plug-in" for Facebook.
I don't think I could disagree more with Mr. DeShazer about this. At our firm, the decision to include social platforms in client campaigns doesn't rest on personal preferences. Whether any of us "dragons" likes a platform is immaterial. It's about furthering the client's interest, meeting the goals. We are jumping on Pinterest for many of our clients.
Marketers who want to know how to use Pinterest to their advantage are welcome to check with us.
New York & Kingston, NY
Its too early to come to any summary judgements regarding Pinterest. But your points are interesting.
The potential for Pininterest in B2B is this - a picture is worth a 1000 words. We are rebuilding a web site for a professional services firm. The "knowledge center" portion of the site is being redesigned to resemble Pinterest in order to carry Infograhics. With the proliferation of content on the "www," visual images that can summarize data heavy content and make it quickly scannable is the future. Pinterest for B2B will evolve this way. Good post Ryan.
Pinterest is the best
My favorite reason is "It doesn’t fit an unmet need." I think that's an underrepresented factor in usage of new social media, and it means you're ahead of the curve in recognizing it as a valid reason! Also well echoed by Kevin as "I found that I didn't want to...so I stopped" even if he was unusual in doing so in advance of being granted permission.
Never forget that we are in the early phase of this revolution. In the next few years I predict things will settle down a bit, and people will will start to regard these and other new "things" as a box of tools to be selected to do a specific job to make their life better or easier and save time, not a way to fill up hours because they're uncomfortable when not pushing electrons.
Right now, though, I think that their behavior--and therefore your plans--is somewhat inflated by a combination of peer expectation, fascination with exploring something new, and manipulation by marketers who have more to gain than to give (which, after all, is why stuff is "free"). People eventually get wise to all of these and start asking "but what exactly is in it for me?" You might want to be ready with a good value proposition when that day comes.
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