Pinterest, created by Paul Sciarra, Evan Sharp, and Ben Silbermann and launched March 2010, bills itself as an “online pinboard,” where connected users can discover images of things to “pin” to their theme-based pin boards and share their new findings with friends and followers.
Think of Pinterest as an online French memo board if you like – but don’t discount its social leverage or its marketing power.
The Time.com website listed Pinterest as one of the “50 Best Websites of 2011.” The media has called Pinterest a “Hot New Social Network” and a “Shift from Search to Discovery.” Venture financing is in the hundreds of millions. And the “pinners” are signing up in droves. In all, there has been a significant amount of chatter regarding the photo-sharing website. Enough chatter to raise a few questions: How does it work? How big is Pinterest? What does the Pinterest market look like? What does it all mean to search marketers? Will Pinterest upend search?
Let’s take it one-by-one.
Pinterest works simply enough. When you set up your Pinterest account (which is still “invite only” at the time of this writing), you’re asked to download a browser plug-in that fixes a “Pin It” button to your bookmarks bar. So, during your-day-to-day browsing, when you find an image of a recipe for Cuban Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice or a Hokusai woodblock print or a Moshiki wool cap that you wish to attach to any one of your themed pin boards, one click will save it to your Pinterest account. Your discovery shows up on the Pinterest home page for all your co-pinners to view.
Pinterest is big. According to a November comScore report, Pinterest had an estimated 2,000% increase in U.S. pageviews since the previous June. That’s six months. In October of 2011 alone, the site generated 421 million pageviews. Pinterest also saw a significant user growth in 2011 from 1 million users in January to 6 million by the end of December. When you take those numbers and add the VC money, it’s easy to see that Pinterest has some serious momentum.
The Pinterest market is definitely female dominated. Take a look at Pinterest and you’ll see what appears to be a massive (truly massive) crowd-sourced magazine – something Martha Stewart herself would covet. Most site usage demographic reports show that the Pinterest user base is somewhere between 65% and 85% female – and the most significant percentage of those female Pinterest users are between the ages of 35 and 44 years old. With the majority of the content in design, fashion, home décor and crafts, it can easily be stated that the content leans toward the female side of the products and services market. For those businesses in home décor, crafts, art, architecture, design, and food and drink, there’s a massive opportunity to get their products out and seen. Revenues are sure to follow.
For search marketers, Pinterest is a new playground. Pinterest and search are already linked. On the “Help Page” section of the Pinterest website there are instructions on how to prevent your Pinterest account from showing up in Google search – but there’s apparently no rush to add no-follows to Pinterest accounts. From the marketing perspective, the bump that products and services may receive from pinners will be decided by how their content is displayed on their websites. This is akin to the social bookmarking sites of the past. Today, items seen on Pinterest are photos. Eye-catching photos of products and services will drive pinners to act and share. That fact cannot be understated. So, if your restaurant is offering a particularly tasty Cuban Black Bean Patty with Pineapple Rice, and you’d like pinners to share it around with all their followers, you’d be best served to hire a professional food photographer to take some delicious-looking pics and have your web marketing team create a page of supporting content that gets the mouth watering. Of course, adding the words “Pin Me!” to your content pages wouldn’t hurt either.
Search has nothing to fear from Pinterest. Here’s why: A number of the media reporters have called Pinterest a “Shift from Search to Discovery.” That may be true within the pages of the Pinterest site, but it means little on the web. The terms “search” and “discovery” describe two very different actions.
If you’re “searching” for a dentist or a mechanic or a Cuban restaurant, it can be easily said that you already know what you’re looking for and you’d like a capable search engine to return a result that is highly relevant to your needs. I know what I want. Give it to me and we’ll be done.
Discovery, however, means something entirely different. When, in 1741, Vitus Jonassen Bering, a Danish-born navigator, set off to map the Russia-Siberia coast, he discovered the southern coast of Alaska. The difference here is that Bering – from whom we get the name “the Bering Strait” – was engaged in another activity when he stumbled upon something of great importance. Oh, my… what’s this new thing? We should definitely take a closer look at it. We may want that!
In the end, Pinterest may grow to be an absolutely essential site for the promotion of products and services that meet the interests of its user base. Pinned items will show up in search returns but mere images may not offer the kind of content depth that searchers need to make a buying decision. For those looking to “polish up” items in their product and service offerings, hiring a web marketing team, a social media expert and a decent content developer (like those at Rank Fuse Interactive) will improve your potential for higher pin numbers.
Pin on, you pinners!