Pinterest is a relatively new social networking site that allows users to pin images to virtual bulletin boards centered around specific themes and share them with other users. Members of the site can choose from a variety of different themes to showcase on their profile, from fitness to gardening to photography.
Like other image-sharing sites such as Tumblr, Pinterest follows an asymmetric follow/follower design, allowing users to tailor their experience to their own unique interests. What is especially striking about this rapidly growing site is its demographics. As of January 2012, 80% of all Pinterest users are women, outnumbering men more than any other major social media outlet. Also of note is the site’s hockey-stick growth. A Pinterest investor, Ron Conway, recently stated that the site’s growth rate is the same as Facebook’s was five years ago. Most recently, Shareaholic reported that Pinterest got a higher percentage of referral traffic in January than Google+, YouTube, Reddit, Linkedin and MySpace. Impressive.
So what is Pinterest exactly? To answer this question, I decided to create an account myself. I was able to easily sign up by asking a friend of Facebook who is a user to send me an invite. After creating my account, I was given a menu of themes (Kids, Science, Apparel) that I could choose from to begin “pinning” myself. After selecting a few items, I was asked to choose from a few board themes to sort my pins (“Products I Love” and “Books Worth Reading” were among the choices). After I set up a few boards, I began surfing other profiles through the home page and started to pin images to those boards. I was surprised with the user-friendliness of the site and the mild nature of the images (in contrast to the sometimes vulgar or overly-sarcastic images on many other popular social media outlets).
This mild nature of the site’s content perhaps plays off what I find to be the most interesting attribute of Pinterest. Probably the single thing that makes the site so unique is its unapologetic tailoring to a feminine demographic. As noted above, 80% of all users are women, and it is no coincidence. Maternalinstinct.com calls content on the site “like catnip to women” in that it allows them to escape into a “fantasy life” devoid of the typical 24-hour news reel of car accidents and war-torn landscapes. The most popular boards (the most “pinteresting”) on the site are flooded with artsy photographs of the Eifel Tower, popular recipes, and home decorating inspiration.
Users are also encouraged to “be nice” and “avoid self-promotion” as parts of Pinterest etiquette, promoting a non-threatening and cooperative environment for all users. As mentioned above, this cooperation stands in stark contrast to the sarcasm and Schadenfreude of Reddit and other popular social sharing sites.
User-friendliness, inspiring content, and the invitation-only feature have no doubt played a part in distinguishing Pinterest and contributed to its rapid growth. In addition to these unique aspects, a close relationship with Facebook (automated posting on timelines and newsfeeds among other features) has also played a role in the site’s ascent in popularity. So what’s in it for those looking to market their products on this new social channel?
Pinterest provides brands with a unique opportunity to express their personality. Instead of following the traditional formula of drowning consumers in benefit-soaked copy in tandem with ad buys, they can provide their respective audiences with a solely visual experience without the obvious feeling that product is being pushed on them. The site’s relationship-based attributes and soft, non-pushy touch allows potential customers to discover different products for themselves and share them with their community.
It should be interesting to see how Pinterest continues to grow. Will it continue on as a predominantly female network? Will their hockey stick growth continue unabated? We’ll see.
Interested in learning more? Check out these resources.
Are you a small business owner or marketer? Has Pinterest helped you to promote a product or a service? How? Leave a comment, we’d love to hear about your experience.