Should Brands Be Interested in Pinterest?
It happens pretty regularly these days - a new social service is trumpeted across the marketing media as the next big thing. Most fizzle, or remain mired in only a small niche of users. But every now and again, one comes along that has real potential, and Pinterest falls into that category.So what is it exactly?In marketing speak, it's a visual curation tool. In plain English, it's a service which allows its users to create virtual mood or pinboards and share them with others.The first hurdle to overcome for interested users is that it's an invitation only service at present. Once users have been invited by an existing user and are signed up, they can share photos that they find online (or create themselves) by 'pinning' them (much like a 'Like' on Facebook or a +1 on Google.) As long as they've downloaded the toolbar, users can 'pin' images and videos from any website and the picture will appear on their Pinterest board. Once 'pinned', items can be used to create a number of themed 'boards', and followers of that user can 're-pin' items to their own boards. Users can also share their boards on other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.How is it used? Well, at present in any function where a mood board is a useful tool - so by designers collecting and demonstrating ideas for schemes, by fashionistas creating looks, by families sharing tips like recipes and useful products, by brides-to-be collecting ideas for their weddings etc.And why is it attracting so much attention? Well for 2 reasons.Firstly, between September and December last year, Pinterest grew from 1.68m unique users to 7.21m - an increase of 369%. Other reports suggest that up to 5m people are logging in per day and spending an average of 14 mins on the site. Whatever the exact figures, everyone agrees it's growing rapidly.The other aspect of Pinterest that's really capturing the attention of brands is the amount of referral traffic Pinterest is generating. Figures from the Shareaholic survey for January '12 found Pinterest just behind Twitter in referrals, having driven 3.6% of referral traffic in the month compared to Twitter's 3.61%. That puts Pinterest ahead of services with significantly bigger followings like Google+ and LinkedIn, hence making it a platform with potential to create real user engagement and drive real business.Opportunities abound for brands on this platform, as long as they think creatively and don't use it merely as another mini website. Fashion and beauty brands might create boards to demonstrate different looks, or might use the platform to showcase the looks that their customers have created. Or boards might be created around different customer groups or occasions - party frocks, summer wedding etc. Pinterest also allows users to add prices and link back to ecommerce sites.Pinterest also has potential for competitions - such as Lands Ends’ 'Pin It to Win It' - and for crowdsourcing, like asking followers to create boards of their favourite clothes, or to photograph themselves in their favourite outfits and pin them.But any brand that is interested in participating needs to understand the demographics of Pinterest users initially.At present, it's heavily female dominated (80/20), with a bias towards lower incomes (most are in the $25-$75K category) and families - so fashion, jewellery and beauty brands with accessible offerings will see the potential. We've seen no figures yet on the UK following and it would be fair to say Pinterest is primarily a US phenomena - although trends have a habit of spreading rapidly across the Atlantic. And even the top brands on the platform only number a few thousand followers, albeit numbers are growing fast and those followers seem to be highly engaged as the referral traffic demonstrates.So Pinterest is not for every premium and luxury brand, and some of the oportunities that Pinterest allows brands - such as to create themed pages - could be easily transplanted to brands' ecommerce sites where they will probably have greater impact.But it's certainly one to keep a close eye on and - if the demographic appeals and you can secure an invitation - to have a dabble with. For brands with highly visual products and with creativity at their core, it could be a highly effective platform for promotion.