Over the past few months, we’ve seen a new social network garner a lot of attention: Pinterest.
Whether you’re still wondering what the heck it is, or are actively using it, everyone is still wondering one thing about Pinterest: What’s it going to do for business?
In February, research showed that the site was visited more than 103 million times, with users spending an average of 16 minutes on it every day. That makes Pinterest the third-most popular social network, behind Facebook and Twitter. Not only that, small businesses have seen some real results from ‘pinning.’
Of course, adding another social media network to a marketing strategy can be a lot of work, especially for small businesses and organizations that are already struggling to find enough time for Facebook.
And one fact that detractors like to point out is that Pinterest’s demographics are heavily skewed: More than 80% are women.
To learn more about Pinterest and what its soaring popularity means for small businesses, we took the conversation to Rachel O’Connell, our director of content, and Josh Mendelsohn, our senior product marketing manager.
Is Pinterest a chick thing, or have women just been the early adopters?
Rachel: I think women have been quicker to see the advantages of a site like Pinterest, but I’m seeing the demographic scales even out. “Guy-oriented” sites like Manteresting are hilarious and great eye candy, but Pinterest seems to actually have some business value for small businesses.
Pinterest is about finding inspiration you can act on — however you define that. I’m always looking for inspiration in my personal life and my work life. People are pinning images of home improvement projects that I now desperately want to make happen in my own home, and I’m also getting access to infographics, blog posts, and other things that make me think — stuff I wouldn’t necessarily see in my Facebook newsfeed or in my regularly-traveled news sites
And back to the ‘chick thing’ — I’ve been keeping track of all the folks who have started to follow me on Pinterest, and in the last few weeks, about 85% of my new followers have been male. One of whom, I may point out, is none other than Josh Mendelsohn.
Josh: Ha ha … I don’t think any of that makes it not a “chick” thing. We know that approximately 80% of Pinterest users are female. Sure, I have a Pinterest account and I follow you. But the last time I logged in was weeks ago because I’d rather spend my time preparing for my fantasy baseball draft, drinking beer, and doing other dude stuff.
One of the cool things about the internet is that not everything needs to be for everyone. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to use Pinterest. I love that small businesses that create beautiful images can shorten the link between “inspiration” and actual shopping. I’m just not that interested. And neither are most guys.
How are small businesses using Pinterest to their advantage?
Josh: It’s a funny thing, because many of the businesses that are having success with Pinterest aren’t necessarily doing anything other than making it easy to “pin” their content to people’s pinboards. The key is creating content that’s “pinnable,” because it looks great and is a desirable product. It’s also about creating boards in topics that people will search for. No one pins ugly, crappy products!
Rachel: I agree — the businesses having the greatest success are also making the instant gratification of the ‘buy’ easy, because people just have to click on a pin they like. A full-on e-commerce site probably isn’t necessary, but if someone sees, oh, a firepit or painting they like (if my husband is reading this, I’m being hypothetical, really), businesses should think about how they can best enable that “pin” moment to result in a sale.
Second place would go to people who actively blog or create compelling information in a visual format — many of the common blog platforms have already rolled out plug-ins allowing people to “pin” in the same way that they like or share. We actually know Pinterest is one of the top-10 sources of referral traffic for this blog. So there’s great potential there, and I know guys are interested, Josh!
Do you see Pinterest growing bigger than Google+?
Rachel: It’s got serious potential, but I feel like this question is just here to get a rant out of Josh. In all seriousness, though, Google+ is trying to change how people interact in their personal circles as opposed to Facebook’s approach. Pinterest doesn’t care if we know each other — it connects people by common interest, which means we get exposed to cool or interesting things without boundaries.
Josh: Me, have a rant about Google+? Never. I don’t know that Pinterest will have more registered users than G+, but for some businesses, marketing hours are definitely better spent there. It’s a far more vibrant community for non-tech geeks (the G+ crowd) and it shares many of the benefits. The thing I respect about Pinterest most is that the site seems to know its niche and it embraces it. It’s also trying to tap into people’s existing social networks, instead of forcing them to rebuild.
How is marketing on Pinterest different from on other social media networks? Will it be as effective?
Josh: It’s definitely different than email, because Pinterest content by itself doesn’t reach your inbox. It’s a little more passive, but drives adoption and awareness to make it very, very easy to share your pinning activity on Facebook and Twitter. And while I haven’t seen the numbers, I would guess that a huge amount of Pinterest traffic is driven by Facebook posts. And with everyone being converted over to the new Timeline setup, the opportunity to be very visual will only get stronger.
Pinterest is creating a passionate, visually oriented community of shoppers. That means the road between content creation and sales may be even shorter than in other places. But in doing so, they have also limited the number of businesses likely to see success with it. Not that that’s a bad thing. The vast majority of social networks fail because they want to be everything to everyone.
Rachel: What’s funny to me is that it’s taken us this long to create a social platform powered by pictures. “A picture is worth a thousand words” has been true of humans since cave paintings, so I think it will be quick to capture interest. I still think the mature platforms — especially Facebook — make it easier to convert that interest, but small businesses are combating the advantage of “I know what I’ll find there” that bigger stores offer, so having the ability to capture attention in this arena improves the odds in their favor.
Should all small businesses start adopting Pinterest to marketing strategies?
Rachel: I can never feel comfortable recommending anything to “all,” but the opportunity is real and ought to be considered — I think ‘pin’ is the new ‘like.’ And while Pinterest is rapidly growing and letting its users — male AND female — form its identity, it’s worth a bit of experimentation. Pin something you’re proud of, connect with your personal or professional circles, and then see what they do. If your products or content gets re-pinned, you’ve got yourself a viable new channel.
Josh: That answer is easy. Heck no. But I wouldn’t recommend anything to ALL small businesses. If you’re picking one network to interact on, in the vast majority of cases it should be Facebook. But if your market is part of the active Pinterest community, then it’s definitely worth interacting there. Like any network, it comes down to creating great content that people want to share. But for me and most guys, that content doesn’t live on Pinterest — and that should be okay for you, for me, and for small businesses everywhere.