[INFOGRAPHIC] Interest in Pinterest : What marketers need to know about this popular social media channel

pinterest infographic

You may have heard some of the buzz about Pinterest, one of the newest social networks on the block, but you might not know how much of this excitement is warranted, and how much is pure hype.

Suffice to say, in the history of social networks, never has a service risen so far, so fast; and never has a social network started to deliver lucrative customers to business so quickly. Read on to understand how Pinterest can help your brand.

The Pinterest Model

Pinterest has a very simple model: it allows users to “pin” pictures to “pin boards” that they curate. Pinterest’s killer feature is its simplicity: people using Pinterest for the first time (“pinners”) have a very shallow learning curve to negotiate. Once they’ve mastered the art of pinning, Pinterest users tend to be loyal, with 20 percent of Facebook users visiting Pinterest every day, and user retention over one and three months is higher than for any other social network at this point after its launch.

Pinterest has a visually appealing interface that allows users to showcase their creativity, lifestyle and inspirations.

Pinners are overwhelmingly women: only 28 percent of Pinterest users are men, but the gap is closing month-on-month. Pinterest users tend to be fairly affluent with an income range of $25,000-75,000, and are in youth to young middle age. Most Pinterest users are interested in interior design, travel, food and drink and other lifestyle interests, and the number of unique visitors to Pinterest has more than doubled in the last two months, with over 4 million unique users visiting the site each day.

The evolution of Pinterest

That stratospheric growth is part of the reason for the Pinterest buzz. No other social network has grown this rapidly, and in the 24 months since its launch in 2010 Pinterest has broken all sorts of records.

In March 2012 it served up 2.3 billion page impressions to over 4 million unique visitors a day. It also retained users far more effectively than Twitter at this point in its evolution, with one and three-month retention rates (the number of users still regularly using the site one and three months after they first signed up) that are far higher than Twitter or Facebook, two years in. Most importantly, from a social marketing perspective, Pinterest is delivering high-quality referrals to online retailers.

Pinterest is now responsible for 17 percent of all social media driven ecommerce revenue on the Web, eclipsing Twitter’s 1 percent share. According to a study by Venturebeat, Pinterest will soon account for 40 percent of all social media driven purchases, while Facebook’s share is likely to fall from 80 percent to 60 percent.

While the Pinterest demographic is still strongly influenced by the make-up of its early adopters – young, professional women in the Midwestern United States with an interest in interior décor, design, travel, and food and drink, the user base is becoming more diverse. Pinterest users are also keen consumers, particularly of fashion, design, interior decorating and lifestyle-related products and services. A link from Pinterest prompts users to spend more often, and to spend more money, with the average Pinterest user being 10% more likely to complete a purchase, and spending 10% more than their non-Pinterest counterparts.

When we analyse the value of Pinterest referrals we can see that it already dominates the social marketing customer value chain. According to the latest research by Venturebeat, the value of a first touch referral from Pinterest was 18 cents (compared to Facebook’s 14 cents and Twitter’s 4 cents). When we look at the value of multi-touch referrals, Pinterest generates 45 cents of revenue per referral to Facebook’s 40 cents and Twitter’s 24 cents. Pinterest users are keen and well-informed consumers of high-quality lifestyle and design products, which makes them a highly lucrative market to capture.

Be a magazine, not a brochure

Pinterest’s aesthetics-led user experience doesn’t feel like a shopping mall. On Pinterest, visual content is king, and companies use it as a shop window at their peril. Recent research showed that users were far less likely to repin content from supplier sites if that content had a price flash, although they were slightly more likely to share a pin if another user had added the price details.

Considered in the spirit of the Pinterest ethos, which is about sharing interests and inspiration, this makes perfect sense. A friend who points out a bargain is appreciated, whereas a vendor hawking their wares is not. Of the top 100 influential pinners (as measured by Pinreach) 84 are individuals and blogs, five are print magazines and 11 are other businesses. Although the reach of business on Pinterest is growing, Pinterest business users are learning that they have to adapt to the Pinterest mindset to succeed.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that print magazines are making such an impact on Pinterest – after all, they are a natural fit when it comes to creating a mix of value-added content and retail space. Better Homes and Gardens has over 50,000 followers and its content has been shared (or “repinned”) over 80,000 times. The magazine’s Pinterest site pulls together home décor, gardening, craft and baking ideas in a format that Better Homes and Gardens readers (and more importantly, future readers) can add to their own pin boards with a simple click. Every time a user re-pins one of Better Homes and Gardens’ pins, the BHG brand is propagated across the network.

Better Homes and Gardens also have a neat “reach-in” strategy that complements the reach-out strategy of providing repinnable content. Every month, the editorial team picks one of their followers who they think provides high quality content on their boards and chooses them to be their “pinner of the month.” This has two effects: Better Homes and Gardens receives ready-made content from its users. It also encourages the kind of users who follow Better Homes and Gardens to create impressive pin-boards. Without ever overtly suggesting as much, Better Homes and Gardens is encouraging its followers to become better BHG Brand ambassadors.

Wholefoods is another brand that pursues a “lifestyle identity” – connecting with shoppers who enjoy cooking, gardening and sustainability. They use their Pinterest boards to showcase content from their customers, creating a sense of connection with the Wholefoods brand.

The way that Honda has decided to use Pinterest has a smart twist. Rather than waiting for users to come to them, they’ve created a print and media campaign to drive potential Honda buyers to their Pinterest site with the clever “Pintermission” campaign.

The campaign shows that Honda understands the drive of keen pinners to keep sharing the things that inspire them. By apparently subverting the Pinterest trend, they are actually ensuring that their content is repinned by users who recognise themselves in the campaign. This has the potential to create a powerful bond between the brand and Pinterest users.

Honda is also offering the most influential pinners $500 to take a Honda-sponsored Pintermission – using the money to spend a day doing some of the things that they’ve been pinning about. Honda has bought itself some high value for money exposure by spanning the online/offline divide.

It’s not just big brands who are carrying out guerrilla marketing techniques. Designer Chrissy Jensen, owner of Domestica, is a keen pinner “The way [that I use Pinterest] has really changed over the last year. At first, it was just a clever way to clean up my desktop. Then my friends and I started a board just to share things with each other and then I think the full scope of Pinterest’s value set in,” she says. “I tend to use it as a community… I don’t tend to pin our wares so much. I see boards dedicated to people’s creations or their Etsy store stock, but I worry that it’s too one-dimensional – it doesn’t tell a very rounded story about me or who I am.” The personalisation of the Domestica brand comes naturally to these Pinterest-native entrepreneurs, who understand the importance of the human connection that Pinterest can create.

Getting the best out of Pinterest

The most successful brands on Pinterest have really understood the importance of building up a human connection with their customer base. They have worked hard to understand why users value Pinterest, and to align their Pinterest presence with that value proposition: whether it be a large brand that is prepared to sponsor people to make their Pinterest dreams a reality, or a small startup using the site to create a global identity, they know that people value Pinterest as a place to find inspiration.

Kay Hammond, CEO of multi-award-winning social media marketing agency TAMBA, has the following advice for big brands:

1) Be a magazine, not a brochure!
As research shows, Pinterest users are more than twice as likely to repin your products if you don’t lead with the price. A successful Pinterest presence will highlight features, lifestyle and aspirations first and foremost. This approach demonstrably results in higher-quality customer referrals.

2) Share and share alike
Eighty percent of the content on Pinterest is “repinned” – that is, something that has been copied from one board to another, rather than something that has been newly uploaded. Your main aim on Pinterest should not be to protect your intellectual property. Rather, it should be to have your content shared as widely as possible.

It takes significant investment to create content that has sufficient value to promote wide-scale repinning. You have to understand your audience well enough to know what they want on their boards. It has to be novel, appealing and congruous with their Pinterest identity.

You should also cultivate a core audience of users that you can share from. One of the beauties of Pinterest is that not all of the content you pin has to be unique. Again, it takes a certain amount of skill to cultivate a stable of pinners whose ethos and identity coincides closely enough with your own, and you need a strong Pinterest editorial team who can build a two-way relationship with the right influential pinners for your brand.

3) Use Pinterest’s new features to create a look and feel that reflects your brand
Pinterest is still evolving at a dizzying speed. In recent weeks they have rolled out the ability to choose custom covers for pin boards and the ability to share video. It can be a full-time job keeping up with the site’s ever-improving feature set. However, savvy Pinterest users ensure that they make the most out of every customisable aspect of the Pinterest experience, from their profile picture and blurb to the layout of their boards, to create a look and feel that truly reflects their brand.

4) Create “sharing moments” with your brand’s Pinterest followers
Interaction is key – you want to encourage your followers to share your content on their boards and you may benefit from highlighting their content on your account. Several big brands use clever promotional hooks, like asking customers to pin “action shots” of themselves with a product. These images are then ripe for repinning, as a way of showing off both your products and your satisfied customers.

5) As with all social media – be a good conversationalist
Build a two-way relationship with your client-base on Pinterest – treat it more like a focus group than a billboard. Jay Baer from Monetate.com estimates that users are 10 times more likely to pin things that they want versus things that they own so you can garner valuable insight into your potential customers’ dreams, wants and needs than you would through any customer survey.

Where next for Pinterest

Pinterest is continuing to roll out new user features as the site evolves. They’re also continuing to put on user numbers at an unprecedented rate. That user base is also becoming more balanced in terms of the gender split as more men join Pinterest. Ongoing research will tell us what these new users want from the service, but early indications suggest that Pinterest users are likely to remain relatively affluent and lifestyle-focused.

New social networks will continue to emerge over the coming months: the rate for social startups is estimated to be something like two a month at the present time, but horizon-scanning studies aren’t picking up any serious Pinterest competitors yet. All projections suggest that Pinterest will continue to lead the pack in social marketing throughout 2012.

The last word should go to Pinterest co-founder Paul Sciarra: “What strikes me most is the passion of the folks that use Pinterest,” he says. “This passion reflects, I think, something that we’ve always believed as a company. That is, that the best internet services aren’t just ways for people to escape their everyday lives. Instead, those services with longevity –- with real “legs” –- enhance folks’ day-to-day experiences, deepen their relationships, and show them things about themselves they didn’t know before.

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