Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Is Pinterest the next marketing channel?

By Mark Helfen

And Now Comes Pinterest…

Social sites seem to have a short if happy life. Myspace, Digg, Delicious, probably others were once the new-new thing, and aren’t anymore. I’m in no position to forecast business model success, but it’s impossible not to see that things change fast.

At Monday’s (Aug 13) SVForum MarketingSIG meeting, Natascha Thomson, Owner & Founder of MarketingXLerator discussed the next new-new thing, Pinterest. According to (publisher of the San Jose and San Francisco Business Journals, among other cities) Pinterest was the 4th most popular social media site in July, with more than 24 million visitors per month, starting at zero in early 2011, and on a steep ramp up.

With all those clicks and eyeballs, there must be a marketing opportunity, and that was the focus of Thomson’s presentation (copy on Slideshare here.)

Pinterest is much easier to understand by seeing, as opposed to description, since it’s a visually oriented site. Users “pin” pictures they want to share, either uploaded from their own camera, or from other web sites. Since it’s free, it’s worth signing up to try out.

Like most other social sites, it represents curation over creation, but helps to create communities of common interest. Thomson described it as “scrapbooking for adults,” and added that “it’s strangely rewarding.”

The demographics represent a very specific slice of the market. In the U.S., 80 percent of the users are female. Interestingly, in the U.K., the majority are male. When I signed up for Pinterest (and saw the U.S. site) the majority of images seemed to reflect this. Not to stereotype, but overwhelmingly I was presented with pictures of cats and dogs (all really cute,) shoes, jewelry, furniture, hair styles, and clothing – lots of wedding dresses. Unfortunately I no longer have enough hair for the braid and ribbon instructional photos. And looking around my office, it’s clear that the room decorating ideas are wasted on me.

So what’s the marketing opportunity? I think it would be fair to characterize Thomson’s message with two parts. First, nothing about Pinterest changes the basics – you need a clear set of marketing objectives, a strategy to reach those goals, and a way of measuring results. Second, Pinterest is a new land, yet to be charted. If you get there now, you will be among the first.

At least a few companies have used Pinterest to present concepts about their business, for example IBM and GE. Consumer companies have gotten click through purchases when their customers pin product images from the company’s e-commerce site - clicking on the picture can direct a browser back to the site where the image originated. There is also a SEO opportunity, as Google indexes the text associated with photos and increases page rank based on the number of Pinterest users who “like” an image.

Pinterest seems to be new channel for marketers, with the instruction book yet to be written. Sign up and check it out. And thanks to Natascha Thomson for leading the exploration.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant.

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