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Pinterest's potential isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. But if you're a digital manager, you need a clear point of view on this for those you advise.

Yes, there's hype, but Pinterest is the front edge of at least two important digital marketing trends.

This is the first in a series of three posts taking a strategic view of what's shaping-up to be 2012's breakthrough new social network.

What's Pinterest?

Pinterest, in case you haven’t heard of it, is Tumblr with some different features. Like Tumblr, it allows you to post your own stuff, as well as stuff you find around the internet, with the click of a button.

Where Tumblr is a blog variant, Pinterest lets you set up sub-blogs built around a particular interest or topic. So you can post all the cute pictures of pugs on one board and all the pictures about the economy on another. It also lets you search everyone else’s boards easily.

That’s really about it. One friend described it as "Delicious for pictures". Of course, delicious is text-driven and used by guys, while Pinterest is a scrapbook designed to drive relentless word-of-mouth referrals among women and apparently, Silicon Valley investors.

The size of Pinterest's splash

So why is there so much buzz around this? The numbers: The site beta-launched in March 2010 and is still invite-only.

Despite this, the user base surpassed 10m in December, and according to Google DoubleClick, now has 21m worldwide unique visitors per month.

Forrester analyst Darika Ahrens sums up Pinterest's allure below:

Pinterest is well known for having a demographic of 18-34-year-old, upper-income women from the Midwest - if that’s not who you sell to, then Pinterest may not be for you,’’ she said. “I’d ask, can you afford to be playing with pretty pictures when there are other, more urgent, interactive marketing priorities?’

Of course, as women make a huge range of purchase decisions for themselves and others (think travel, health care, home goods, food) having first-mover advertage can be an attractive proposition to many brands.

One of the things I appreciate about Pinterest is who uses it. When I look at the people I'm connected to on Google+, most of the posts I see are from a small number of tech-savvy 'early adopter' social media windbags.

They post a lot. But I don't see ordinary people on G+. Not as they are on Facebook, and Pinterest. There are many more ordinary people in this world. Unlike G+ and Twitter, Pinterest didn't have to jump a chasm to get to a majority market, its where they started.

And Pinterest is easy to use. Lots of people don't get Twitter, or the value of an unstructured stream of 140 character utterances. But organizing collections of inspiring images is a natural, even reflexive task. Its social media, but with only the need to curate images you like. That's a low barrier to participation.

The social media hype cycle is suggesting the solar system has a new axis called Pinterest. Is it wrong?

Is Pinterest for real?

This just has the feel of Color– remember Color? Less than a year ago it scored $41m of investment for its photo-sharing app from Sequoia and Bain Capital. And in social media it was everywhere — for all of two weeks.

Then everyone forgot about it after realizing its business model was the classic “Make something cool and hope Google buys it.” (And believe me, I have nothing against that business model. All offers cheerfully considered, Mr. Brin.)

Pinterest's strategic role: TOFU Supreme

It turns out Pinterest is staking out a highly valuable position in the marketing universe.

Hannibal Lecter, the fantastic bad guy in Silence of the Lambs reminds us of a marketing truth when he asked his interrogator, "And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? No. We begin by coveting what we see every day...Don't your eyes seek out the things you want?"

Before someone heads to Google to search with intent, they have to discover what they want. Sites like Pinterest start up to the Top of Funnel (TOFU) where sentiment gets formed.

Picture your friends making up lists right now of the best things they want. The list of the things they want can inspire others. If even a fraction of this demand can be directed to merchants, then there's a new conduit of demand, one that circumvents search. That's why marketers should care.

But the tide that brought attention to Pinterest can quickly shift. It would shift especially quickly if people start getting cranky about copyright issues. And then there are those pesky questions about Pinterest needing a business model.

So next we'll talk about the clever legal finesse behind Pinterest, which is what it takes to handle a potential copyright bomb.

Dave Wieneke

Published 13 March, 2012 by Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke leads Digital Strategy at ISITE Design, and is a graduate lecturer on Digital Marketing at Northeastern University. He writes on the future of digital marketing at UsefulArts.us and he can be reached through Twitter and LinkedIn

 

22 more posts from this author

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Total Pinterest

Surely a massive difference between Color and Pinterest is that huge numbers of people are using Pinterest and its usage grew largely organically before mainstream press started picking up on it.

over 4 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Pinterest feels to me like a triumph of user experience.

It feels so simple to use but it's incredibly sophisticated -- in the way it guides and teaches the user, handles images, encourages sharing and works across platforms.

I think this one will stick.

over 4 years ago

Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke, Director of Digital Strategy - ISITE Design at www.UsefulArts.us

Agreed -- Pinterest's organic growth in the "mainstream" market helped reached scale before the hype train got going...

And Doug is right that Pinterest is a user experience triumph - right down the the mechanics that build your following through unseen automatic processes.

If Facebook has the feel of a neighborhood cook out - then Pinterest feels like a lounge in the back of your favorite store.

Pinterest still lacks a good mobile client - its hard to impossible to pin using Pinterest's programs on an iPhone. But something tells me this is fully surmountable.

over 4 years ago

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Brandusa

I think the only way Pinterest could fail now is if the copyright bomb you mentioned blows up in their face. Although, to be honest, not many users spend time reading the Terms and conditions.

And even if all Pinterest really wanted was to wait for a Google offer (which I doubt), it might still be online after being purchased. It's earning potential is just too high.

over 4 years ago

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Brandusa Gheorghe

I think the only way Pinterest could fail now is if the copyright bomb you mentioned blows up in their face. Although, to be honest, not many users spend time reading the Terms and conditions.

And even if all Pinterest really wanted was to wait for a Google offer (which I doubt), it might still be online after being purchased. It's earning potential is just too high.

over 4 years ago

Tim Aldiss

Tim Aldiss, Consultant/Director at ThinkSearch

It seems that it's a day for Pinterest posts. We just published one with some ideas on how brands can use it without being too overly promotional: http://www.noporkpies.com/blog/social-media/should-i-be-considering-pinterest-in-our-social-media-strategy/

over 4 years ago

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Daniel

Thanks for a well-written, informative article without all the obscure jargon sometimes people in our industry to use to appear that they are intelligent

over 4 years ago

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Debs

I've been eyeing Pinterest with interest (no pun intended) recently, bagged myself an invite and set about creating a test account for a personal project I've been working on. All was going swimmingly (it's deliciously simple to use, and there's some genuinely useful stuff there if you're looking for links to content on a specific topic), but then a couple of days ago I came across this:

http://www.knoed.com/thewindowseat/pinterest-change-your-terms-or-were-leaving/

So now I'm not so sure that I want to encourage my clients to give it a try. If Pinterest has the right to sell our images, and the right to pass any bad juju onto us if they get sued for selling an image we've pinned that we don't actually own, then I'm going to treat it with extreme caution!

over 4 years ago

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Nathalie Allard

Apparently it's predominant among women in the US (82% of Pinterest users are women) but only 46% of UK Pinterest users are women. "Picture your friends making up lists right now of the best things they want." - I could see an opportunity for retailers if Pinterest was used as a present wish list.

over 4 years ago

Philippa Gamse

Philippa Gamse, Adjunct Professor at Hult International Business School

I'll be interested in your take on the copyright issues. The terms and conditions essentially require that:

1. You own the copyright or permissions for anything that you post - so strictly speaking, it's not OK to pin stuff from any website that you like unless the site says it's allowed

2. You give Pinterest the right to use anything posted for their own gain - including financial - in perpetuity!

So far, no one seems to have enforced or challenged any of this - I'll be interested to see how it plays out.

over 4 years ago

Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke, Director of Digital Strategy - ISITE Design at www.UsefulArts.us

Hi Philippa,

I've already started a pin board (really!) just for tracking Pinterest's trademark lawsuits.

Not to detract from tomorrow's fun, but my favorite part of their terms is the "hold harmless" term that obligates you "the user" to defend Pinterest if they get sued - for using the tool they gave you to do, apparently, exactly what it was designed to do.

I'll be looking forward to your take on this. And if any of it would make you think twice about using it. (I have three boards w/ mostly my own photos of bad airport ads, boston architecture, and those suing Pinterest.) ;>

over 4 years ago

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Emily

I've been using Pinterest to look at the lifestyle that surrounds Jestic's products - as a high end distributor of foodservice equipment, this means gourmet food and dishes that our equipment specialises in producing. I've found it to be very useful as a driving force to direct people towards the website, but the cracks do appear to be showing as Pinterest gains more media attention.

Interested in learning more about these copyright issues that Pinterest is dealing with - seems odd when the purpose of the tool is to pin images from all over!

over 4 years ago

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Jenny Simpson

I can't remember ever being so enthusiastic about a social network, it's a refreshing change, but I am a little concerned about what the future holds.

I really hope that marketers don't ruin it. If we're careful and the black sheep don't spoil it for the rest of us by doing the hard sell, it should be ok.

I found this article doing some background research for my blog post on marketing on Pinterest, hope you don't mind me adding the link to it.

http://sunshineonheath.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/will-marketers-spoil-pinterest/#more-287

over 4 years ago

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lw

A huge pity you only have 20 followers on your Pinterest page. As you say, only a very small minority are deleting their accounts/ boards/ pins, partly because they don't know the risks and partly because they don't care. All quite sad. It is a great device in itself, it just *really* needs to iron out its Terms and Conditions!

over 4 years ago

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ShelfLife Collectibles

The thing that has gone unnoticed in this thread thus far is the massive SEO potential of wielding the Pinterest portion of your social media activity effectively. Keep in mind, what this site provides is free and unlimited access to backlinks from a high authority social network where your pinboards form high density keyword clusters and all the pins link back to clustered content on your media site, blog or (especially) e-commerce site. Take every new pair of shoes in your catalogue and create a pinboard called Hottest Shoes of the Season and follow a bunch of folk/tag your pins properly to attract following, and away you go.

over 4 years ago

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Sheena Rajan

You bring up an interesting point about types of people on Pinterest and G+. Could all social networks be broken down into cliche high school stereotypes? Quite possible!

over 4 years ago

Michael Rolfe

Michael Rolfe, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Small convenience, large liability. Copyright laws need to be relaxed so tech such as this can continue to evolve in a way that benefits the masses. Otherwise, T&C's on apps, plugins and websites are just a trojan horse - encouraging generally harmless copying that leaves individuals liable to lose their homes or lives to the prisons and courts.

over 4 years ago

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Tim Mauro

Hey Dave,
I've followed the rise of Pinterest very closely and over the past year, we have been working on an idea that is similar to Pinterest regarding how information is shared but very different in its content. While we believe this will be the next "big thing" (as I'm sure many entreprenuers do), we don't know who to take this concept to in order to get it off the ground. Any thoughts? Thanks!

over 4 years ago

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rudy

I cannot get a answer to my question from anyone about how you get "Likes" on pinterest. I have sent them e-mails and they say they cannot give me the answer, I don't understand why you cannot get a answer from them on anything you ask. So if anyone on this site understands how that works or how you get likes on a item that you post please let me know and I thank you in advance.

All the best,

Rudy

about 4 years ago

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Ty

This is a very interesting article. I am amazed at how fast Pinterest is growing. Pinterest should be around for the long term as most of the users are female with buying power.

almost 4 years ago

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