You like it? Pin it! – The Meteoric rise of Pinterest

Posted by Flux on 

27 March 2012

What’s trending now?


Why it’s important?

Simply put; it’s currently the fastest growing social network according to the reputable comScore . It is the fastest site in history to break through the 10 million unique visitors; possibly signaling a new order in the social media terrain. That’s indication of just how popular and increasingly useful individuals are finding this pinboard. It also cracked the coveted nod from Time Magazine by being listed in the ‘Top 50 Best Websites’ of 2011; not bad for a website that only launched in 2010.

Pinterest adds a new dynamic to the existing climate of social networks and media. Its mission statement is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting”. It’s in connecting the global online community through common interests that perhaps best distinguishes Pinterest from all other photo-sharing & image hosting websites of the past. It offers a platform for individuals to share, organise and be inspired. In an era where consumers are increasingly interested in self-authorship as opposed to just consuming media – Pinterest adds to this growing repertoire of social media sites that place the consumer as author of their own narratives scripted by them. It’s refreshingly cool. Different because from everything to design, recipes, films and literature; It seemingly connects the world through imagery and what we like.

What’s the butterfly effect?

The key feature of Pinterest is that you share your ‘scrapbooking’ (personal narrative) with a wider online community who in turn engage with your interests and narratives that you create. The true butterfly effect is the platform’s ability to create a new breed of online communities, which are in conversation with each other through an ocular language. This is nothing new; but what this translates to, from an anthropological perspective, is the formations of new ‘digital subcultures’ which will be exciting to take note of.
A curious fact is that it seems the platform is more popular amongst female users (70% of Pinterest users are women). This has meant that brands with a strong female target market have identified this opportunity to design campaigns that are geared to female consumers but that doesn’t mean that the space isn’t wide open to create ingenious branding opportunities.

Considering that 80% of consumers trust word of mouth communication relating to a brand more than any other source and that 92% of people site word of mouth as the best source to try new products/ideas (according to HaveYouHeard word-of-mouth agency) the value of Pinterest becomes interesting; if brands are willing to listen.
Research in the US has demonstrated that Pinterest has become a prominent source of referral traffic to retailers and other brand websites. Increasingly, brands are engaging with this platform in interesting ways. It acts as a referral engine to websites as users pin up and link up images to those websites and the presence of certain brands on this platform could see more engagement with consumers on a whole new level and way of communicating.

The pioneers

While others still wrap their heads around the concept and question the purpose of this supposed fad; certain brands have already identified Pinterest to leverage their brands and launch interesting campaigns. Brands have utilised Pinterest to speak to consumers in sharp, succinct and a relatively easy mode of communication through the medium of pictures.

Interestingly, it seems that smaller brands as opposed to larger commercial brands have led the way in which brands can make use of this platform. Co-Founder of Pinterest, Evan Sharp cited Whole Foods, which is listed amongst the top 10 brands on Pinterest, as a good example of a brand that markets well on the platform. Instead of pinning content that is overtly promotional in nature or redirects users to their website, the content is one that tends to reflect the brand values of the retailer which gravitate around ideas of an organic, sustainable and natural lifestyle. The brand does not provide users with an incentive to follow the brand. Instead it shares a lifestyle which creates brand enthusiasts which then translates into customers.  Michael Bepko, global online community manager for Whole Foods, speaks of creating a lasting connection with consumers. “Pinterest allows us to share the images that move us” and in doing so also move consumers to build resonance with the brand. Whole Foods’ pinboard acts as branded presence within the space, not compromising the integrity of the platform and avoiding to make consumers feel like they are constantly being marketed to.

Fashion brand Calypso also ran a successful campaign on Pinterest by flying fashion blogger; Christine Martinez who is the fourth most followed Pinterest user, to pin up live images from a photo shoot. The brand managed to merge their own brand message with a user who reflected and regularly pinned Calypso clothing philosophy. The result; a frenzied response to the campaign through the sheer volumes of social conversation it created.

Brands pioneering marketing on Pinterest share a common thread.  They connect with users and engage in partnerships, encouraging more direct engagement with consumers as opposed to bombarding consumers with invasive marketing messages.

The global hotspots

The US accounts for 51.7% of Pinterest users. Therefore it is fair to say that the global hotspot is firmly located in the heart of the US internet user, albeit predominantly female.  Where is South Africa located in this greater context? SA accounts for 0.9% of the world wide Pinterest users.

By: Saint Francis Tohlang

About Saint Francis

Saint-Francis is a cultural student of life; keenly perceptive and observant of shapers of culture and the post-modern climate. He is obsessed with contemporary culture and the human carnival. His research areas and interest are media markets and strategies, communications, youth culture, mobile culture and the online media ecology strongly rooted in an anthropological perspective.  Tohlang has an MA in Media from UCT.

Image credit: The world wide web


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