Pinterest, the visual bookmarking site, has exploded over the last three weeks. And while many users' pinned content is focused on fashion and home decor, consumer brands are using the site for far more.
Pinterest is all the rage, the hottest, newest blossoming social networking site. Pinners are creating pinboards of home decor, lush food items, wedding designs and fashion combinations.
Since I'm don't spend a huge portion of my time on any of those topics, I've been wondering: who are Pinterest's power users and why is it catching on so quickly? What are they using it for? More importantly, how are brands taking advantage of the site?
Maybe it's because I'm at heart a guy. After all, TechCrunch has reported on the skyrocketing popularity of the site, enumerating a few reasons why it's not quite ready for prime time, including:
Guys haven’t bought into it yet: What we are about to say is 100% sexist, so don’t say we didn’t warn you. Here it is: guys just don’t get Pinterest! We’ve spotted a few popular male Pinterest users, but they’re a rare commodity. Apparently, women between the ages of 25 and 44 make up 59% of Pinterest users.
While the lack of testosterone might be a deterrent to the Y-chromosome set, it's not deterring anyone else. Mashable recently reported that Pinterest is driving more traffic than Google+ and LinkedIn. It has even surpassed YouTube, the darling of multimedia content, for referrals. Only Twitter currently refers more traffic--just barely.
Pinterest accounted for 3.6% of referral traffic, while Twitter just barely edged ahead of the newcomer, accounting for 3.61% of referral traffic. In July 2011, Pinterest accounted for just 0.17% of referral traffic, proving the site’s blockbuster growth.
But it was social media star Aliza Sherman really turned around my thinking on Pinterest. Since I'm not a gal who spends all day crafting, redecorating the bedroom or planning an elaborate dinner, I was desperate to find creative ways social media folks or brands could use this great visual sharing tool. My aha moment was ogling Aliza's Infographic Addict board.
What Aliza's board revealed to me is that Pinterest is providing users something that Flickr and Facebook haven't yet: a way to organize visual content thematically, regardless of where the visual content originated, and to easily share that content with other users. (Without giving away all your private information--Zuckerberg, are you listening?)
What consumer brands are pinning
More importantly, consumer brands are capitalizing on Pinterest's growth and easy visual interface to engage their fans with repinnable content:
Chobani yogurt Chobani, the protein-rich Greek yogurt, has a series of boards dedicated to overall health, community yogurt recipes and Chobani Champions, which features irresistibly cute photos of parents, kids and the occasional Chobani container.
RealSimple Magazine It turns out that news organizations are eating up Pinterest and its ability to group visual topics on a board with one-click viral repinning. For example, RealSimple, the magazine devoted to simple, elegant living, has created a series of beautiful pinboards to showcase the magazine's content and themes, including "Organization Inspiration," "Valentine's Day Ideas" and "Problem-Solving Products." Excellent use of the visual medium by this consumer brand.
Charity: water Not-for-profit organization Charity: water uses pinboards to showcase Photo of the Day, Creative Fundraising and its gear for sale. The first board features beautiful, striking photos of the people in developing countries helped by the organization; the second, practical photos of ordinary people; the third, beauty shots of gear for sale. Three different functions for one organization.
Drake University Drake University, a private university, uses pinboards to highlight aspects of student life, from hot student room decor to study abroad to collections of bulldog photos (the school's mascot). Brilliant.
The key to Pinterest's popularity: simple, visual sharing
The key to Pinterest's popularity is that it has stripped away the complicated interface of Facebook and the staid reverse-chronological order of blogs and Twitter and instead has drilled down to the essence of what people like to share: pretty, useful stuff that they are excited about. The potential for brands is overwhelming; imagine if popular products from a brand's e-commerce site went viral on Pinterest, unhindered by timeline restrictions.
Now I get why Pinterest is so popular. It's stipped away the fluff and refocused on the basis of social media: sharing.