By Adam Fraser
There’s no question about which visual social network is flavour of the month at present. Insta’s hot. Everyone love the Gram.
Its user numbers have just passed Twitter at 300m, making it the fastest growing social network in 2014 and well known social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk just pronounced Instagram as the most important network to focus on right now in 2015.
So after a high profile period, the “other visual network” Pinterest seems to be somewhat flying under the radar at present. Which may lead some to believe it can be ignored. Depending on your demographic, this could be a serious mistake.
I recently wrote about respecting the differing psychology of individuals when they are on different social networks. Never is this more pronounced than with Pinterest.
Pinterest launched in early 2010. Its popularity skews to the USA geographically and heavily to the female demographic with women comprising 80% of its user base (and 92% of its Pins). Users have already created 750m boards and 30 billion individual pins.
In Australia, the latest stats show Pinterest having only 355k users (versus 4m for Instagram and 13.8m for Facebook as context). Globally Pinterest has 70m users (noting it doesn’t publicly confirm its user numbers) verus 300m for Instagram and 1.4bn for Facebook. Whilst its absolute numbers are well beneath the headline user numbers of other platforms, its relative ability to generate clicks and consumer activity is unsurpassed. Already valued at $5bn, investors can clearly see the potential here.
Another unique aspect of Pinterest is the shelf life on its Pins. They last forever, as Pinterest is not focused on user feeds, but on category pages and popular sections. Consider the useful life of a Tweet (we must be talking minutes) or a Facebook post (at best a few hours). Pinterest pins are evergreen, consistently available for browsers new and old to discover. They can generate repins and traffic for years.
The pins are not the only thing with a long shelf life. Pinterest’s female users are incredibly loyal and ‘sticky’. An incredible 84% still pin regularly 4 years after they joined and they actually get more active with time. Longevity is the ultimate challenge for any social network (think Friendster and MySpace) so this trend of loyalty and increasing activity is incredibly important.
Intent to buy is the real differentiator for Pinterest versus other social networks. The psychology of the (largely female) Pinterest user when browsing and creating image boards is aspirational. How they want their house to look. The dream holiday. The perfect outfit. The sumptuous recipe and home cooked meal. And they are ready to click and buy when in this mindset. According to data from Shopify shoppers are 10% more likely to make a purchase compared to those who arrive from other social sites and the average order coming from Pinterest is $80, double the average order coming from a Facebook viewer (and higher even than google referrals). These are critical and commercially very valuable differences.
New features continue to be added which are improving the user experience on Pinterest. Guided search functionality was added in April 2014 (there is a strong product search potential for Pinterest – Google take note), and messaging added in August 2014. Facebook and Twitter have both experimented with buy buttons and it’s not hard to envisage Pinterest moving closer to direct e-commerce as a future business model.
As happened with all booming social networks before it, the marketers are honing in on this extremely attractive demographic and platform. Promoted pins are now widely available in 2015, having been tested in 2014. It remains to be seen if this will impact the user experience but to date the ads have been as native as they come, blending in well with the overall experience.
Pinterest is not for everyone or every brand. But if your target audience is female and your business is retail/consumer focused it absolutely should be part of your marketing play-book. Pinterest is the ultimate example of why social networks are not always about headline numbers. Quality of attention, engagement and action metrics matter. Pinterest over-indexes on these things.