Pinterest is the hottest new thing in social media right now. But it’s a classic example of the rush to new technologies that may or may not work out. Google+ launched in beta version during the summer of 2011, and quickly grew to 10 million users before even opening its doors to the public. In September, after removing the “beta” tag and opening to the public users flocked to the service, and by the end of the year boasted a user base of more than 62 million users. However, early in February 2012, Mashable reported that users were spending just 3.3 minutes per month on the site compared to 7.5 hours per month that the average Facebook user spent.
This is not a cautionary tale about users leaving the mega-popular Pinterest site; I don’t think that will happen any time soon. It is, however a cautionary tale about how much time and resources businesses should be devoting to marketing themselves on the site. Pinterest does not at this point have a strategy for making money, and seems a ripe candidate for acquisition by a larger company.
Land’s End, a clothing company based in Dodgeville, WI is a company that maintains a presence on Pinterest, having pinned 143 items, and maintaining 12 boards. As a result, they have grown their following base to 1881 users who follow the brand. In comparison, on Facebook, Land’s End boasts 939,959 likes. On Facebook, Land’s End can market directly to their fans, utilize valuable demographic information about them, and control their message. On Pinterest, companies have no access to demographic information and have few ways to control what’s being said about their brand.
Until Pinterest offers a way to reach fans directly, provide demographic information or even analytics to the brands that want to leverage its large (and growing) user base I find it difficult to devote time and energy into the site. My experience with Google+ has made me cautious about diving into every new hot social media outlet. The hours of time that many companies have spent in developing a Google+ strategy have all gone to waste since so few people actually use the site. While Pinterest doesn’t look like it’ll suffer the same fate as Google+, the lack of ways to effectively target users make any efforts essentially a crapshoot.
The best way to take advantage of Pinterest right now isn’t in developing your company profile, it’s in making the images on your company’s website attractive and “pinnable.” Affix a watermark with your company site on each image, so as it gets pinned and repined users still know where it came from.
Pinterest is the new, exciting thing on the social media landscape, but as always, we should be cautious about where we allocate our resources to ensure the best return on effort. Perhaps in the future Pinterest will offer user information and a platform that is valuable to marketers, but until then I’m focusing my efforts elsewhere.