In what seemed like no time (but was, in fact, several years), Pinterest went from a talking point for digital elites to a de rigueur social tool for just about every person, media company and, of course, brand.
According to data compiled by online consumer behavior firm Experian Hitwise, Pinterest saw 104 million visits in March, a strong third-place finish behind Facebook with 7 billion and Twitter with 182 million. So, there’s clearly a compelling case for Pinterest based on overall numbers. But how are brands creating a presence on Pinterest using the platform’s strengths to their advantage?
Given the rapid growth of Pinterest, there was hardly a chance for brands to absorb any meaningful best practices.
David Berkowitz, VP of Emerging Media for digital agency 360i, recalls introducing clients to Pinterest a year ago, noting how quickly the landscape has changed for brands on the platform. "It was clear that it was inspiring people in a way that few technologies or media properties ever had before," he says. "Now it’s something that almost all brands want to discuss—or at least learn more about."
Berkowitz warns, however, that not all brands are primed to pin.
"Pinterest is at the point where every marketer needs to at least decide whether it makes sense for them and how they might best leverage it," he says. "Pinterest connects inspiration directly to purchase, so e-commerce brands on the site such as Whole Foods are well positioned to benefit from it."
Whole Foods has about 25,000 followers on Pinterest, and that’s a relatively high number for a brand—there are other, bigger marketers who have far, far fewer followers. So does the lack of volume indicate that the platform is not a solid long-term bet for brands?
Says Berkowitz, "Scale is one of the least important factors marketers should consider when evaluating emerging platforms, because it’s a moving target. MySpace and Bebo crashed about as quickly as Pinterest and Instagram soared. Marketers should look at other factors, such as how relevant the platform is to their brand and how well their brands can provide value for that platform’s users."
While a built-in referral model means Pinterest is well positioned to drive sales, brands shouldn’t expect to amass millions of followers as quickly as they might expect. "Marketers need to figure out how they’ll continually tap earned, owned, and potentially paid media channels to build up their follower base over the long term. Given Pinterest’s inevitable growth in making it easier for brands to communicate with their followers, marketers that decide to participate and figure out how to provide value will have a strong position in the near future."
In the meantime, we’ve put together a showcase of some of the brand and media Pinterest plays that have gone beyond eye candy. Click through the slide show above the headline to see the roundup.