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All Posts  /   /  February 09, 2012 

Pinterest: the New Kid on the Social Media Block

I first became aware of Pinterest when a post that appeared on this blog accumulated more hits than usual.

“Maybe it’s because I pinned it to my Pinterest board,” commented Chuck Titone, iMedia’s VP of Business Development and COO.

Once introduced to the concept of Pinterest, suddenly I was reading about it everywhere. From a Facebook friend who claimed to be addicted to it, to a business colleague who was polling her circle to find out who was using it, to this morning, when my LinkedIn “5 things you need to know in the news this week” featured it in three of the five links provided.

So what is Pinterest, anyway? According to Jason Falls of Entrepreneur:
Pinterest allows you to organize images -- maybe pretty sunrises or wines you've tasted -- into boards for specific categories. When you "pin" something new, your followers will see it. They can like, comment or re-pin it to their boards. Like Facebook content, your Pinterest pins can go viral.

The design is part of the appeal. It fills the screen, organizes images and content by interest, and breaks the mold of reverse chronology that is used by Twitter and Facebook. “It’s almost like window-shopping mode,” Mashable’s Sara Kessler quotes Kohi Vinh, former director for Kessler says:
Pinterest, as far as the designers Mashable spoke with could remember, was the first site to take the idea to mainstream success. It showed how the design could solve certain challenges eloquently and how the traditional reverse chronology layout could be broken without scaring users away. In fact, it was attracting them in invitation-only droves.

The site is a runaway success. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine writes that “Pinterest is having its glorious hockey stick moment” and cites a comScore survey that shows that “Pinterest just hit 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, crossing the 10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history.”

The demographics of the site are interesting. This time, the tech savvy users on either coast are not the ones leading the charge. Instead, most of the users are now found in East South Central and West North Central States, such as Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and Mississippi, and most users are “18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland.”

Constine further cites comScore by saying: “the average Pinterest user spend 98 minutes per month on the site, compared to 2.5 hours on Tumblr, and 7 hours on Facebook.”

Entrepreneur’s article talks about how small businesses can capitalize on Pinterest to post images of products or services and link users back to their site. Of course, they also quickly follow that advice with the social media maxim that any strategy that is wholly promotional will backfire – so that marketers who are using Pinterest need to be subtle enough to include images and content from other sources, not just their own site.

Yet, even in the throes of this period of wild expansion and seemingly limitless possibility, there has been one notable bump in Pinterest’s path. According to BusinessWeek, Pinterest is under fire from some of its users for “decisions that put their interests ahead of their users and a lack of disclosure about what was going on behind the scenes or under the hood of their services.” Specifically, “Since popular posts can drive a lot of traffic to websites that sell these products, Pinterest has been adding affiliate links that generate revenue for the site when users click on them.”

While Pinterest’s proponents argue that “this behavior makes a huge amount of sense for Pinterest, since it is providing a free service and needs to generate revenue somehow,” users of the application do feel that their trust has been violated. Pinterest will need to regain that trust and to learn that transparency is a vital part of any social media application.
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