It’s nearly impossible to find a tech or social media blog that isn’t talking about Pinterest right now. The site has been described as everything from an addictive waste of time to a social commerce game changer. Pinterest was launched as a closed beta in March 2010, and even now new users must request an invite to join (which is usually approved within 24 hours) or receive an invite from someone who is already a member. In August 2011, the site was named in TIME magazine’s “The 50 Best Websites of 2011″ and the meteoric rise in new visitors took off, reaching more than 11 million last month.
Referral Traffic is Growing
In January, Sharaholic reported that Pinterest was driving 3.6 per cent of referral traffic to its sample of 200,000 publishers, hot on the heels of Twitter and well ahead of LinkedIn, Reddit and Google+. That number is still well short of Facebook’s leading 26.4 per cent of referrals.
Significant Usage Numbers
In December, ComScore reported that Pinterest users were spending an average of 88.3 minutes on the site in November, well beyond the time spent by users of Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and MySpace. Of the selected leading social media sites it trailed Tumblr at 141.7 minutes (2.3 hours) and the dominant Facebook at 394 minutes (6.5 hours).
So how does Pinterest work?
Pinterest is made up of user-curated pinboards, where people gather together images and videos of items they like. Users can choose to follow the pinboards of another user, re-pin an item to their own pinboard, or Like and comment on another user’s pin. While sometimes it seems that most pinboards are made up fashion, food, craft and decorating content; other users are creating boards of architecture, art, gadgets, celebrities, tech infographics and anything else you could imagine.
Another controversial aspect of Pinterest is the copyright issue. In a recent article on ReadWriteWeb, Aaron Messing, an attorney with OlenderFeldman LLP in New Jersey, explained that Pinterest is able to avoid a violation of U.S. copyright laws due to a provision of the Internet Service Providers Act, which provides immunity to sites that publish information provided by others. As long as the site complies with a provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that requires it to remove content when asked by the copyright owner, users are free to continue pinning any images they find on the Internet.
Organizations using Pinterest
Companies, especially those with content related to fashion, food and decorating have been exploring the potential of Pinterest, however here are a few examples of organizations you might not immediately expect to find.
Southwest Airlines has a track record of being early adopters of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and they have an early presence in Pinterest as well. The airline’s profile has boards featuring images of travel style, its fleet of planes, favourite destinations and even a board of vintage pictures from the company’s early days.
Amnesty International USA
The human rights organization has created a series of pinboards featuring infographics, books, posters and inspiring quotes. A board titled Fair Trade features pictures of products that can be purchased on the Amnesty International e-commerce site, and is a great example how nonprofits can use Pinterest to drive fundraising efforts.
The Weather Channel’s boards feature images of weather events and spectacular scenery, but they’ve also created boards for winter fashion, recipes and teaching the weather.
The three-time Stanley Cup winning team is one of several sports teams that have begun using Pinterest. Besides the expected pictures of players there are boards dedicated to merchandise, fan photos, and even a board dedicated to great snacks for hockey.
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal is pinning images based on content sections of its site and newspaper including cars, sports, travel and fashion. Other boards are dedicated to the newspaper’s Hedcut illustrations, historical WSJ front pages and an Introduction to Pinterest told in images.
Should your company be on Pinterest?
It’s important for a company to first determine what their objective is before diving into a new social media platform. Pinterest is the shiny object of the moment, and it’s very tempting to jump in and start pinning away (you can see our page here). The Pinterest etiquette page discourages people from using the site as a tool for self-promotion, however if you do feature product images on your site you may want to consider adding a ‘Pin-it’ button alongside a Twitter and Facebook ‘Like’ button.
Time will tell whether the site will remain a hot destination for Internet users or a short-lived craze. Based on the rapid-growth, mainstream attention and the number of Pinterest clone sites that have sprung up, I predict the site will carve out its own territory among the social media heavyweights.