Pinterest is the latest darling of the social media world

Pinterest is the latest darling of the social media world. It has grown from a niche network to a behemoth in a matter of months, being the fastest standalone site in history to reach more than ten million monthly unique visitors. In fact, it is now so popular that agencies such as Experian Hitwise and have reported measurements to the effect that only Facebook and Tumblr have more social media time on site per user (420 minutes and 150 minutes respectively to Pinterest’s 98 minutes). It has grown over 40 times in the six months to the end of December 2011 and in February 2012, the site’s unique registrations were close to 18 million.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest’s success is based on the simplicity and popularity of‘sharing’, and in particular sharing images and photos. Sites are becoming increasingly visual over time, timelines and newsfeeds in Facebook are dominated by imagery, Instagram and Tumblr have created an entire generation of amateur photographers and even Flipboard turns news into an illustrative experience on the iPad.

Alongside this is the fact that as social networking grows, the concept of sharing has become increasingly simplified and requiring of less effort. At the outset, social networks were blogs which involved a commitment to regular blog writing and posting. Twitter and Facebook emerged allowing short, frequent status updates and micro-blogging. These sites went even further with the ‘Like’ and ‘Retweet' buttons and this concept is widely used among networks such as Tumblr, now one of the biggest blogging platforms, which is predominantly used for sharing photos and images, but ‘reblogging’ other posts is a key activity.

Finally, we see emerging topic-centric (as opposed to people-centric) sites and networks. Facebook and Twitter are based on personal profiles, news and recommendations, but newer networks are focusing on topics as the centre of the site’s universe. In the industry, this is becoming widely known as the ‘interest graph’ to complement the phenomenon of the ‘social graph’ which is the global mapping of all users and how they’re related. Pinterest essentially adheres to all these trends: it is a visual network, organised by topic, with a one-click sharing feature.

Who is Pinning?

For the most part, the assumption is that Pinterest users consist of middle-aged American women whose posts centre around recipes, crafts and home decor.
This assumption is correct of the US audience who currently form the significant core of the_ user base, but the situation couldn’t be more different in the UK, which is a small but fast growing base currently consisting of approximately two percent of total global users.

Over 50 percent of UK users are male, versus 83 percent female in the US. Of the UK base, the largest group (42 percent) are aged between 25 and 34. More importantly, from a gambling/affiliate perspective, the UK audience is much wealthier than its US counterparts, with 29 percent in the highest income bracket as opposed to three percent. In fact, more than 50 percent of UK Pinterest users earn more than $100,000 per year.

From personal to business

The optimum business process for companies and brands using Pinterest is to post images of products and link them back to their website. While this typically woiKS best for retailers who can, in effect, create a Pinterest store catalogue, this is a medium that gambling affiliates cannot afford to ignore given its fast growing reach and correlation to gambling demographics in the UK.

While home decor and recipes dominate the site from the US perspective, the UK users favour a wider range of topics including technology, pictures/ photography, business, venture capitalism and, of course, humour.

As with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter, affiliates should decide what topics they and their audience are most interested in, and then commit to those spaces.

Revenue generation

According to Shareaholic’s January 2012 report, which tracks data from more than
200,0 publishers reaching 260 million unique visitors per month, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic on the web than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and Linkedln combined, and the site is fast gaining ground on Twitter.

While gambling and the affiliate business are not necessarily visual in a retail sense, there is definitely an opportunity to generate business by creating a ‘personality’ and social hub which subsequently drives traffic to core sites.

That said, Pinterest is recognised as being the latest victim of spam-bots and black hat scripts which are being used to generate significant daily revenues in affiliate commissions. This is against Pinterest’s Terms and Conditions and is possibly reaching the point of being addressed and stopped.

Ten best practices

1. Don’t broadcast to your target audience; engage with them. This includes contributing a range of content and sharing other users’ ‘pins’. Pinterest
is not a forum for sales pitches.
2. Create relationships and build loyalty by treating Pinterest as a user not a brand/seller.
3. Find ideas for trend stories by using the ‘Popular’ button or to narrow down the focus, search by topic (e.g. casino, gambling, bingo, etc).
4. Capitalise on the widespread trend and interest in photography by pinning and re-pinning Instagram and other photos.
5. Use Pinterest’s Chrome browser extension and once you see an appropriate or suitable image on the web, y ju can click ‘Pin It’.
6. Connect Pinterest to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with your personal/brand website. The widgets appear below your profile bio, and you can also choose to share your pins across the networks and/or embed them onto your website.
7. Add contributors (who you are following/ monitoring) to your board by editing
a selected board and then adding a Pinterest account. This is a good way to generate further interest, acknowledge key clients and inspire loyalty.
8. Similar to both Facebook and Twitter, mention users you follow by typing ‘@’ in front of their user names. The user will receive a notification.
9. Maintain your account simplicity by following a ‘Pinner’s’ specific boards, instead of their entire content output. Target Pinners with similar tastes and interests by checking out the users behind your favourite/relevant pins. Pinterest doesn’t have a suggested users tool, so this has to be done manually, but you can then follow and target your follower’s followers.
10. Add new Pins as often as possible. ‘Recency’ and frequency are key in Pinterest.

While the likes of Starbucks and Coca-Cola are the heroes of Facebook, one of the well regarded brands in the Pinterest sphere is the retailer Whole Foods. The key to Whole Foods is that it uses Pinterest like a user, not a brand. The company’s pins acknowledge its core values - natural, organic and sustainable, amongst others - but the content isn’t promotional; it is often collated from third-party blogs and other Pinners. The end result is that Whole Foods Pinterest is a lifestyle, food and homemaking resource - people need no other incentive to follow the brand.

Tools of the trade

Pinterest doesn’t offer business features and the search function prioritises pins over people (or in this case brands); however, there are many tools of the trade:
• ‘PinReach’ measures influence. It yields an overall score, and outlines your most popular pins and boards using charts and tables.
• ‘Pin A Quote’ will convert any highlighted block of text into a good- looking ‘quote’ to pin to a board.
• ‘Pinstamatic’ lets you add Twitter profile links, ‘Sticky Notes’ and websites to your boards.
• ‘Snapito’ and ‘urtapin’ both enable users to pin a screen grab of a website (rather than just one image from that site) to a board so that you can push your entire core/home site to your Pinterest board.
• ‘PinpufP tracks reach, activity and ‘virality’ of your pins.
• ‘Pinerly’ measures click throughs,
‘likes’ and ‘repins’ for campaigns created through the service, making it a very interesting tool for brands and businesses.
For many people, Facebook is social media. While there is no denying its reach and influence, smaller niche networks often convert a higher percentage of traffic and allow for excellent targeting. Pinterest, given its obvious success in driving referral traffic, might just be one of those sites.
And as with all social networks, though it might be free, it will only work as part of an overall activity mix, and requires commitment. It isn’t easy, but it is free, and it can be successful.
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