Facebook’s IPO announcement created quite a buzz. But it did not take long until a new social media service was in everybody’s mouth across the IT industry. Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, commented on CNN that he thinks Pinterest is the ‘hottest’ website in 2012. What do we know about this company? Their website was founded in 2010 and currently is still in its beta-phase. In October 2011 Bessemer Venture Partners invested US$10 million and Andreesen Horowitz invested as much as US$27 million in venture capital. The company is currently valued at US$200 million, but apart from affiliate programs that were not announced publicly, there is no significant turnover. According to their own statements the company does not even pursue any commercial goals. However, we see an explosion in users, particularly among women. Pinterest has become one of the Top 10 social sites in the US and increasingly takes on a role as an important traffic generator for eCommerce sites. The success of Pinterest already initiated the business drive for German look-alikes: Pinspire and LikedBy based in Berlin are exact copies of Pinterest.
Pinterest enables users to bookmark photos and videos. The concept behind Pinterest is quite simple and the visual implementation makes it all the more easy to explore and share content. Just like Twitter or Google+ users can follow each other and pin their discoveries on the web to their own Pinterest wall. Like Facebook, images and walls can be ‘Liked’. But beyond these functions the network also offers services established platforms – especially eCommerce platforms – don’t have in their portfolio: Pinterest enables users to ‘window-shop’ and browse randomly. Browsing is not targeted like a price comparison on Amazon or Google Search. Exactly that is what makes it attractive for the mainstream market – as an alternative for product recommendations and reviews.
Some companies have already started to conduct first experiments with Pinterest. Mail order company Land’s End launched the raffle ‘Pin it to win it’. On their product pages they not only integrated a ‘+1’ button for Google+ and a ‘Like’ button for Facebook, but also a ‘Pin it’ button. With this, the company called upon users to create virtual Land’s End canvas pinboards in order to win. Michele Casper, Director of Public Relations, explained that the main goal behind the campaign was to generate awareness and to ignite user’s interest: “Lands’ End Canvas is continuously looking for new communication channels and opportunities to introduce new customers to the brand”. Brands like GAP, Whole Foods, Threadless, Travel Channel and even General Electric made their first steps with Pinterest.
Some brands already experiment with Pinterest: Raffle by Lands End
Conclusion: Pinterest’s concept of focusing on elements that established eCommerce platforms tend to neglect is quite exciting. The typical consumer’s interest does not necessarily start with an optimized search process, but by browsing through things available. The visual presentation makes it much more attractive to browse through items; get inspired and interested to buy something new. It is exactly this concept that gives Pinterest the potential to become a mainstream platform. In the end it is not important for companies if or if not this particular platform will become successful. The platform is merely a part of a broader strategy. It is necessary to check first if and how social media or a certain platform can add value. Depending on a company’s goal or target group, the result of this evaluation might look totally different.