CI First Look – Pinterest

Daniel Gualtieri by on Mar 01, 2012

altIt’s amazing the difference a few months can make in the social media world. In May 2011, Pinterest had a modest 418,000 unique viewers. Nine months later Pinterest boasts 11.5 million unique viewers, making it the fastest growing website of all time. This stunning growth has companies big and small asking if they should be on Pinterest and how they can use it to help build their brand.

What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is an image sharing network at heart, allowing its users to “pin” their favorite photos to personal “pin boards.” This primarily visual approach sets it apart from today’s most popular social networks – Facebook and Twitter.

Pinterest’s social aspects integrate some key features from the two social media giants into its interface. Users can “like” and “comment” on pins, as well as “follow” and “repin” photos they find interesting. They also have the ability to pin photos on other users’ Pinterest boards.  Conveniently, users do not need to create an entirely new account for Pinterest as they can sign in using their Facebook or Twitter accounts. After a user pins photos, their Facebook wall or Twitter feed is updated to let friends and followers know new photos have been pinned to the user’s pinboard(s).

Despite the similarities, there is a major difference in ideology between Pinterest and its contemporaries at Facebook and Twitter: Pinterest is positioning itself as a truly social media website when it comes to image-sharing. While Facebook allows users to create an album, they cannot allow other users to post photos to the album, as Pinterest does.  The only thing Facebook users can do is comment on each others’ photos. This helps contribute to Pinterest’s collaborative tone, soliciting reactions and additions to their albums instead of just broadcasting to their followers.

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Pinterest Pinboard

How Can Financial Services Firms Use Pinterest?
Firms may not be able to promote their products on Pinterest the way they would on their websites or even Facebook or Twitter, but the opportunity for creative social media marketing still exists. Financial institutions can on-board new followers by asking them to pin their own photos illustrating retirement, savings goals or reward redemptions with special deals, discounts and other incentives for the best contributions. Brand-focused Pinterest campaigns can ask followers to express what products such as Chase “Freedom” mean to them or integrate beloved mascots such as the Geico Gecko. Their pin board would then become a well-rounded social album themed on the firm’s brand imagery and the personal experiences of their clients.

Should Firms Join Pinterest? 
Although Pinterest is a rapidly growing community, is it worth it for financial services firms to add it to their already crowded social media strategy alongside Facebook and Twitter? For starters, 68% of current Pinterest users are women, according to numbers reported in the Wall Street Journal. While that number will likely balance out in the long run, Pinterest offers an opportunity to reach a specific audience that may not be as prevalent on Facebook or Twitter.

Firms might also want to take advantage of Pinterest’s viral potential. The vast majority of pins are not unique – 80% are repins from other users (by comparison, retweets make up just 6% of Twitter activity). An interesting pin from an ad campaign stands a good chance of earning repins and reaching fresh users who may not follow the firm directly.

Closing Thoughts
Pinterest is a social media newcomer and many have questioned its staying power. With an astonishingly fast growth rate, loyal users and ease of use that rivals any social media website, it’s a safe bet that Pinterest will continue to grow in the short term. While it may never ascend to the level of Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest is certainly worth a look by financial services firms due to its viral nature and ability to reach an engaged audience.