Dark Horse No More: Three Reasons Why Pinterest Is Killing It

Opinion: It's time for brands to give Pinterest a closer look. Here are three reasons why:

Snapchat is getting all of the PR, and Facebook is too big for anyone to ignore. But while investors and digital digerati watch every move of the social media front-runners, Pinterest just keeps growing and growing.

In fact, Pinterest is growing faster than industry analyst eMarketer thought it would. According to eMarketer, Pinterest will grow 9.2 percent in 2017, from 63.2 million members to 69 million in the U.S.—considerably higher than the 58.1 million U.S. members eMarketer projected for Pinterest last year.

It’s time for brands to give Pinterest a closer look. Here are three reasons why:

Purchase intent

At its core, Pinterest is a commerce site. More than one-half of Pinterest users visit the site to find or shop for products. By comparison, only 12 percent do so on Facebook and Instagram. According to Millward Brown, 87 percent of pinners have purchased something they saw on Pinterest, and 93 percent are going to do so.

A number of brands are capitalizing on the strong purchase intent of Pinterest users. L’Oreal increased purchase intent for a new line of highlighters by 37.2 percent by using Pinterest’s Promoted Pins and video ads. Nordstrom claims that cross-promoting “popular on Pinterest” products in physical stores has stoked demand.

Pinterest will only grow as an e-commerce platform thanks to developments such as the recent launch of search advertising. One-half of all Pinterest activity consists of search, with users conducting more than 2 billion searches per month.

Pinterest’s new paid search program will be sold similar to the way paid search is sold on Google, on a cost-per-click basis, but its search ads will feature mostly images. Pinterest will sell the ads to start, but it plans to launch a self-service digital interface.


Pinterest is innovating in ways that make it more appealing to brands. Recently, Pinterest launched Pinterest Lens. Currently in beta, Lens solves a common problem that people encounter searching for product images: finding ideas through images.

With Lens, people use the camera in their Pinterest application to find ideas inspired by objects they see in the physical space around them. As Pinterest explained on its own blog:

Just point Lens at a pair of shoes, then tap to see related styles or even ideas for what else to wear them with. Or try it on a table to find similar designs, and even other furniture from the same era. You can also use Lens with food. Just point it at broccoli or a pomegranate to see what recipes come up. Patterns and colors can also lead you in fun, interesting or even just plain weird new directions.

Moreover, with a related feature, Instant Ideas, users can tap on images inside Pinterest to find ideas for related products.

In addition, with Pinterest’s Shop the Look functionality, users can find and buy products inside fashion and home decor Pins by tapping on a circle on each item, finding related styles and buying the product on Pinterest.

But Pinterest isn’t stopping with the launch of visual discovery tools. It is also applying artificial intelligence to serve up more targeted content to its members. Its deep learning system, Pin2Vec, examines a user’s activities such as pins saved to serve up more relevant results (e.g., pin suggestions), based on user behavior.

As noted on the Pinterest blog, Pinterest can pinpoint whether users have been pinning and commenting on specific products such as wine. Brands can leverage this data to create more highly segmented content that accurately reflects the wants and interests of the Pinterest community. Pinterest says that early AI tests show a 5 percent increase in engagement with related pins.

Between visual discovery and AI, Pinterest is becoming a smarter, more precise platform for users to discover and purchase. In turn, Pinterest can give brands what they covet: precise data about users.

Cross-industry application

Pinterest has always been known as a mainstay for retail, dining and fashion. But the platform has extended its reach to other industries.

For example, Pinterest is growing into a media and entertainment platform as users pin rich video content such as new songs and YouTube playlists.

I’m also seeing more pharmaceutical brands on Pinterest, such as Novartis and Genentech, both of which use Pinterest to share health-related images. Healthcare brands such as Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic have attracted thousands of followers on Pinterest by sharing tips on healthy living.

Any industry that counts women among its customer base has a reason to build a Pinterest presence, as 44 percent of online women use the site, compared with 16 percent of online men.

What brands should do

You don’t have to go full-on Nordstrom to succeed on Pinterest. After all, Nordstrom has the resources and scale to create a far more integrated online/offline Pinterest program than most other businesses.

But you should treat Pinterest as an important platform for amplifying your data and content—even if you don’t think Pinterest applies to you. That’s because Pinterest is an excellent proving ground for understanding the sharable value of visual storytelling.

Being on Pinterest will teach you the essentials about finding the right combination of optimized written content and images to make your brand shine, along with the mechanics of organizing and tagging content properly. If you are a commerce brand, the least you can do is learn from how others are integrating the power of visual storytelling with their brands on Pinterest.

Jay Hawkinson is a digital marketing professional with 20 years of sales, marketing and merchandising experience including organic search optimization, paid search advertising, local search, mobile and social media. Jay joined SIM Partners in 2006 as an equity partner and currently oversees mobile, social media and emerging technology as senior vice president of client success.

Image courtesy of zakokor/iStock.

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