Piquing my interest

IF a picture is worth a thousand words, then Pinterest just got more loquacious.

Already the third most popular social networking site in the US, the image-sharing Web site last week dropped its by-invitation approach to building membership and began open registration. New users can now simply visit the site (www.pinterest.com), log in with their Facebook or Twitter accounts, or just sign up with an e-mail address.

“We’re really excited to have the capacity to offer Pinterest to more people,” the company said in a blog entry announcing the change of pace.

Which is not to say that Pinterest took too much time getting to where it’s at.

In fact, it was able to chalk up 10 million monthly visitors this year faster than Facebook, Twitter or any Web site in the history of the Web.

A report released by Experian Marketing Services showed that by the end of March 2012, Pinterest had registered 104 million visits—still a far cry from Facebook’s 7 billion, but closing on Twitter’s 182 million. As the third most visited social networking site, Pinterest had overtaken LinkedIn, Google+, MySpace and Tumblr. All this was made even more remarkable by its relatively late start in March 2010.

While celebrities are still more likely to tweet, a number have also taken to “pinning,” including Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen de Generes, Martha Stewart and Ryan Seacrest.

If you’ve noticed a distinctly feminine bias in that list, that’s because as much as 60 percent of its registered users are women, and an overwhelming number of them are between 25 and 44 years of age.

Some other interesting demographics: users have above-average incomes, with half of them earning $50,000 or more a year, according to the social media marketing company Tamba. The e-commerce site Shopify also found that Pinterest users were more likely to buy products online and spend twice as much as Twitter users. Tamba said buyers referred from Pinterest were 10 percent more likely to buy something, and spend 10 percent more, on average, than visitors arriving from other social networks.

Pinterest users also spend a respectable average of 89 minutes a month on the site, at 14.2 minutes per visit.

So what’s driving all this interest?

While Pinterest appears to be a photo-sharing site, it is actually more accurate to describe it as a digital scrapbook for cool things you find on the Internet. Pinterest enables you to organize the scrapbook (into “boards”) and share what you find.

Unlike other social networks, this one isn’t driven by geeky males but by women who like to collect and share fashion, crafts and home design ideas, food recipes, or cute animal photos.

With my curiosity adequately piqued, I signed up for my own account and got “pinning” within minutes, quickly creating a board for books (By the Book), design ideas (By Design) and another for pets (“Raining Cats & Dogs).

With the help of a “Pin It” button that can be installed in your browser, Pinterest makes it extremely simple to add photos or even videos to your boards. Any time you see something you like while browsing the Web, just click the Pin It button and save it to your board. You can re-pin or like pins from other users, or post comments about them.

Unlike photo-sharing sites such as Flickr, you don’t upload photos in Pinterest, and there is no limit to the number of images you can pin or share.

The photo-laden site has a classy, polished feel to it, and makes browsing through the images a pleasant experience. The company bars nudity but the culture established by the network’s members makes this rule almost unnecessary.

Of course, with its growing popularity and the relative affluence of its users, Pinterest is bound to draw the attention of marketers who will use the network to promote and sell their products.

Kristen Andee, who writes for Investment News, provides some tips on how financial advisers might be able to use the network to connect to clients, but the advice can easily be applied to other fields:

    • Create a complete profile and add a good head shot to it.

    • Show your personality in the introduction. Get creative. Be funny.

    • Add links to your Web site and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

    • Come up with creative titles for your boards.

    • Pin items and categories that fit the lifestyle of your client.

    • Put captions or descriptions on your pins – use key words.

    • Spend time to build relationships. Comment on others’ pins and re-pin posts from them but be sure to credit the source.

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