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Does Pinterest belong in business?

Pinterest-logoPinterest is the latest social network to take the world by storm, and it's a homegrown success. Founder Ben Silbermann is a Roosevelt High graduate, and has proven once and for all that you don't need to live on the coasts to start a successful Internet-based business. In fact, hometown legend Better Homes and Gardens (a Meredith Corp. brand) is one of the early Pinterest success stories.

For those of you who don't already know what Pinterest is, here is a description of the site and how to use it.

After creating a profile on the site, you get started by creating "pinboards" (resembling digital bulletin boards) in categories in which you are interested. Then, you "pin" images to the board. This kind of reminds me of the collages we were all asked to make in junior high by cutting images out of magazines. My friends and I used to make collages of outfits, hairdos, lipstick colors, or even guys we liked. I was a Parker Stevenson kind of gal, while most of my friends were Shawn Cassidy types...

So what's the big deal about creating a pinboard? What's in it for your business? Answer: Web traffic.

Pinterest is now the No. 3 website on the Internet, right behind Facebook and Twitter. In fact, in some categories (especially retail), Pinterest drives more website traffic than any other site, including Facebook. 

Social sharing is really the engine that drives Pinterest and makes it viral and fun. Pinterest has a button that you can install on your website, email messages or blog to allow quick and easy "pinning" of images. Users can also "re-pin" images onto their own Pinterest pinboards and users will be able to link back to the original "pinner."

Another intriquing thing about Pinterest is that Pinterest users, when they convert to buyers, spend more money than Facebook users. Social media has always been a reliable way to build brand equity and gain better relationships with customers, but Pinterest is proving that it can indeed convert users to buyers. Some experts think it's the visual nature of pinning that attracts people and converts them to buyers.

Speaking of visual, there's another intriguing aspect to Pinterest that I find fascinating. Marketers often categorize social media users by their proclivity to "create" content in social media land. The vast majority of people on social networks "lurk," that is, observe the content that others write or post. Pinterest allows these "lurkers" to join the party simply by pinning their favorite photos. It's an inclusive way to allow people to wade into the pool without putting themselves out there with a bold opinion or point of view.

However popular, Pinterest is taking a bit of heat from its business model. It's already making money, which is a bit unusual for such a social media youngster. Turns out, Pinterest surreptitiously attaches a code to pins and follows them back to the retail sites where purchases are made, ensuring that Pinterest gets a cut of the purchase. Many web critics are asking for more transparency from the new social media darling.

Here are some ideas from some big brands that are using Pinterest successfully to attract new business and social sharing from their customers. 

How are you planning to use Pinterest to attract more business? Would love to hear your comments, and "Happy Pinning!"

-Claire Celsi


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I enjoyed this article on Pinterest and the fact that an Iowan is successful. I am real curious, after being a member of Pinterest, what is the reason that people spend more money? I would love to understand this.

Hi, Janice, thanks for your comment. I don't believe we have a definitive answer for your question, as social researchers are just starting to ask consumers questions about Pinterest. As I mentioned, it hasn't been around very long, so at this point, people who study buying patterns are making good guesses based on behaviors.

From reading several articles on the subject, (and I am BY NO MEANS an expert on Pinterest!) my guess is that Pinterest comes across differently to potential buyers than Facebook. Another observation is that people who use Pinterest are actually buying more things on the internet than an average Facebook user, who is usually just there to interact with friends.

I think as time goes on, we'll have better data on Pinterest. Thanks for commenting and reading IowaBiz.com!

It is so true, I have visited many more websites because I re-pined from someone. I have also spent money on those sites. Pinterest is great fun and if I had my own biz I would be all over it.

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