The social success story of 2012, Pinterest has revolutionised web design, finally found us a home for all those cute pictures of cats and, thanks to its recent Pinterest for Business launch, is now officially open for your business. It may be the greatest e-commerce and visual content platform yet, but what’s going on behind all those pretty pictures?
1. Pinterest isn’t built like the other social networks. Created by Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra and Evan Sharp to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting”, Pinterest ignored the ‘create and share stuff on a feed’ approach of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, and instead simply allowed users to collect (or pin) things they like. “Most people don’t have anything interesting to say on Twitter”, said Silbermann in a recent FastCompany interview, attributing his inspiration to a childhood passion for collecting insects.
2. “Pinterest grows like a weed,” Nielsen noted with deadpan accuracy in its Social Media report in December last year. From closed beta launch in March 2010 it grew a staggering +4,377% between May 2011 and May 2012. Not only was it the fastest ever site to crash through the 10 million unique-user mark, but it nipped into 50th place in last September’s comScore top 50 with 25·3 million unique users – and as America’s third largest social network.
3. People sure like to pin. According to repinly.com, the most popular pinning categories are ‘Food and Drink’ (11%) followed by ‘DIY and crafts’ (9·6%). The person with the most pins is an IT consultant from southwest London. Oge Nwaozuz has so far pinned 100,135 images to 263 boards, which include ‘Mike Tyson’, ‘Soup’, ‘Expensive Handbags’ and ‘Very Expensive Handbags’.
4. The most popular pin of all time is an image of garlic cheesy bread. Pinned by a Mandy Wakeman, it sports the caption: “Garlic cheesy bread.... Hubby is drooling! 101 THOUSAND re-pinners can’t be wrong!!!” The image originally came from laurenslatest.com, a food blog run by a young Portland housewife. The image has had 96,987 repins, and 13,030 likes to date. “Holy Moly!” as one of the 186 comments put it.
5. Pinterest can make you a star. The top pinner of all is Joy Cho, who also goes by Oh Joy!. Based in Los Angeles, Joy describes herself as a “designer, blogger, food enthusiast”. Her 81 boards have 8,068 pins, and have earned her 11,484,556 followers. She, meanwhile, follows 149 people. Other top pinners include Jane Wang (#4, with 7,382,972 followers), who is also co-founder Silberman’s mum, and cross-over celebrities such as baseball player Sammy Sosa. Some top pinners are evolving into powerful (and well-paid) brand advocates.
6. One of its biggest issues is copyright controversy. In February last year Pinterest was forced to create a ‘nopin’ option allowing sites to prevent their content from being pinned on the network. A month later, amid growing criticism, Pinterest renounced its claim to ownership of the images posted on the site (a lesson Instagram/Facebook would have done well to note).
7. The network was an early hit with Mormons. “Pinterest is so popular with Mormons it’s practically the Utah of social networks,” Gawker noted in February last year, a success it attributed to a shared preoccupation with home making and cooking. Little surprise then that one of the network’s first celebrity pinners was Ann Romney. Michelle Obama soon followed suit, and comparisons of their efforts were documented fully in the run up to the presidential election. (Romney’s was generally considered better, but the First Lady now has over 30,000 more followers than her rival. To the victor the spoils.)
8. It’s still broadly American. According to ComScore, in December 2012 65·8% of Pinterest’s traffic came from North America. In the UK, however, despite a steady upward trend, it had just under 2·5 million visitors. And, while in America Pinterest is famously a predominantly female preoccupation, the UK audience has only a very small gender bias, with only slightly more women than men. Most British users were also younger than their American counterparts, aged between 15-34 rather than 25-49. Interestingly a significant number of the UK audience also spent time on university websites, of which American universities Michigan and Berkeley dominated.
9. It makes money for retailers. In December 2011 Hitwise Experian reported that the site drove more traffic to retailers than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. Further case studies have since suggested that it might even outperform Twitter and Facebook. Pinners seem actively to want to shop; FastCompany notes that 80% of the top 15 categories are connected to retail in some way, and in general, pinners seem actively to prefer pins with a price tag, which gain an average of 0·4 more likes than pins without. FastCompany also reveals the average spend when a person buys a product found through Pinterest is $179·36, compared to $80·22 on Facebook and $68·78 on Twitter.
10. Pinterest itself makes no money. At all. It’s currently bankrolled by Japanese e-commerce giants Raukuten and a number of high-profile angel investors. But it’s predicted to make a lot of money in the future.