Guest post by SHIFTer Dave Levy.
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There are so many reasons to focus on Pinterest. The growth of the network in the last year was pretty remarkable; it became a very visible part of a social marketer’s life. However, there is still a ton of confusion and disagreement among the PR, social and marketing community about whether or not it’s important. Check out this study that came out late last week and the split is apparent — 10 percent of marketers have already jumped into Pinterest for business purposes, 7 percent plan to do so, 17 percent aren’t sure…and 44 percent don’t have it in their plans.
The response indicates so many things — they are statistics, after all; we can get them to say what we want. The part the response doesn’t indicate is why marketers aren’t thinking Pinterest as an option, and there are two distinct reasons:
1) They haven’t taken the time to get to know it, so the “no” answer was a way to avoid saying they don’t know how the network works.
2) They have strategically made a decision that it isn’t for their agency or their clients.
I would have also likely answered the question in the negative, but here’s where this gets fun, because I think my reason is different than the two scenarios. You see, I wouldn’t use Pinterest for business purposes because the best Pinterest strategy is the one that recognizes where it plays in the social media ecosystem. That is to say – if I want to include Pinterest in a social plan, the reason is much more likely that I want to influence Facebook, not the Pinterest ecosystem.
Warning: Charts start here.
While the growth in page views started about a month earlier than what I am about to discuss, it’s more interesting/important to track the growth of Pinterest’s unique users per month – it’s a better measure of registrants versus engagement. As touted across the social Web in February, Pinterest’s UVM shot up like a rocket in the beginning of 2012. Check out this visual from TechCrunch:
The trumpets were blowing for what was truly impressive growth. Pinterest was the fastest independent site ever to break 10 million unique visitors per month – just eight months from its launch in May 2011. Call it a hockey stick or hair dryer, Pinterest’s member numbers jumped up absurdly quickly, and it was that moment in late January, early February, when marketers saw something of a critical mass worth trying to influence.
The one thing that was irritating me to no end was that many stories were missing the important question: Where did the growth come from? Pinterest is a cool idea – as I like to describe it, it is the digital version of the scrapbook that, instead of living under your bed, lived in a social environment to crowdsource and recommend to friends. But there have been lots of social networks with legitimately cool ideas that didn’t grow like Pinterest did.
Something happened in January to give it a push, right? Here’s one theory that there is just enough evidence to make a legit case: Facebook’s introduction of Timeline apps.
The new style of applications integrated what you were doing somewhere off Facebook into a place people spent a plurality of their time when on Facebook – the News Feed. And among that first small class of apps that were given access to Facebook’s timeline? You guessed it, Pinterest. This single change was huge: it brought a small, niche network to the forefront of the Social Web. Of course registrations spiked, people wanted to see what was going on and why this Pinterest thing was on the Facebook home page all the time.
Here’s another chart which I think illustrates things more clearly — this one is from Google’s AdPlanner, which estimates traffic based on various Analytics access points along with a few other components. The spike in Q1 2012 is even more apparent here, especially when set against the early days in 2011.
That’s not the only part of the chart: look, it plateaus with almost the same directional change just months after the spike. Why? Because Pinterest as a service remained largely stagnant; it was still the same Pin and Share network and there weren’t any other major awareness drivers outside of tech and marketing circles.
You see, Pinterest growth eventually had to stop somewhere; it isn’t for every user on the Internet. Pinterest doesn’t have a lot of room for a drive-by audience – if you’re a member, you have to be active and Pin or interest fades. It makes it challenging for a broad marketing campaign within it since the audience is just far too demographically narrow, but that doesn’t mean it stops. Do you know where you can consume and view content from your friends who are active on Pinterest without having to go to Pinterest? Facebook.
So some Pinterest users, who are really active in their network, are in a position to influence the Facebook network (which, let’s be honest, is almost everyone on the Internet in the Free World). If you have a product or point that is perfect for the Pinterest demo, you can ask them to be ambassadors to the rest of the Social Web – as long as you look Pinterest beyond the Pinterest vacuum. It will help you reach everyone on Facebook. That’s not hyperbole. I actually, statistically, mean “everyone.”
How can I be sure? There is a formula that exists that says these things play nicely together. There are 950 million Facebook users, at least, with an average of 227 friends in their network; we also know there are some 20 million or so Pinterest visitors each month. If everyone visiting Pinterest is on Facebook that means about 1 in every 48 Facebook users has been to Pinterest this month. That means it is nearly statistically impossible to not have at least one friend using Pinterest; it’s the same probability math as the Birthday Problem, but with a ratio six times better.
Pinterest users live and influence almost everyone within the ultimate social graph, even with a fraction of the member base, thanks to the Facebook Timeline app. That’s why it’s impossible to miss Pinterest, even without using it.
From a marketing standpoint, then, the magic recipe is promoting something that Pinterest users will find interesting and share — with an end game of making sure that Facebook consumers can access and be influenced by that content.
Basically, this is like the social media version of Inception. We have to go deeper.
Posted on: August 29, 2012 at 9:28 am By Todd Defren