With all the hype about Pinterest, it's almost as though the site is already old news. But don't get distracted by the sudden surge in mainstream popularity, or the fact that everybody's jumping on yet another social media bandwagon. Pinterest is breaking serious referral records, driving traffic to external sites in droves, and becoming a significant source of revenue potential and leads for consumer and B2B sites alike. And, as the cliché goes, Pinterest is still invite only.
According to shareaholic.com, Pinterest officially surpassed Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube as a source of referral traffic back in January, and Twitter this February. Pinterest is now responsible for 1.05 percent of all referral traffic. Yep, that's right -- Pinterest is currently responsible for a little bit more than one out of every one-hundred referrals. And it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. So what does that mean for you?
Online retailers, bloggers, content producers -- this site has the potential to become your best recommendation engine yet. Basically, if your website is a destination for people interested in buying, doing, or seeking (which it is), your word-of-mouth marketing just got better, and hopefully easier. Or at least it has that potential. So far, the sites that are benefiting most from Pinterest are those that are either accidentally or intentionally appealing to the members of this community in a superficial way. But beauty is only skin deep, so you've got to pair brawn with brains if you want to keep your newfound traffic once you get it.
Before digging into how you can get in on the action, let's take a look at what people are doing, and how this activity fits into and compares to other efforts in the greater social marketing mix.
What they're doing:
They're expressing themselves
Pinterest users are telling the world about themselves using pictures and images. By reviewing the people who pin your products (or other content), you can gain a lot of insight into your customer base. These are your buyer personas. But unlike buyer personas, Pinterest profiles aren't abstract depictions of larger groups at all-- they're actual, real-life individuals who are actively self-identifying with your products and ideas. Their positive feedback can also be likened to the positive reviews of a focus group, and their unprompted hand raising is what brands work so hard to manifest on other social media sites. If they're saying nothing at all -- well, that says something too.
They're reminding themselves of things they want to do, buy, or revisit in the future
Pinterest users aren't just telling the world about themselves, they're telling themselves about themselves and the things they want to remember, or things they aspire to be or have. For that reason, you might consider people who have recently pinned your products near-future buyers. Essentially, it's the 2012 version of the online bookmarking or wish list, only in one complete, personalized space.
They're sharing and recommending things that they think others should know about
Some people use Pinterest for more social reasons than commercial ones. The mere sharing of other people's pins is a form of community, and these users like being at the center of related conversations. Several have become must-follows based on their ability to find the coolest tech gadgets or the most inspiring interior designs. These people are your potential advocates and influencers. This type of activity is comparable to online product recommendations and reviews -- usually positive ones.
They're learning about and exploring specific or random topics
You might consider Pinterest the new Google Images. There are a number of reasons that people would use Pinterest for research across topics. Sometimes people know what they're looking for from a visual standpoint but not a textual one. Think DIY projects, interior design, fashion, and anything else that might be inspired by an image rather than a word. People who are using Pinterest in this way are more likely to be your long term buyers, and it can be hard to track them down if their activity is more browsing-driven. This activity is comparable to window shopping and other consumer research.
They're searching for and discovering new or specific things to do, buy, look at, or read
People in this group know what they want and are likely ready to get it. Think of them as people who walk into a store with a very specific objective in mind. They know what they want, but they also like options to choose from. These are your immediate buyers and self-identified prospects. This activity is comparable to targeted online searches and content downloads.