Monday, March 26, 2012

P'Oh My Gawd! - What you're obsessing about on Pinterest

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the differences in marketing to search vs social users and how Facebook is working towards monetizing user engagement. I thought I'd expand a bit more on this and talk about the hottest social/discovery site out there: Pinterest

If you're not familiar with Pinterest...well then, why are you reading this blog?! Go there and check it out now!

I'm not a huge Pinterest user, but in my several months of usage, I've seen a lot of Facebook friends begin following me on Pinterest as well. Since I don't pin very many things, those followers don't see much from me. But since I follow-back everyone, I see a lot of new pins every time I login. What have I noticed?

Well, safe to say that the stereotypes about Pinterest users are based on some fact :)

  • Lots of female users
  • Lots of pins about recipes, fashion, & home decorating
A series of desert recipes. Hmm...where to buy organic raw sugar?!
The more interesting thing I've noticed is that people seem to pin a series of items all about the same thing in a short period of time. It could be holiday dinner recipes or kids' bedroom designs or hairstyles, but people seem to obsess about really specific things. They may move onto other obsessions sooner or later, but pinning habits definitely show what users are thinking & obsessing about.

I'm not going to get into the pinning habits themselves, but I want to compare this with typical social and search usage:
  • Social - Lots of random sharing about life, things you've read with a few specifics like check-ins or location-tagged photos. It's hard to really know what a social user is thinking at the time they login since the sharing is kind of random.
  • Search - Lots of specific queries typically layered on with location specifics. It's easy to know exactly what a search user needs right at that moment, but the user will move onto different searches and may or may not come back to the topic.
Compare that with a Pinterest user:
  • Pinboards are typically well-organized and if the "Pin-It" bookmarklet has been used, it's easy to link back the pin to the original site, therefore it's easy to build further organization based on where the pins came from.
  • Users seem to focus on specific topics for a day...could be shorter or longer, but it's really clear what they're obsessing over during that time.
  • Users may not be looking to buy anything at the time of pinning, but the pins are certainly things that inspire them or what they want to buy or re-create in the future.
So taking those thought onto the ad/marketing side of things...

There's been a lot of talk about click-through of Pinterest users where they end up on the original site from which the pin originated and maybe even buy. However, I think Pinterest as a targeted ad platform could be just as interesting. Afterall, pinboards are well organized and you can tell exactly what the user is thinking about. Not just randomly thinking about for a moment in time, but obsessing over.

Lots of wonderful decor ideas...time to get DIYing!
Sure, the user may not be ready to re-decorate the living room as displayed in a pin from Martha Stewart's site, but targeted ads from the brands highlighted in the pin or from related vendors will have a step-up with the user since they're already engaged and interested in what they have to offer. It could be an ad from Ethan Allen for a current sale or from Lowe's for paint which matches the one in the pin. On the local front, it could be an ad from Whole Foods for the maple syrup in a recipe or from Target for the mixing bowls.

It may seem difficult to tie-back all of this to specific products for which ads can be placed, but the reality is that most of the details aren't that difficult to obtain. Martha Stewart doesn't always list out brands especially if it's a home tour, but many other sites already do. Recipes already have the details listed out and fashion is typically tied back to specific designers.

My point is that Pinterest is positioned well to monetize the user engagement they've developed. Clicking-through to the original pinned site is an obvious way, but targeted ads are another possible direction. Due to Pinterest user-behavior, those targeted ads would likely be way more relevant than  ads that Facebook users see. Additionally, users aren't at the stage of searching for something they want...they've already FOUND things they love.

It's the perfect opportunity to convert interested and engaged users into buyers.

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