Emerging Platforms

Pinterest's Success Formula

Posted by Daniel Flamberg on February 22nd, 2012 at 10:32 am

Pinterest, the virtual pin board, tickler file and scrapbook, has come out of the woodwork two years after launching and captured the attention and the traffic of 10 million unique users and generated approximately 1 million pins almost overnight. The average user is a woman who spends 15 minutes per session on the site.

According to RJ Metrics, Pinterest engages users two to three times more efficiently than Twitter did at a similar point in its history. Eight weeks after signing up, 40-60 percent of users are still pinning. This is counter to the usual cycle of sign-up, test and abandon that plagues so many sites and niche social media properties.

In an arena of social media phenomena, it’s the latest skyrocket that sent start-up CEOs and VCs into a state of jealous lust.

How has Pinterest done it and what is the formula?

Newness. We’ve been doing Facebook and Twitter and the others for a while.  As we become complacent about social networking or burnt out on cat videos and baby pictures, it’s a shiny new object.

Familiarity. Pinterest uses technology to do what most women already do – clip, pin and save stuff. They tapped existing scrapbooking behavior and it’s muscle memory with a new twist by adding the ability to share and see other women’s pins.

Petula Dvorak called Pinterest “digital crack for women” arguing that “the site’s churning cycle of interest, hope, inspiration, jealousy, desperation, despair and depression keeps them coming back. Add easy functionality. You sign-up and hit the “Pin it” button. It requires no investment of time or learning and accelerates behavior many women were doing anyway.

Etsy is the most pinned site followed by Google, Tumblr, Flickr and shelter sites like Martha Stewart, Better Homes & Garden, Houzz, Apartment Therapy, Real Simple and others. Pinterest takes flipping through magazines and clipping them out of the bedroom, the nail salon or the waiting room and puts its online and on public display. Over 80 percent of pins are actually re-pins. Women see stuff other women like and virtually endorse it by passing it along or re-pinning it.

Strong Visuals. Pinterest is about pictures. It is a visual cornucopia reflecting personal tastes, choices and aspirations. Women vie to pin the most interesting and arresting images because what you pin says something clearly and definitively about your taste, aesthetic, class and lifestyle. It’s a fantasy look book and an on-going social competition that everyone can rally to.

Press. Pinterest has become a media darling. And each story or link brings new traffic and new users to the site. The volume of coverage has created a spike in registration, even though newbies may be less committed or engaged than users who found Pinterest before it was cool. Add the usual woman-to-woman WOM to this press gusher and you have serious inbound momentum.

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