While research points to a continued decline in interest in social bookmarking sites, the surging popularity of Pinterest would indicate that the urge to share and comment upon other people's Web discoveries is still alive and well.
Pinterest, the image-sharing service that has people sharing digital scrapbooks of annotated images they find all over the Web, is still technically an invitation-only site. Nevertheless, Pinterest in January captured more minutes per user than Google+, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter combined, and reached the 10 million-user mark faster than any standalone site ever, according to comScore.
But does that mean b2b marketers should be there? Is Pinterest a game-changer or is it the Quora of 2012—an overnight sensation that lacks staying power?
Pinterest is based on one of the most successful Web 2.0 metaphors, social bookmarking. Sites like Delicious, Digg and Reddit, which permit people to save and share Web pages, may have declined in popularity in the face of more functional social networks, but sharing links is one of the most popular social networking activities. Pinterest just adds a visual dimension.
Instead of bookmarking websites, Pinterest users can “pin” images they find on the Web in topical scrapbooks called “pinboards.” People can comment upon and “repin” each other's discoveries to their own pinboards, sort of like a visual retweet. They can also browse all the images the community has posted in popular topic areas, such as “funny” or “office furniture.” The service is a great way to discover new content.
For business professionals, Pinterest is a useful way to research topics with a visual component. For example, if you're looking for unique office furniture ideas or creative packaging concepts, there are pinboards with hundreds of ideas submitted by others.
Some b2b companies are finding innovative ways to unlock visual elements of their business. The Wall Street Journal has more than 30 pinboards spotlighting its informational graphics, sports, arts, and leisure and technology coverage, among other things. Classic front pages and the newspaper's famous stipling drawings are particularly popular images.
The paper also asks readers to submit photos of how they start their morning routines, and the result is a particularly active and captivating board. With nearly 5,000 followers, the Journal may have the biggest b2b presence on Pinterest.
Research company Econsultancy displays charts, stats and infographics from its reports as a way of highlighting its market expertise. The company also repins relevant content from other Pinterest members to create visual portfolios of trends in the industries it covers, a useful resource for people seeking that information. Infographics are a particularly popular Pinterest item.
General Electric Co. makes some mighty big pieces of equipment, and its Badass Machines pinboard spotlights some of its more gargantuan creations. The That's Genius pinboard features quotes and photos of people whose creations have changed our world. Staples collects pictures of Dream Office Space, as well as products you probably weren't aware of that make life easier. Many retailers are becoming big Pinterest fans because it's a bonus outlet for their product images. Also, Pinterest links boost search engine visibility; unlike Twitter, Pinterest permits search engines to follow links on its site.
For b2b companies that sell beautiful things, Pinterest is a natural. Grand Image is a Seattle-based specialty retailer of fine art for decorators and interior designers. Although it's only been on Pinterest a few weeks, the service is already paying dividends.
“Thus far we have seen great "virality' with pins from magazine articles of projects in which our artwork is included, TV shows with our artwork on set and general installation shots of our art in hotels, hospitals, restaurants and the like,” said Lauren Albrecht, who leads digital media marketing at the company. “It's a great platform for interior designers and corporate art consultants to find our business.”
Does that mean Pinterest is a great platform for your b2b company? It's too soon to tell, but the site's growth trajectory indicates that it's on to something. An hour spent learning Pinterest is time well-invested. And the service is so addictive that you may find an hour isn't nearly enough.
For more ideas, see ”5 Ways B2B Brands Can Use Pinterest,” from the new Crain's Social Media Group.
Paul Gillin is an Internet marketing consultant and the author of three books about social media. He also writes the “New Channels” column in BtoB.