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Pinterest – what is it? And what does it mean for brands?

November 6, 2012

Once an invitation-only site, Pinterest is now open to all. It’s a simple concept. You create pinboards and organise them into categories. On these boards you ‘pin’ images from your own website or from elsewhere on the web, adding a brief comment to each. Other people can follow all your boards, or choose specific ones.  Followers can write comments on your images, and repin images on their own boards where their followers can see them.  Every image captured with Pinterest’s ‘repinning’ tool comes with a link back to the original source.
How many people are using Pinterest in the UK, and who are they?  Statistics vary. There are possibly around 200,000 unique visitors a month; there are certainly more women than men; and it seems to be most popular with people between 18 – 44. Popular topics include fashion, recipes, and home design. There is some evidence that people go to Pinterest for inspiration on what to buy, and do buy items they see there – but the most popular pages belong to ordinary individuals, not brands. 
What does this mean for brands?  Advice to brands focuses on accepted social media best practice:  don’t focus on selling, but learn to understand your customers and encourage long term loyalty by giving them content they will love. Entertain, inspire, and be useful to your target market.
Is this what UK brands are actually doing? We took a look at some retailers. Debenhams, Tesco and John Lewis are just a few of the many pinning nothing other than pictures of their own products.  Debenhams have attracted just 230 followers since June. Tesco and John Lewis have 380 and 1,089 followers respectively.  Are they missing the point – or do they just not see the point? 
High end and niche brands seem to be faring much better.  Farrow & Ball have created stylish pages and attracted a good following (see http://pinterest.com/farrowball/) and with 5,693 followers, Harrods is also doing well. Harrods’ boards relate to fashion and lifestyle concepts and use images linking back to a wide variety of sources. They also ran a competition where people created mood boards to inspire a Jubilee Street Party shop window.  But are those follower numbers translating into hard cash? It’s probably too early to tell. 
If overall UK user numbers rise, we’ll watch to see whether UK brands find more creative ways to use Pinterest. In the meantime, if you know of any UK brands doing interesting things with Pinterest, let us know!

Posted by Jenni Malley

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