I’ve been thinking a lot about Pinterest for the past year. I first planned to write a report about the social upstart last summer. When that deadline passed, I was certain I’d produce something in the autumn. Now here we are in the dead of winter, and at long last today we published our report on how marketing leaders should use Pinterest.
The reason it took so long? Pinterest is confusing. It’s a bundle of contradictions: at once it offers marketers huge potential and huge frustration.
On the one hand, there’s so much opportunity:
Pinterest boasts a fantastic audience. In fact, 21% of US online adults visit Pinterest at least monthly — nearly as many as use Twitter and more than use Instagram and Google+. Those users spend freely online, they’re willing to engage with brands in social media, and when they talk about products on Pinterest they drive vast amounts of traffic to brand sites.
Pinterest’s data has the potential to drive more sales than Facebook’s data. After all, Facebook users generate mostly affinity data: information about their tastes and preferences, based on their past experience with brands and products, that’s better suited to targeting brand advertising than direct marketing. But Pinterest users don’t only share historical affinities; they share the kind of purchase intent data that’s more commonly seen on search engines like Google. And just as ads targeted with Google’s data generate outstanding direct response, so will ads targeted with Pinterest’s data.
Language is evolving; the written word is giving way to visual vocabulary.
Interpersonal communications are shifting from being text-based to image-based, and you don't have to look far for the evidence: We spell using the Emoji alphabet; we comment with photographs; we engage through pictures.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumer adoption of visual social networks is growing and that social chatter is becoming increasingly pictorial. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online consumers across generations are interacting with content on Instagram and Pinterest more than before:
As consumers become increasingly versed in the language of visual content, curated images become a powerful means of expressing opinions, conveying emotion, and recounting experiences. As a result, pure text analytics no longer suffice to interpret social chatter; instead, insights professionals have an opportunity to mine the wealth of media-rich data that increasingly pervades social networking sites.
Ever since Facebook CFO David Ebersman admitted last October that young teens were visiting the site slightly less frequently, most have accepted as fact that young people are fleeing Facebook en masse. Ivy League researchers have forecast that the service will be all but dead by 2017; President Obama recently claimed that young people “don’t use Facebook anymore”; and when comScore recently reported that fewer college students were using Facebook, media outlets ran stories on the “social platforms college kids now prefer.”
But if you take a closer look at the data it tells a very different story. Sure, many data sources show that Facebook’s usage among young people has declined slightly — but the drops are small, and the huge majority of this audience still uses the site. For instance, that comScore report only found a three-percentage-point drop in college-aged adults’ Facebook usage and reported that 89% of this audience still used Facebook — far more than used any other social site.
To investigate teens’ social behaviors further, we recently asked 4,517 US online youth (aged 12 to 17) not just whether they use social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr — but if they use those sites “about once a day,” “at least a few times each day,” or even if they were on any of the sites “all the time.”
“How can you reinvent your brand to appeal to younger consumers?” This is the million-dollar question, and the contestant sitting in the hot seat is you. But don’t panic; why not use a lifeline? Ask the audience! That was the approach car manufacturer Buick recently took when designing the 2013 Encore luxury model.
Striving to portray a more fun, contemporary side of the established auto brand and win loyalty among younger consumers, Buick promoted its "Pinterest to Dashboard" contest by calling on participants to create Pinterest boards that spoke to personal styles and passions. The Buick design team selected a winning collection to become the inspiration for the interior and exterior designs of the automobile. While this new look is not yet available on the market, Buick managed to connect with younger consumers in an exciting and relevant way. Through Pinterest, the company engaged 10 extremely influential bloggers (the winner of the competition has nearly 4 million Pinterest followers), dozens of lifestyle editors from media and publication companies, and millions of Pinterest users whose online responses indicated the winning pinboard.
Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data suggests that Buick certainly chose the right platform to reach its desired market. Launched only three years ago, Pinterest is currently the third-largest social media platform in the US behind Facebook and Twitter. Of those 5.5 million US online adults who use Pinterest to research products for purchase, 65% are younger than 35 and 33% have an average household income of more than $100,000.