TrendWatch: The rise of Pinterest

It’s been called the fastest-growing start-up in history. Not heard of it yet? Find out why seven million people are addicted to the web’s latest craze

Well, the latest craze in the States at least. But the UK won’t be far behind.

Pinterest works like an online pin board. You have a collection of boards with different themes which you curate by adding your own images and re-pinning other people’s images. It’s a virtual art gallery, and you are the director.

Remember when someone suggested that your company needed a Facebook page? Pinterest is next (you heard it here first).

Some of you may recall an article we published a few weeks ago describing the websites that the LondonlovesBusiness.com team can’t live without. My techy web-based addiction was, of course, Pinterest.

Now my addiction has progressed to the next level. I have the app on my phone. I’ve become one of those awful people that check their phone obsessively in the middle of conversations, at dinner, in the cinema - quietly pinning at all times.

And it’s not just me.

Pinterest’s astonishing growth

Pinterest has gone off like a loaded pin-bomb, splattering the screens of over seven million users (wild acceleration, it was only 1.2 million in August).

It is still only in open beta. (This means it hasn’t been officially launched, and is in the late stage of testing.) You still have to request an invite to use it.

According to Alexa, the website is ranked as 26th most popular in the US. The 26th! Bigwig Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway has remarked that Pinterest is growing like Facebook did in 2006. Yes, that’s just before it took over the world.

A TechCrunch blogger wrote that Pinterest’s monthly user number growth is currently about 45 per cent.

Time Magazine jumped on the bandwagon back in August, naming Pinterest in its 50 Best Websites of 2011 list. Not bad for a platform still in the private testing stage.

To cap it all, the platform has secured $37.5m in investment to date.

One Pinterest fan even coined a new term

One Pinterest fan even coined a new term

Pinterest for business

So why is the company so valuable and why on earth will we all be “pinning” within the year? With a $200m valuation, the company has a recognised commercial potential. Mashable has created a great little inforgraphic that breaks this value down.

Pinterest for business sits largely with those who have visually interesting products - retailers, designers, architects, creative agencies and so on. If you can work out a way to share your products and services visually, you’re in.

Create engaging and interesting images for your site and users will naturally share this content - and, with it, your brand: lifestyle shots including your products, great infographics, etc.

Pinners can access images from websites by adding the url of a site into the Pinterest “add a pin” section, and selecting an image from that site. But for those of you wanting to stay ahead of the curve there is a Pinterest wigit available to be added to your site to make “pinning” easier.

But I’ll come out and say it straight away – there is a sex divide. The site is particularly attractive to women: 70 per cent of pinners are ladies. However, the level of engagement of users is huge. Pinners spend an average of 12 minutes on the site and generally go back multiple times a day.

Pinterest has apparently become online shopping channel Etsy’s number one driver of traffic, with consumers pinning items on their wish list to boards, only to be scouted by other consumers searching for similar things.

Although Pinterest is not a platform where shameless self-promotion is accepted, done carefully, there is every chance that you can use it as a promotional tool. US-based jewellers Samuel Gordon, for example, recently ran a competition on Pinterest inviting pinners to visit its website, to pin pictures of its jewellery and potentially win some pearls.

Once your images have been pinned, as long as they are visually interesting there is no telling how much they will be repinned. Objects of desire will be passed around like precious gems and can lead directly to your site.

As mentioned above, Pinterest is still in testing phase and by no means perfect. A very interesting blog post on TechCrunch pointed to seven reasons why Pinterest isn’t ready for tech brands.

It may not be the perfect commercial tool just yet, but you don’t want to be left behind the pin revolution. Pinterest is definitely doing something right. Rumour has it Google is even sniffing around for an acquisition. Ginterest? Let’s hope not.

But for the time being, happy pinning.

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