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It seems that in no time at all the online pin board Pinterest has exploded into the online consciousness. According to Mashable, “Pinterest accounted for 3.6% of referral traffic, while Twitter just barely edged ahead of the newcomer, accounting for 3.61% of referral traffic.” For those of you who don’t already know, Pinterest is a by-invitation-only, virtual pin board that allows users to organize and share items of interest across the web. Or, as better put on their site “Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.”

For any graphic designer who has filled a corkboard with inspirational bits of ephemera, created a mood board or visual journal the immediate usefulness of Pinterest to users is apparent, finally, a way to create and share theme- or project-specific board and organize them all in one place. But Pinterest takes it a step further with added social features that allow the user to re-pin images from another Pinterest board, contribute to each others boards as well as being able to mentioning and follow fellow Pinterest users. Once these features come into play the application potential for say wedding planning, redecorating, fan pages, etc. becomes clear.

Former Pinterest designer Sahil Lavingia summed it up nicely for TechCrunch when he called Pinterest an “expression engine” that allows people to express their creativity. For brands and advertisers Pinterest can potentially provide valuable consumer insights that might explain the reported 400% increase in traffic since September 2011 reported by Mgnfy.

There’s also something to be said for the site’s ease-of-use with clear messaging and FAQs. The requirement that users connect through Facebook or Twitter reinforces the social aspect and leverages users existing online communities. Once signed up, the user is first shown a screen of image categories to choose from, Pinterest then suggests people to follow and automatically follows your existing friends who are already Pinterest users. Lastly, you’re taken to a screen with existing board themes ready to be filled. Add the Pinterest “Pin It” bookmarklet to your browser and voila, in under a few minutes you are ready to start pinning.

Although, currently the majority of Pinterest users are women 25-44 years old I suspect we will see that change as it continues to catch on and brands begin to better understand how to integrate it into their overall advertising and marketing strategy. In fact, as of this writing Hitwise reports that Pinterest in now among the top 5 most visited social networks and total US visits have increase 65% in January 2012 versus December 2011. Having just created my own account I’m off to explore it for myself.

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