Pinterest may have outstanding potential to create links with brands, but marketing departments are finding it difficult to get the best out of the photo-sharing site. Responsibility for this muted success lies on both sides.

Pinterest Struggling to Impress Marketers

Pinterest enjoys a wide audience in the United States. Some 21% of all US Internet users visit Pinterest at least once a month, i.e. about the same number as use Twitter and more than use Instagram or Google+. In addition, users demonstrate considerable desire to engage with brands, driving large volumes of online traffic to brand websites. And that’s not all. “Pinterest’s data has the potential to drive more sales than Facebook’s data,” argues Nate Elliott, Vice President and Principal Analyst Serving Marketing Leadership Professionals at Forrester Research. He points out that Facebook users mostly share information about their tastes and preferences for brands based on their past experience with them. In contrast, Pinterest users not only reveal their historical affinities, they also indicate their purchasing intent. So the kind of information shared on Pinterest is more like the data thrown up by search engines such as Google, providing exactly the sort of detail that marketing professionals find extremely valuable. 

Brands still unconvinced about Pinterest

However many marketers do not yet seem to grasp how Pinterest can help to increase their sales. Barely half of all top brands maintain branded Pinterest boards and those that do are not managing to collect many followers, underlines Elliott. Currently, brands tend to post very rarely and sometimes rather clumsily, a serious pitfall when using social networks and a definite sign that major firms are failing to understand how to stimulate user engagement on this platform. Coca Cola, for example, has fewer than 5,000 Pinterest followers and has posted just three times in the past seven months. In fact a mere 0.1% of brand followers interact with Pinterest posts. To take another major retail goods provider as an example, each of the last 50 posts by the Louis Vuitton brand were ‘re-pinned’ only 18 times.

However, the apparent lack of understanding on the part of marketing professionals does not entirely explain this failure of engagement. At present Pinterest allows firms to use just a few dozen interest-based targeting criteria for the ‘Promoted Pins’ facility that has been in beta-testing and was fully launched earlier this year, a limitation which seems likely to guarantee a very limited marketing impact.   While the Pinterest platform is well-placed to collect vast quantities of data on its users and their purchasing intent, the social network provider is only making a fraction of that information available to marketers. “Pinterest’s data will have far greater value when marketing heads can use it to target customers via emails, banners and even offline advertising,” stresses Nate Elliott. 

Pinterest ‘an outlier’ in Europe        

Meanwhile over in Europe, general interest in Pinterest is low. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, only 2% of all European Internet users regularly look at Pinterest, compared with the 58% who are on Facebook. It therefore seems doubtful whether European marketing departments will suddenly start to make use of the photo-sharing network.

This marked lag in adoption may not in fact be all that hard to explain. Although Pinterest is a global network, it only came up with an international strategy just over a year ago. Anjali Lai, data specialist at Forrester, also points out that the business is currently facing legal headaches as regards securing the Pinterest trademark in Europe, which has certainly affected growth in its activities and put the brakes on mass adoption on the old continent. However, seeing the enthusiasm which it has aroused in the United States, European marketers should nevertheless keep a close eye on Pinterest, which certainly holds out the prospect of value creation, provided that, going forward, the photo-pinning platform is willing to share more of its user data.


By Pauline Canteneur