What is Pinterest, Anyway?

Once you’ve been in Pinterest for any amount of time, it’s easy to forget that you didn’t always understand it. I heard about the site three or four months before creating an account. The people who told me that Pinterest existed couldn’t explain the benefit to my business.

Yesterday, a potential client asked me again: but what is Pinterest?

Pinterest as search engine

Where Google provides the best answer to any question that has one right answer, Pinterest provides answers to questions have no right answer. We’ve spent 10 years being trained in the art of “best answer” (#1 ranking) and have forgotten about the immense amount of money that rides on questions that don’t have a best answer. For example,

  • Wedding dress
  • Mother’s day gift
  • Camping trip
  • Vegan recipes
  • Sherlock
  • Blue
  • Intentional Community
Mother's Day Gift Idea Boards

Mother’s Day Boards

Pinterest is a horizontal, image-based SERP

Pinterest is a waterfall view of information, loosely aggregated by vague categories and keywords. You get an overview of what the user community thinks a keyword represents by looking at hundreds of images.

Pinterest as a Gift Registry for Your Life

You can think of Pinterest an a bar code scanner for a “life” (aka wedding) registry that comprises the entire internet, instead of any one chain like Bed Bath and Beyond, or Lowe’s Hardware.

Pinterest is a place to keep a bucket list

Pinterest is a place to keep parts of your “Someday Maybe” list, if you practice GTD. “Next time I’m in Chicago.” “Restaurants in Santa Fe.” “Ideas for the Firepit project.”

GTD Boards, perhaps Someday Maybe

GTD Boards, perhaps Someday Maybe

Pinterest as a shared bookmarking system

Pinterest is a bookmarking system for anything you found on the internet that was cool enough to ever want to see again, if it comes in the form of a jpg, tiff, or png file. Imagine bookmarking everything you ever saw that you liked, and being able to find the bookmark because you remember what it looked like.

Now, imagine being able to share all of that. And, imagine being able to see what other people, some of whom have much more expertise, education, and /or taste than you do, think is interesting.

Pinterest is a Wish Book

Pinterest is the shared Sears Wish Book, with electronic color-coded stickies, the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog, and the Robb Report December issue Gift List, all rolled into one.

Pinterest is a Social Network

Pinterest is a social network where the default behavior is sharing & forwarding content by repinning. While pins can be “liked,” it is more common for them to be repinned, and they can be repinned again from that target account. The closest equivalent in other social networks is retweeting.

With FB, the default engagement is a Like or Comment, but neither exposes your content to additional viewers. Similarly, YouTube videos can be watched, commented on, and subscribed to, but they are not forwarded, as a default.

Pinterest is Pictures

Some of my male clients say, “but I’m not visual.” (I never hear this from women.)

Where Google SERPs are the articles in Playboy, Pinterest is the pictures.

Case closed.

Addendum for Internet Marketers

Pinterest is a traffic generation engine for any business that can be represented in a jpg. Lots of businesses have content that can be saved in jpg format.

Example of a text pin.

Example of a text pin. All businesses have content that can be pinned as text.

Pinterest will not make sales, directly, but it can lead people to your website.

If you have products that sell themselves, Pinterest traffic will sometimes buy them. You (or your host ie Etsy) collect the money and manage fulfillment.

Example of a product that may sell instantly, on impulse.

Insta-sale product. (Also spoiler for episode 4 of the PBS Sherlock.)

If your products need additional selling contact / relationship development, you’re in the same position you’re in with traffic from organic and paid search: your site needs to convert.

Where Pinterest differs from paid and organic search is that when visitors find a picture on your landing page that they like, they may pin it to their Pinterest account, even if they don’t engage any further on that first visit. This is like brick-and-mortar people picking up a brochure or a business card from the front desk, only keeping it, and sharing it with all their followers, who can in turn repin in to their accounts, etc. etc. and so forth.

This is a VASTLY tighter link than you will EVER get from someone who looks at your landing page and leaves.