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What is Pinterest and Why Does It Matter for Brands?

October 24, 2011 | By | No Comments

For the last month or so, many of my friends have been gushing over photos they’ve seen on Pinterest. What is Pinterest? The site styles itself as an online bulletin board that allows users to share images of things that catch their eye. In essence, it’s a social bookmarking site for images.

When a user finds an image they like on the web, they click on an icon in their browser window. The image is then “pinned” to that user’s collection. Others can view the images and “re-pin” them to their own Pinterest account. For example, a bride might search online for wedding flower ideas. When she sees an image of an idea she likes she “pins” it, allowing her friends to see it and even make comments.

Sounds pretty cool if, like me, you’re looking for Star Wars costume ideas for the little guys. But what does Pinterest mean for brands? Start-up Advisor Semil Shah, in an exchange on Quora, wrote that he sees the site’s popularity as an indicator of a potential shift in purchasing behavior.

Currently, the consumer signals intent by actively searching for what they want, like, Semil writes, “Black Nike running shoes.” But a site like Pinterest makes “discovery” possible. He writes:

“Say that I’m in the market for new shoes, but instead of researching them myself, I elect to browse the boards of some friends on Pinterest who I already know are dedicated runners? I could find a pair of sneakers on a friend’s Pinterest board and have reasonable confidence that this pair would suit me, too. In this manner, I may elect to buy the shoes right after seeing my friend’s board on Pinterest and get to a transaction much quicker. If Pinterest can bypass intent-based search on just even a small fraction of online transactions, it will be a huge success.”

For more info about Pinterest, check out Marshall Kirkpatrick’s wonderfully titled (and informative) article on ReadWriteWeb: If You’ve Never Heard of Pinterest, You’re a Big Dork.

What are your thoughts on Pinterest? Will more brands find the usefulness of social bookmarking for images?

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