The site’s meteoric recent growth has marketing experts buzzing and companies of all sizes leaping in. Pinterest received more than 103 million total visits in February, according to Experian Hitwise. As of last week, according to Hitwise, it was the third most popular social networking site behind Facebook and Twitter in the U.S., with users spending an average of 16 minutes per visit on the site.
Marc Andreessen, a co-founder of early Web browser Netscape whose venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, has invested in Pinterest, told CNBC's Squawk Box, "It’s on fire, it's doing phenomenonally well. It’s one of these companies with about 20 people building a service that now tens of millions of people are using."
Pinterest allows members to comment on each other’s picks and follow their friends’ pinboards. Users might assemble ideas for their home renovation plans on one board, and showcase their favorite books or charities on others. They can “re-pin’’ pictures they like from other people’s boards. The result is an electronic word-of-mouth network that can lead to snowballing attention for a workout regimen, barbecue techniques, or a manufacturer’s product.
Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker based in Norwich N.Y,, found that bloggers were using Pinterest to feature dishes using its product, said digital communications manager Emily Schildt. So Chobani jumped in, creating its own pinboards for “Chobaniacs’’ to enhance its engagement with customers. “Pinterest is huge in terms of referral traffic,’’ Schildt said.
Pinterest offers its own hints for brands that want some bounce from the site: Repinning the picks of other users is one of the best ways to build a network of followers, it suggests on its site. Also, Pinterest suggests businesses spotlight "aspects of your brand that may not come to mind at first,'' such as work with charitable foundations. And make use of the interplay between Pinterest and other social media sites, the Palo Alto company advises.
Pinterest cites the Travel Channel's tactic: It asked its Facebook users what pinboards it should create. Bergdorf Goodman's strategy also earned a mention from Pinterest. The department store asked Facebook followers to complete the sentence "In the morning I never forget..." and then displayed the responses on a company pinboard.''
For Christensen’s small business, Integrity Studio, Pinterest has become an electronic display window that leads directly to sales. It funnels customers to his online shop on another site, Etsy.com, where they can buy his photographs. Etsy, a popular vendors’ marketplace for craftworkers and visual artists, recently added Pinterest’s “Pin It’’ button next to each item on sale. Customers press the button to add an item to their pinboards. Even if they don’t buy it, the artist benefits from greater exposure on Pinterest.
Small retailers engaged in e-commerce should explore Pinterest — especially if their products have strong visual appeal, said Jason Hennessey, CEO of the digital marketing agency Everspark Interactive of Atlanta, Ga.