Why Pinterest is the Ultimate Brand Discovery Engine

Jonathan Gardner

Marketers and consumers are wringing their hands over the scandal and scrutiny social media networks face regarding use of data, bots, fake news and election influence. However, Pinterest has been a powerful friend of both users and brands that has remained largely above the fray. Brands we work with find this sometimes overlooked safe harbor to be the ultimate “brand and product discovery” engine and a huge boon to verticals such as fashion and beauty, travel, CPG and food.

For a while now, concerns about being beholden to an advertising “duopoly” had brands scrambling to find marketing channel alternatives to Facebook and Google. Luckily, customers we work with have discovered a powerful partner in the Pinterest pinning and re-pinning platform. While there is definitely value in advertising on the network, brands get a tremendous advantage when they use it to optimize content seeding and sharing strategies. And while, paid media can be helpful, marketers really don't have to buy advertising to drive awareness on the platform.

What’s more, Pinterest really does stand out among the social media crowd. As Christina Bonnington said recently in Slate, despite some similarities to peers including Instagram and Twitter, Pinterest typically isn’t considered a social network. Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann supported that interpretation, saying at a conference in 2015, “[Pinterest is] a very different thing than a social network.” Pinterest is more of “a catalog that’s hand-picked” for users, he said. While traditional social networks are about uploading content for other users to like and comment on, Pinterest is more self-serving.

As Bonnington said, on Facebook, you write a status update so friends can see it and comment back; on Instagram, you share a photo in the hopes of accumulating likes. On Pinterest, you pin an item to a board because you want to reference it later. While some, like Brit + Co founder Brit Morin, boast more than a half-million followers and pins that are shared hundreds or thousands of times, for the average user the goal isn’t to share content, but rather to just collect what’s useful and inspiring.

Brands find it a perpetual challenge to identify new ways to get people to engage with content and purchase products. Digital marketing has never made it easy to drive awareness and shepherd consumers along the discover-to-buy pathway. However, according to a recent report by Forrester, brands can succeed if they expand their definition of search marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) into places like Pinterest.

While the razzle dazzle of Facebook and Instagram may garner a lot of attention, we’ve seen that brands that don’t optimize their Pinterest strategy leave opportunities for engagement on the table. Thankfully, it’s an easy situation to rectify, especially with the news this past week that the network added a “following” tab. The new feature makes the app an even more compelling way for consumers to browse content, surfacing pins from the people they follow. Not only will this make the app more sticky for users, but it presents fantastic new opportunities for brands and their influencers to make content go viral.

As reported in Slate, while social media apps have abandoned the idea of the chronological feed, Pinterest is bringing it back, blurring the lines between this curated collection app and a social network. Its largely visual content is personalized based on what you search, what you pin, and who you follow -- much like Instagram -- but while the app does allow comments on pins, it doesn’t get wrapped up in things such as the number of likes. It might not be the virtual megaphone of Twitter, or the popularity contests of Facebook or Instagram, but for some, Pinterest could offer the key benefits of a social network with fewer of the drawbacks.

Check out some simple strategies to get more out of your Pinterest marketing

Marketers and consumers are wringing their hands over the scandal and scrutiny social media networks face regarding use of data, bots, fake news and election influence
Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan is vice president of marketing for ShareIQ, based in New York City.