Pinterest: Is it just a passing fad?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

It's a question that's burning through the minds of many marketers — and that's why we asked our readers to vent some steam and weigh in.

We heard what you had to say and the best answers were printed in our May issue in a special Reader Response section. Check out what our readers had to say.

YES

Ben Bloom, digital strategist at Wunderman New York, 6 years of marketing experience

Consumer attention is finite, but so is your marketing department. Pinterest reached scale quickly, and I commend it for its 10 million users, but are those users so invested that the next “thing” won't become just as hot by rising 50% faster? How much of your social media team's time are you willing to bet?

Have you started working on your Spotify strategy? A Quora strategy? A GameMaki strategy? I just heard about GameMaki this morning, but that doesn't mean I should brainstorm a strategy around it. Though maybe I would if I'd only been asked this question on Quora. Life — and marketing — moves pretty fast and so do users. How long before the next big thing races to the top of Mashable?

Remember that client meeting when someone said something like this: “If you don't get your brand on Pinterest ASAP, your competitors will win, and you'll lose!” Did your client ask you for a “Pinterest strategy?” Then you need to run, because Pinterest is a fad.

Ultimately photos as content generates high newsfeed engagement for Facebook pages. Mobile channels accentuate this engagement. Pinterest is only the white foam cap on a big, big wave. Marketers and clients need to worry about the tide, not the foam. After all, if Pinterest is your only reminder that consumers share images, where have you been while the social Web has been scraping images for social sharing? 

However, if Pinterest is only a fad that doesn't mean you can't use it successfully. Be sure to manage your time investment, stay focused on your objectives and embrace your customers by listening to them. A fad can drive results, particularly if it means immediate consumer attention. But it also means they can vacate the premises pretty quickly. Pinterest, or any site, shouldn't be the first page of your social and online marketing strategy, but it also doesn't have to pass without your notice.

If your team can't stay focused, you have bigger problems than Pinterest. Being agile enough to jump on Pinterest, disciplined enough to stick with it and humble enough to jump off again when users inevitably wander is a very tall order. The fear of missing out certainly applies to marketers. Focus is the antidote. Listen to your customer. Serve your customer. Profit.

NO

Noah Mallin, VP of social marketing at Digitas, 10 years of marketing experience

Let's start by putting the fad argument as it relates to Pinterest into perspective: Pinterest, which launched in 2010, is already two years old — older than many of the so-called new hot social networks we see launch so often and then flame out. While rapid growth has only occurred as the invitation process was opened up at the end of 2011, all those newcomers have been welcomed into a platform with an already established value proposition and communal norms. Here's why I think Pinterest will continue to thrive:

First, it's easy to use. Pinterest is Apple-esque in its intuitiveness. Even established platforms like Twitter have a more complicated learning curve.

Second, it fills a need. Virtual scrapbooking seems pretty obvious now, but Pinterest nailed how to do it right with an emphasis on visuals, thematic boards and pinning from the browser with a bookmarklet. The proof is in the amazing amount of time spent on the platform. According to data from comScore, users spend an average 1.5 hours a month on Pinterest, essentially tying them for second place for time spent on social networks via Tumblr. (Facebook takes first place).

Third, there's a legitimate e-commerce angle. According to a PriceGrabber survey, 21% of Pinterest users actually purchased something that they found on a pinboard. Pinterest users aren't just using the site as a way to scrapbook — they are finding commerce opportunities. So is Pinterest: They are able to take a bite of any affiliate program dollars that result from pins being clicked.

Fourth, Pinterest has universal appeal. The typical social network du jour gains traction amongst the geekerati first. Only if used persistently by early adopters will a new social network bleed into the mainstream. Pinterest has grown in an unusual way, with the bulk of its users found in the usually late-adopting heartland, and skewing older. The site also has a higher proportion of women than other social networks. That Pinterest has hit a sweet spot amongst a hard-to-reach part of the populace is testament to the inherent strength of the network.

All of the above leads me to be believe that users and brands have only scratched the surface of what Pinterest will have to offer in the years ahead.

Direct Marketing News Decision

Pinterest's strength comes from its human user base, not from the brands or marketers that are anxious to establish a presence on it. It got its popularity because users were interested in sharing items that had great personal value, not because it was a slick advertising platform. While brands will likely be an important source of revenue, in the future, Pinterest can't and shouldn't oversell itself as a forum for advertisers.

Have your say. Email your topic to news@dmnews.com or leave a comment below.

Want more? Check out our Direct by Design blog for Pinterest-related musings from Jeff Swystun, chief communications officer, DDB Worldwide.

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