Pinterest Is About To Start Acting A Lot More Like Facebook

Pinterest iPad


Pinterest is building out its team as it bids to take on Facebook.

Pinterest has been somewhat of an outsider in the social media world compared to Facebook and Twitter in terms of media coverage and ad dollars. But news that the company has poached Google media partnerships manager Ronald Macdonald into its own newly-created media partnerships role indicates that the sleeping giant might be just about to wake up.

While Facebook and Google dominate all internet traffic, Pinterest has long claimed a significant chunk especially among women and those shopping online. Its traffic is often more lucrative than Facebook or Google's - which is why its move to strengthen ties with non-Pinterest websites might become suddenly significant.

Pinterest is a visual social network where users "pin" images or links to boards. They can also choose to follow and add to boards created by their friends, brands, famous people, and publishers.

Pinterest does not release user numbers, but research house eMarketer places its US audience at about 40.2 million users in 2013.

That might be significantly lower the audience Facebook can offer - which had 204 million monthly active users in the US and Canada at the last count - but it is the demographics and behavior of Pinterest users that make it really interesting for advertisers. (Facebook has 1.3 billion MAUs globally; it's not clear what Pinterest's global audience is

A recent report from BI Intelligence detailed how Pinterest skews particularly toward high-income consumers, especially women.

Among the most popular categories of pins are: food and drink, DIY and crafts, home decoration, holidays, hair and beauty and women's fashion. Pinterest offers brands in these sectors a great platform to show off their latest products and tap into a highly valuable audience.

The Value Of Pinterest

Shareaholic Social Media Traffic Referrals


Shareaholic Q2 2014 social media traffic referrals.

Pinterest is also extremely valuable to publishers. The site has been crowned the "queen" of social referrals (Facebook is "king") by social discovery and sharing platform Shareaholic. Facebook dominates, accounting for nearly a quarter (23.39%) of social referrals to Shareaholic's network of sites, while Pinterest made up 5.72% of social traffic in June this year.

That might seem like a tiny number in comparison, but the stats say the next biggest driver of social traffic to websites was Twitter with just 1.03% referrals to Shareaholic's network. In fact, Shareholic's data shows Pinterest drives more social traffic than Twitter, Reddit, and StumbleUpon combined.

When you consider only e-commerce, Pinterest outperforms even Facebook. It is basically the social network of shopping.

The numbers are all the more surprising when you consider how much energy publishers devote to building out their Twitter followings, yet a newspaper like The Guardian, for example, hasn't updated its "Guardian Front Pages" board since 2012.

Hence the reason why this week Pinterest hired one of Google's media partnerships managers - Ronald Macdonald. He will be charged with growing the company's relationship with publishers to build out a range of co-marketing and co-promotional opportunities, according to gaming industry site Gamer Headlines - all of which Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have been doing for some time.

The move comes before Pinterest's long-expected IPO.

He joins a team of well-revered executives recently installed by the company including former Unilever VP David Rubin, who came on board in July as head of brand, and ad industry veteran Joanne Bradford, Pinterest's global head of partnerships who has been leading its advertising rollout.

Bulking Out Its Advertising Offering

Promoted Pin on Pinterest


An Old Navy Pinterest ad.

Pinterest has been extremely careful about introducing advertising as it tried to avoid upsetting the applecart with its highly-engaged user community. It first announced it was testing its Promoted Pin format, which allows brands to buy keywords to bump up their pins within search results and category feeds, in September. But it took a further nine months for most US users to begin seeing them.

For big brands like Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Kraft (who were among the first to trial Promoted Pins) Pinterest charges on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) model. Those little pins don't come cheap. AdAge reports that $30 to $40 is being asked per thousand impressions and the company requiring upward of $1 million commitments in advance from advertisers.

To put it into context, a Salesforce study released last year priced Facebook's most expensive ad at an average of $6.27 per thousands impressions. Althis was published before the launch of Facebook Premium Video ads, which are naturally more expensive as they are based on Gross Rating Points, like TV advertising.

All this goes to show that Pinterest clearly knows the value of its audience, but it now has a job to make sure everyone else in the ecosystem does too. Facebook and Twitter both made names for themselves in the ad industry with extensive agency roadshows and flashy trade events, it is now the time for Pinterest to start sending out invites of its own.

Those invites might be hitting inboxes soon. Pinterest recently welcomed new investors on board who will looking for immediate signs of growth. In May, the company raised yet another huge funding round, which valued the company at $5 billion and brought its total funding since 2010 to $764 million. Rumors also continue to swirl about a potential IPO, which would no doubt accelerate Pinterest into action even quicker.