Pinterest & Marketing: Good or Bad? The Survey Results Are In!


Pinterest Marketing

Pinterest is Hot

Pinterest is the current darling of social media. It landed in the top 10 social media properties in November according to Experian Hitwise with 31 million total visits, notably beating out Google+. It grew an amazing 4,000 percent in six months as of December 2011 (Hitwise, Cnet).

And It Seems To Be Getting Hotter

The excitement only seems to be growing and you can’t turn around without bumping into another new Pinterest article. Typical articles feature information about how certain companies or specific industries are having business success marketing on Pinterest, how the site drives amazing amounts of referral traffic back to the originating sites, how to market on Pinterest, and most recently, how copyrights are getting violated or how Pinterest is getting affiliate commissions from user-posted content using a service called Skimlinks.

Is The Hype Harmful?

I’ve been building up a repository of articles on Pinterest by pinning articles onto a Pinterest Tips & Articles board. That’s been keeping me and the other curators of the board very busy. But while I watch the amazing volume of virtual ink being spilled on the topic of Pinterest, one nagging thought that’s been bothering me is whether this Pinterest frenzy will trigger a massive surge of marketing activity, spam and commercialism onto the site that fundamentally changes the experience, reduces the usefulness and ruins the “fun” of the site. The original users were mostly women from places like Utah, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Alabama who shared on topics like home decor, fashion, design, crafts and photography. Will the Pinterest frenzy kill the site for casual, non-business users like them?

The Survey Is In

Well, to answer that question I pulled together a short survey. Here are the results.

1) Are you a Pinterest user?

Most of the 55 respondents are either heavy or light Pinterest users. We have a fairly knowledgeable crowd here.

2) If you’re on Pinterest, do you use it for fun, for business or both?

Most of the respondents (50%) are using Pinterest for a mix of fun and work. The next biggest category (30%) includes people just focused on using the site for fun.

3) Is Pinterest the next big Social Network, joining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ as one of the top sites?

The majority of people feel that Pinterest will be one of the top social media sites in the future. A large portion feel that it will be on the level of a Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. An almost equally sizable group thinks it will be big but one notch below the biggies.

4) Is there a risk that Marketers will kill the fun of Pinterest?

On the major question – whether the marketers would ruin the experience and the “fun” – the results were cautionary. A majority of respondents (54%) feel there is either some risk (“maybe”) or definite risk of the marketing frenzy upsetting the apple cart and negatively impacting the Pinterest experience.

On the flip side, 29% of people think more marketing will help Pinterest thrive and grow. What’s your opinion?

pinterest marketing survey

Tread Lightly

So what do the results tell us? Here’s my take.

People love Pinterest. They love pictures, they love collecting things, and they love the semi-random process of discovery that Pinterest enables. As marketers increasingly use the site to sell, to distribute content, and to “build platform”, there is a valid risk that all of the commercial and marketing activity will degrade the user experience for the casual users and impact the popularity of the system.

Conclusion: As marketers, we need to learn to tread lightly so as not to ruin what makes Pinterest so unique and popular.

What’s your take on the results? Are you using Pinterest to market your business?

Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.


  1. I like the term Social Media Darling.

    Despite Pinterest is all over the place and there is no doubt about the darling part, I would like to admit that so far I am keeping my this year’s resolution that no more new stuff to try until I get the full use of current ones.

    Am I missing something here, I think time will decide.

    But I strongly believe that you should not join any new social media network just because everybody is doing it instead you should join if that fits within your big plan.

    If you are already busy and could not get the full benefits of existing social media giants, why try new one?
    Rana Shahbaz recently posted..Kristi Hines Shared Her Best Formula to Build High PR BacklinksMy Profile

    1. Rana. Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you like “social media darling”. I think it’s fitting!

      I’m with you 90% on the not starting anything new but here’s how I do it (at this point). I don’t spend time on anything new that’s not fairly well established or that’s on the way out. I still like to at least experiment on the networks that have staying power so I can stay ahead of the curve for my clients. I also like to at least “land grab” a small plot of land on the network so I have a base to build from later. That’s at least my strategy on Google+ and Pinterest.

    1. Yes Jason. I agree. There was recently an article exploring the Pinterest terms of service where basically all of the legal burden gets placed on the “pinners” and not on Pinterest. It also explored fair use and pointed out the differences between low res thumbnails and full resolution pinterest pics. We’ll see where this one goes!

    2. I’ve just had my first photograph stolen and ‘pinned’ (illegally copied) onto Pinterest. Pinterest, whatever it says, actively encourages this type of theft. That’s how it functions. Not only does it deprive me of an income, it is grossly unfair on legitimate customers who do license my images for use, if other people simply steal them. Should I regard it as useful marketing, however? Someone explain why?

  2. This is definitely a hot topic in my niche of creative business because creative businesses are very visual & product oriented types of businesses. A lot of creative business owners are using Pinterest to promote their products & to engage with those that follow their businesses which brings good results as well as not so good results. It gets their products in front of a large audience, but it also sets them up for copyright issues & product copying.

    At this point I only use Pinterest for personal use. I don’t really have a problem with using Pinterest to promote my products in my creative business, but I’m not sure about using it to promote my coaching business blog posts or digital products. I guess I’m one of those people that thinks that using Pinterest to market business building types of things will kill the fun of it & I think that’s sort of getting away from Pintersts original purpose. I think that will definitely push a lot of people away from it & I think that we as business coaches or blogging coaches should stick to FB, Twitter, & Google +. Now I could definitely be wrong, but at this point in time those are my thoughts… just looking at it from my perspective.

    To me, Facebook & Google + are a great way to engage with followers & build relationships. Twitter is fantastic for networking & sharing resources. Same goes for LinkedIn. Pinterest just seems like a fun place to be personal & let your followers get to see that side of you.
    Meagan recently posted..5 Tweets You Shouldn’t ShareMy Profile

    1. Meagan. I hear you and I think your viewpoint makes a lot of sense. I sense that some portion of the pinterest crowd feels the same way. I also see marketers (I have to include myself) as becoming more and more savvy about gaming new systems and finding the opportunities to exploit them quickly. I’m not personally focused in that direction in any major way but I know a lot of other people are. Will this hurt the environment and possibly cause “real” users to exit? Only time will tell but it is a risk. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Tom,

    Very interesting results!

    I’m not on Pinterest, but only the future will show if I join. I’m still trying to figure out in which ways I should be using it. Heck, I even have the same question when it comes to Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.

    I have to admit I’m bit confused on what platform to focus on and now that we have Pinterest, it is making things even more complex.

    But yeah, I definitely want to learn more about this new kid on the block and then make the decision.

    Timo Kiander recently posted..Be Prepared for the Unexpected Time BlocksMy Profile

    1. Timo,

      I was apprehensive about starting until I really started seeing the hype coming on so strongly so I decided to check it out. Luckily, like Twitter, it’s fairly easy to set up and use so the initial time investment isn’t that great. It’s not essential but worth giving it a shot if you’re curious.

  4. Hey Tom,

    Yes Pinterest can become big but it depends on what other features will be introduced in the future, currently as it stands i doubt it will get as big as Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn or Google. It is getting a lot of attention at the moment because the internet is abuzz with stories about Pinterest so people are going there to find out what all the fuss is about. But as Rana points out you shouldn’t sign up to it just because everyone else is. Some of my clients have heard of Pinterest and asked me to get their brand onto it, but i struggle to find any uses for it within some industries.
    Also as Jason mentioned previously there are also the problems with copyright laws and how they will work their way around that, so only time will tell.
    It does have a lot of potential and it certainly will be a site to watch in 2012.


    1. Martin,

      I hear you. I’m also of the mind that it won’t be as big as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m on the bubble about Google Plus only because I question if it’s living up to the expectations some people had for it. Yes, copyright lawsuits could hobble it or scare users. It will definitely be a story to follow for the rest of the year.

  5. Great stuff Tom. (Love all the graphs)

    My take on your poll? Way too early to really tell where Pinterest will go. You have to remember, Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies started FaceBook for a different purpose and reason then it’s use today. It has definitely morphed into something different than the original version.

    Pinterest will also go through puberty. 7 years from now? It won’t be the same as it is today.

    Of course, you have to look at the business model behind Pinterest too. At some point they have to figure out how to make money. Facebook makes money. Google makes boatloads of bucks. Twitter? Um, no.

    At the end of the day, this is what truly matters. Otherwise, survival is questionable for the long haul…

    Thanks Tom. Great update… :-) Eric
    Eric T. Wagner recently posted..7 Lessons From An Out-of-Whack EntrepreneurMy Profile

    1. I agree, Eric. Also, 55 is too small a sample to get valid results. I don’t understand the hype, actually. I think everyone is just anxious to miss an opportunity. Although I do agree Pinterest has a very appealing layout and sharing is easy.

      As a (part time) artist I realize the only solution to widespread sharing of images is watermarking (yikes).
      kitty kilian recently posted..I never ever want to hear the word tribe againMy Profile

    2. Thank you Eric. I love the analogy of Pinterest needing to go through Puberty. That makes a lot of sense.

      As for business model I definitely agree with you. With it’s current design, there’s very little real estate for much advertising, I’m not sure how profitable skimlinks is for them, and I’m not sure if there’s a premium service potential here (at least not now).

      Yes, this story is interesting both in the short term (copyright, sustained buzz or not) and in the long term (business model, growth, spammer risk). I appreciate your insights!

    1. Well at least I only asked for a prediction on one of those! I hear you. This could go so many ways – who really knows! Fun to watch though (or annoying for some). Thanks for the comment!

  6. I second Eric’s comment that it’s a bit too early to tell where it’ll go. In terms of crazy marketers, I would suspect that users will begin to develop that hunch for knowing when a user and/or their boards are there only for 24/7 promotion. Just as people are wary of the dude who’s always trying to sell on Twitter, I think the over zealous marketers will get singled out pretty quickly.

    1. Yes Annika. I teach classes on social media and that always reminds me of how attuned I am to a spammer, a phishing Tweet or an obnoxious marketer. But the general public isn’t as attuned which is why they get burned (and I’ve seen some fairly well-known marketers fall prey to the “Hey, I saw you in this video” password hijack tweet. I wonder if these kind of people will infiltrate Pinterest and start to cause problems. As you say, it’s too early to tell.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I agree with you Tom that as marketers, we need to learn to tread lightly so as not to ruin what makes Pinterest so unique and popular.
    The other point made by Eric that it is too early to tell is also valid. Facebook was started for a way different by Mark Zuckerburg.
    It is interesting to me that they began with a strategy for monetization (by harvesting Affiliate links) and have been slammed for that practice. So is marketing wrong? It is a concept that many people have a problem with.
    Lauren McMullen recently posted..Comment on 3 Important Principles About How to Get Your Content Shared Across the Internet by Lauren McMullenMy Profile

    1. Lauren, yes it is interesting isn’t it? I think people were surprised that their own affiliate links were “over-ridden” in a sense by skimlinks collecting credit for clicks and purchases. I guess some people reacted to this and called it a “secret” and also didn’t like the fact that they lost out on the commissions they were hoping for. We’ll see what happens because that may not help them too much in the profit department anyway.

      I’m glad you agree with the tread lightly approach too. I always get uneasy when I see some marketers steamrolling their way around. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I haven’t started with Pinterest just yet and I’m not sure if I even will. Mainly because my target audience is Finnish and no one around here knows Pinterest… at least not yet.

    I think as a marketer you need to use social media platforms on their individual terms. Just like when Twitter came out marketers tried to promote their products by just spamming their tweets again and again. But gradually that’s changing and (at least smart) marketers make their tweets useful to their followers. They understand they’ll lose their influence if they provide no real value.

    The same thing is likely to happen in Pinterest. At the moment many of the early adopters are using it for simple no-value marketing. But as they notice valuable content to work better, the focus will shift. Unfortunately it’s possible the Pinterest experience is ruined by then… Well have to wait and see. In the mean time you can use it effectively if you skip the spammy part and use it to share value.

    Just my thoughts though :)
    Peter Sandeen recently posted..Leap Day Time Management LessonsMy Profile

  9. I like Pinterest.

    But I use it for a very specific purpose. It is my repository for social media articles each week… My recap as you will.

    I call in the Content Creation Curation – A visual representation of the week that was in Social Media… Here is the link to this week:

    Then I can go back and easily find the article that I enjoy. I have found more and more Marketers on there and that is Troublesome but to be expected.

    Marketers Always Kill the Fun! haha…

    Great article here Tom good work I enjoyed and it’s on this week’s C^3.

    Ryan H.
    Ryan Hanley recently posted..Why I Publish My Best Content in a NewsletterMy Profile

  10. Thanks Tom! I enjoyed seeing what folks are saying about Pinterest (nice graphs!). I recently discovered some folks in visual arts groups who are real Pinterest haters! The copyright issue is alarming. The fact that users can embed any pinned image on their own website – what were they thinking?

    Like you, I’m sort of dabbling for now. I have lots of ideas to make cool boards, but am limiting my time on Pinterest. Time is a precious resource!
    Louise Myers recently posted..Facebook Fan Page Changes Happen OvernightMy Profile

    1. Louise. I agree. Time is precious. It’s fun to dabble but if it becomes time-consuming that’s an issue. We’ll see where the copyright issue goes – apparently Facebook has similar issues. Thanks for the comment!

  11. Pinterst is the most happening thing currently in the social network market and is also attracting lot of new people. I haven’t started with Pinterest just yet and I’m not sure if I even will.

  12. I think the answer to the question whether marketers will ruin Pinterest is highly dependent on how proactive the site itself is on keeping a tight lid on it.

    If everyone who markets on Pinterest (which I do), remembers that it is a SOCIAL site (aka social media darling:) – & keeps their self-promotion to a manageable minimum, then I think it would be fine; with or without Pinterest interfering.

    But what is ‘manageable’? Most circles agree that 10% self & 90% everything else is a good mix. Unfortunately you are bound to get those people who are out for a quick buck, or otherwise are just ignorant about marketing in general, that will go way overboard. Which brings us full circle – to it depending on Pinterest’s grasp on it!

    Ah…only time will tell. Nice graphs, BTW!
    Mel recently posted..Auto Pinterest Marketer Software UpdateMy Profile

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