Pinterest: Not Just Another Social Media Channel

Pinterest has burst onto the social media scene with an energy not seen since the early Facebook and Twitter years. The blog below will describe what Pinterest is and why it is an important and effective tool for nonprofits.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is an online, visual bulletin board – some might call it a series of mood boards. It’s a shared and collaborative bookmark repository although all of the bookmarks are images. Short descriptive text can accompany each image, but Pinterest’s main focus is on the visuals – in other words, a creative’s dream site!

From a business standpoint, Pinterest is:

  • a source of traffic to your website who might otherwise never have found you
  • a community building tool
  • a fundraising opportunity
  • a way to thank sponsors and/or volunteers

Joining Pinterest

A Pinterest account is currently by invitation only. You can either request an invite or ask a friend/colleague to send you an invite from within their account. New accounts are typically approved within a day or so.

Who is using Pinterest?

The short answer is, as of January 2012, you and 11,716,000 other users! In a short eight months, Pinterest users grew from 418,000 users to almost 12 million—that’s 2,802% growth and they rank as the fastest standalone site in history to cross the $10 million mark.

Pinterest has, and continues, to skew heavily towards female users. According to Experian Hitwise, in December 2011, over 80% of Pinterest users were female.

72% of Pinterest users are between the ages of 18 and 44. The full breakdown is:

0-17: 5%
18-24: 17%
25-34: 30%
35-44: 25%
45-54: 16%
55-64: 5%
65 and older: 2%

Annual household income in another important demographic. 74% of users have an annual household income of between $25,000 and $100,000 per year.

$0-$25k: 5%
$25-$50k: 17%
$50-$75k: 31%
$75-$100k: 26%
$100-$150k: 16%
$150k+: 5%

A telling statistic measures duration of engagement in minutes per month. In March 2012, Facebook was the clear leader with an average of 405 minutes per user per month (65%), withPinterest and Tumblr tied for second place with 89 minutes per user per month (14% each). Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ combined accounted for only 7% when compared to the previously-mentioned channels.

Lastly, in a poll conducted in March 2012, when asked the question, “Do you trust the information and advice you get from…”

Blogs: Yes – 81%
Pinterest: Yes – 81%
Twitter: Yes – 73%
Facebook: Yes – 67%

Pinterest ranked most highly when compared to other popular user-contributed social media sites.

So what does this all mean?

The above statistics are interesting, but what potential value does this bring to your organization?

Studies have shown that women account for 85% of all consumer purchases and represent a $2.4 trillion market. With donations and gifts to charities and nonprofits more often made by women, Pinterest offers a direct channel into an engaged and targeted audience. Pinterest’s ability to engender trust amongst its users makes a user more open to soft marketing than sites with obvious advertising as a revenue model.

Becoming acquainted with Pinterest

Pinterest really only has three types of interaction – viewing pins/boards, creating a pin, creating a board.

After logging in, you will land on the Dashboard. The dashboard is composed of pins from Pinners whom you follow. You can expand your Pinterest viewing by either searching for a specific tag or keywords or by using the short main navigation. Your options are view Everything (with a pulldown menu for predetermined topics), Videos, Popular or Gifts.

Boards are categories, while pins are individual photos or videos assigned to a board.

Board names are user-created and freeform. When creating your own boards, always be descriptive with your language.

Pins can be created in one of three main ways:
em>Add a pin: Adding a pin opens a dialog box and allows the user to upload an image or video from their computer. This is the only kind of pin that does not act like a link once uploaded.

The Add a Pin dialog box also allows a user to enter a website URL and choose a corresponding image. This pin does act as a link to the original website.

The user can also create a new board from within this dialog box.

Pinmarklet: After having added the Pinmarklet (from to one’s browser, a user can pin an image directly from any URL. If multiple images exist on a particular page, the user will be prompted to choose one image to pin. This pinned image (or video) becomes a link back to the referring site.

PinIt button: Many sites now have a PinIt button, usually found with the Facebook Like, Tweet, etc. Both ShareThis and AddThis allow a site administrator to add the PinIt button to their default suite.

Regardless of how you pin an image, choose descriptive keywords in the text area. The search function is less than stellar currently, so choose your words well—you may use hashtags.

If you are pinning an item with an associated cost (product, donation level, registration, etc.), include the cost in the description. Precede the cost with the currency symbol. Pins with this information will automatically be presented with a diagonal gray banner and the price. These pins will appear within the chosen board AND within the Gifts menu in the top navigation.

When a user sees a pin of interest, s/he has three options:

  1. Click on the pin and then click through to the referring site to read the associated page or article
  2. ‘Like’ the pin – clicking Like records the Like on the pin itself and adds the pin to the user’s Likes section (found under the account dropdown menu on the top right)
  3. Repin the pin – clicking Repin also records the activity on the pin and the user will be prompted to assign the pin to a specific board within his/her account. If no such board exists, the user can create a new one on-the-fly.

There is no distinction within Pinterest between a personal pinner or an organization/company. All users can perform the same tasks.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog where I’ll talk about how leading nonprofits are using Pinterest and provide you with myriad strategies for successful pinning over a range of nonprofit sectors.


Sources: Experian Hitwise, Mashable/Comscore,, BlogHer