"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
A Pinterest-Data-Analysis-An-Inside-Look" title="RJMetrics Report" target="_blank">report released by RJMetrics yesterday contained some eye-opening stats about Pinterest. Statistics are a funny thing. They tell you what is there, but the interpretation of those numbers is often where things can get tricky.
First, the bare facts according to RJMetrics research.
The overall conclusion that the researchers at RJMetrics reached at the end of this research was:
Pinterest demonstrates some of the strongest user engagement, retention, and virality metrics I have ever seen in an online business. The company has found tremendous success among its core demographic, and the potential reach of its appeal will be tested in the coming months as attention from broader audiences continues to increase.
As the newest thing on the block, Pinterest is attracting attention from everyone out there who has anything to sell. If it has a visual element to it, or can be convoluted to have a visual element, it's aiming for Pinterest. Why? You go where the people are. And Pinterest is where the crowd is gathering fast.
Let's look first at Pinterest's retention and engagement of users. Pinterest has a core audience that is easily defined: female arts-and-crafts and fashion enthusiasts. It is certainly not the only audience. But, go have a look at the site. It doesn't take a statistical analysis to come to that conclusion. It's as simple as strolling through booths in a flea mall. This table is run by an antique dealer. This one is for Coke memorabilia collectors. This one is comic books and records. This one is books. You get the idea. Pinterest is (currently) about arts-and-crafts and clothes.
But, Pinterest is also unique in that they are not (Pinterest Adding Affiliate Links Without Disclosing" target="_blank">apparently) selling something. There are no ads. There are no banners. You can explore around and never feel "sold to" by Pinterest itself. Other than those items categorized as "Gift", which have an apparent price tag on them, you have to go two to three clicks deep on any given "pin" to tell if it is something for sale. And, you very quickly realize that most things on the site are indeed for sale. But, who cares? If all you want to do is collect visuals, ideas, inspiration, you are never in a position to feel a sales pitch. Re-pin away. Even though Pinterest sends Pinterest Referrals Beat YouTube, Google+, & Reddit Combined" target="_blank">tons of traffic to retailers, the jury is still out about how well that traffic is converting to sales.
If Pinterest is specific in its target audience, whether they intend that or not. Twitter is much more universal. Anyone can use it for anything. One of the first questions a new Twitter user has is, "What will I do with this? I already update my status at Facebook." There is something comforting and freeing about a site like Pinterest that is pretty obvious in its intent, easy to use, and has a communal feel to it right off the bat. It gives you something to actively participate in, and permission to grab and collect. You might not "own" the things you pin. But, they are on your board.
Given those characteristics, it is little wonder that Pinterest keeps users coming back again and again. The only surprising thing is that they do it without having a well-functioning mobile app. Pinterest's app has been a thorn in the side of its users for months, even with a recent update.
Let's look next at the fact that 80% of pins are actually re-pins. This one stat tells us a lot about the others. It tells us that there could be comparatively few people bringing fresh material to Pinterest. Or, at least that most people repine more than they pin fresh. Most are churning what is already there. Some of that may have to do with the number of steps it takes to pin something new. There is already a wealth of images on the site that are easy to re-pin. The pinmarklet tool accounts for the vast majority of all new pins. Sites can also install the "Pin It" buttons to encourage pinning of items. But, keep in mind that Pinterest is image-driven. A blog-based site (like this one) has to represent its product (articles) in a visual way to get attention and re-pins. Pictures associated with blog articles are not usually the kinds of images that Pinterest's core audience re-share.
Which leads us to the kinds of sites that Pinterest ends up linking from. Look at the list of domains that rank as top sources in the RJMetrics study:
Etsy (top source, but still only 3%)
Google (likely Images)
These are all image-rich sites, and the images are not after-thoughts in an effort to promote something that is actually textual. Businesses that are already in an image-driven realm (designers, photographers, etc) will find it much easier to use Pinterest than those who have to contort their practices toward an image.
As to activity levels of new users, Pinterest's sheer numbers are drawing lots of dabblers. They want to see what this is all about. There are efforts to stretch the boundaries of what Pinterest can do, who it can sell to. Businesses are emboldened by the fact that more users Pinterest In UK Very Different [Infographic]" target="_blank">in the U.K. are rich men who share material about finance. They see that it is entirely possibly to use this format to engage people about something other than jewelry, fashion, crafts and fingernail art. So, lots of people are testing the waters. But, Pinterest is what it is. It's core user base has been building communities from the beginning and do not have to engage with the new interlopers. They are happily pinning away, doing what they do best and monopolizing Pinterest with their material. Which is the way they want it.
Perhaps the lessons that can be drawn from all this is that Pinterest is a great concept. Pinterest Spawning Look-Alikes, Competitors, Porn" target="_blank">Others are imitating that concept, improving upon it even. Taking it to new places. There will be other pinboard sites that do not focus on arts-and-crafts. It will become a format rather than a site, much the way YouTube led to many other "tube"-style sites. But, Pinterest itself has been claimed by a core group. Unless and until a method to subcategorize Pinterest is effectively landed upon, it will be an arts-and-crafts domain. Sure, they have categories, but there is currently a lot of dissatisfaction with how they are managed (unless you are an arts-and-crafts person). But, that day may coming soon, with Pinterest API Release Promises To Be Big Business" target="_blank">Pinterest's API release. Spin-off sites and tools may well take this thing to the next level. Pinterest could be the "base camp" for lots of other sites, particularly through embedding, much the way YouTube is.
Pinterest is still in its infancy. We have seen other sites and concepts launch and grow. With the benefit of that hindsight, it will be interesting to see what becomes of the concept of pinboards and image-driven sharing. Will this be a place where businesses can dig in and effectively market? Or, will it end up being a backwater of craft ideas with lots of dormant user accounts? Or somewhere different altogether?