Why you shouldn't call Pinterest a social media platform

"We say we're a visual discovery tool," said Zoë Pearson, marketing manager at Pinterest at a Social Media Week London speaker session.

Zoë Pearson: Pinterest's marketing manager
Zoë Pearson: Pinterest's marketing manager

Zoe Pearson (@Convo_Pieces) said: "We jokingly say we aren't a social network because of the nature of pinning."

To users (pinners, the company calls them), Pinterest is their "happy bubble", a space where they are thinking about themselves rather than communicating socially with others.

Pearson said: "The pinner journey is linear. Pinners go from one end to the other like magazines, scanning through content then hone in on something, narrowing it down as a pinner.

"Pinterest helps individuals and their own needs."

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Exploring the "anti-social" nature of Pinterest, Pearson highlighted a number of reasons why brands and digital marketers should not treat it as a social network and the ways it should be used to connect consumers with content.

It’s personal

Pearson explained: "It’s not a broadcast medium, you have to get into the pinner’s mindset, what they’re looking to achieve and do."

Brands, she said, should mimic pinner behaviour, as well as catering to their individual needs. For example, instead of creating a board on the broad subject of food, go deeper and create one dedicated to burgers or vegan meals. "It has to be something that suits their lifestyle."

It’s going back to the future

Pearson said Pinterest is different from other social networks because it’s forward thinking.

She explained: "With platforms like Instagram and Twitter, it’s all about real time engagement and what’s happening now.

"Pinterest is all about the future and planning for upcoming events. Consumers are thinking about what they’re going to eat for dinner and where they’re going on holiday.

"Halloween trended two months ago. If you have content for Christmas, you need to put it up early to get into the content cycle."

It’s there for major life decisions

"Think seasonal moments or evergreen ideas," said Pearson. "The pieces of content on Pinterest that are most successful are two months to two years old. Because they are used in a personal way, your content will become relevant to consumers when it’s the right time for them."

A brand’s previous year’s Christmas content can still be relevant to today’s pinner because it can be used as a source of inspiration, no matter when it was created, said Pearson. The more times content has been pinned by users, the more searchable it is, helping it to maintain and build on its popularity.

It's welcome

Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter are traditionally used to connect users with friends, family and other individuals. But their main function isn’t to provide an information resource for consumers.

Pinterest’s content is welcome and essential for brands to use, continued Pearson, because pinners are happy sharing the platform’s content because it’s interesting to them.

It’s not just about being a traffic driver

Pearson cited Penguin Books UK as a brand using Pinterest for its brand values, not for driving traffic.

She said: "Penguin Books wanted to promote a 'bookish life' to its audience, promoting specific book and life themes within its content.

"For International Women’s Day it created a board specifically about heroines, however, after the event passed Penguin changed the title of the board so it didn’t restrict it to one time of the year.

"If you want content to be specific to a date or occasion, in the run up to it change the board title. For the rest of the year, call your board something different and relevant.

"Something to bear in mind – when you change the name of your board the URL address will change as well."