Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pinterest: To be or not to be?

Pinterest is the latest Social Media site to gain astounding attention despite still being in the beta stage of development (i.e. Users can only sign-up and gain access to the site once they have received an invitation from an existing user.) Its growth is reportedly growing faster than any other website has done with the site having recently reached over 2 million members, each connected through either Facebook or Twitter.

Launched in 2012, the brand describes itself as an online pinboard, where users can pin items of interest, such as photos and links into boards which are organised by topic. This simple content-sharing site is visual rather than text based, and though most social media sites more-often-than-not find initial users dominated by tech enthusiasts, Pinterest’s upsurge in popularity is notably from a predominantly female and less digi-savvy clientele.

Their growth has inspired over 100 brands to begin pinning and with Pinterest increasingly driving referral traffic, it’s no wonder that many brands are sitting up and taking note. Indeed in January, Pinterest generated more referral traffic than social media giants LinkedIn, Google+ and Reddit. But should brands be investing their time in the latest social media site on the block or is it just another passing fad with a short life-span?

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently shown his personal interest by signing up via his Facebook account and though little activity is shown on his profile, Zuckerberg will no doubt be keeping a keen eye on the increasingly popular site. Though many big brands are holding back, the companies that are particularly seeing the benefit of Pinterest are generally retailers. This pinboard gives them the opportunity to have their product shown all over the internet at no cost to them and in a non-ad form.

Yet despite the initial surge of popularity and positive attention, recent controversy surrounding the site has resulted in many brands opting to avoid taking advantage of this new wave of referral traffic.
A major factor in this reluctance is the debate over who owns the images. Though “Pinterest etiquette” urges users to credit sources, many brands have rallied against the idea of their content being distributed straight from their website. As a result, Pinterest has this week released code for companies that want to block the pinning of content from their sites to personal pinboards. Pinterest’s service agreement also states that the user must have permission to distribute the content they pin, a factor which most registered members are entirely unaware. These copyright issues were overlooked in the beginning, but have come to light upon the website’s huge growth over the past year.

In addition, critics have recently observed and accused Pinterest of secretly embedding code: When a user pins a link to an e-commerce site which Pinterest has a business relationship with, Pinterest will financially benefits when someone purchases an item that has been pinned. Though many understand Pinterest’s need to somehow monetize their content, others see it as a dishonest move since the brand doesn’t declare this from the offset.

Despite the backlash, Pinterest’s astounding growth and opportunity for many brands is undeniable. The site saw almost 11million visitors in one week in December and was recently announced the 109th most popular site on the internet. Though some brands hold back, others are embedding a “PinIt” button directly onto their website; a virtual nod for people to distribute their content. And despite copyright issues, Pinterest still drives traffic back to the original source even if the pins are not credited by the user.

Pinterest’s approach is a powerful way of organising large amounts of information and could be a wonderful tool for reaching a far greater audience for some brands than ever thought imaginable. However, with opinion on the social media site fluxing on a daily basis, time will tell if the site will still hold our interest by this time next year.

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