Pinterest pumps up marketing strategy

social network site 'starting to grow up'

Los Angeles TimesNovember 29, 2012 

SAN FRANCISCO — Pinterest is the one looking to get pinned this holiday season.

The popular social networking site that lets you collect and share images from around the Web by pinning them to virtual boards is looking to broaden its appeal with consumers and brands with a major marketing push.

Pinterest this month launched "30 Days of Pinspiration," and holiday-themed boards filled with an assortment of tips from an eclectic mix of celebrities, businesses and others.

Pinterest recently began offering accounts for businesses and free tools to help them woo Pinterest users. Pinterest also said it plans to offer more business services including business analytics.

Pinterest won't say what kind of business model it plans to roll out or even if it makes money. But the San Francisco startup is clearly stepping up its efforts to cash in on its explosive popularity, Altimeter Group analyst Susan Etlinger said.

"Pinterest is starting to grow up, and it's starting to get serious about appealing to retailers," she said.

Founded in 2009, Pinterest has quickly become one of the Web's largest social networks and one of the fastest growing. Research firm ComScore says Pinterest had nearly 27 million unique visitors last month, up from 3.3 million in October 2011.

Yet, like Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest has taken a slow, cautious approach to formulating its business strategy, in part to avoid the misfires of other social networks, analysts say. Pinterest says it's intent on finding a business model that makes the experience better for users.

"This is definitely a journey for us. We are having a lot of conversations with different businesses to find out what they like about Pinterest and find out how we can work together most effectively," said Pinterest's head of operations, Don Faul.

Major brands and mom-and-pop shops are experimenting with Pinterest because so many of its users — mostly women — are in their target audience. These women spend hours on Pinterest curating collections of photographs of do-it-yourself Thanksgiving centerpieces and Christmas decorations, engagement rings, cozy fall sweaters and midcentury modern furniture and accents.

About a third of all brands are active on the service, according to a report on social media from Econsultancy and Adobe.

Many businesses are still waiting to see if Pinterest can gain a broader audience or if it will lose its footing as one of the Web's most popular pastimes, Etlinger said.

"Retailers and other organizations using social media to generate revenue have to think about the behavior of consumers on these sites and understand it deeply before jumping to conclusions about which site is most effective for them ... long term," she said.

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