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What Pinterest lacks in size compared with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, it makes up with marketing opportunities, according to a new report from eMarketer, “Pinterest for Marketers: What You Need to Know.” The report analyzes Pinterest in four major categories—usage, marketing, advertising and ecommerce—dissecting the 16 things marketers should know as Pinterest starts a major advertising push in 2015.
According to new estimates from eMarketer, the social network’s US user base will reach 47.1 million in 2015, up 11.4% year over year. Though smaller than Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Pinterest has an attribute other social platforms don’t: users who willingly share their product preferences, plans and aspirations.
“[Pinterest’s] growth may be more limited than other services, simply because what you do on Pinterest—find and pin things that you like—isn’t necessarily something that large numbers of people may want to do,” wrote Debra Aho Williamson, principal social media analyst at eMarketer and author of the report. “[But] in a year when marketers are starting to worry about ‘dark social’ platforms where most conversations are private, there’s a polar opposite—Pinterest.”
More than one-quarter of US social network users and 18.1% of internet users will use Pinterest on a monthly basis this year, eMarketer projects. By 2019, the network’s monthly user base will be 59.3 million—nearly 30% of US social network users.
To anyone who has cursory knowledge of what Pinterest is and who uses it, it’s not a surprise that females dominate the social network’s user base. And even though the male user base is increasing, we forecast that by 2019, males will barely crack 20% share of the site’s US audience.
Internationally, however, more men are starting to use Pinterest, and this trend is integral to Pinterest’s growth efforts. The service has a 50-50 gender split in India, South Korea, Japan and Brazil, the company reported, and only 30% of its users are from outside the US right now. Comparatively, 85% of Facebook’s audience, 70% of Instagram’s and 72% of Twitter’s monthly user bases are outside the US, according to those companies. Pinterest’s long runway internationally represents a crucial opportunity but could also present a long-term challenge if it can’t escape a US-centric image.
In most marketers’ minds, Pinterest competes for social marketing and advertising dollars. However, Pinterest is also used heavily as a platform for search: Call it “searcial.” The images, combined with the fact that users can follow various pinners and boards, make the results distinctive and provide unique value among competitive social properties. Given Pinterest’s ambitions in search and discovery, it may end up competing more directly with Google and Amazon.com than Facebook and Twitter.
“Pinterest users are likely to be in a better frame of mind to receive advertising,” Williamson wrote. “At the early stages of advertising on Facebook, users were much less inclined toward ads, and marketers were similarly skeptical.”
However, Pinterest has a lot of work to do to become a major player in digital advertising. Early results from its advertising tests have been generally positive, and its user interface has been a defining and differentiating characteristic for the platform since it exploded onto the scene in late 2011. But even the biggest fans of the platform have concerns about whether it can catch up with other players in the social space. It must work quickly to increase its user base and fill out its ad product suite, which at the moment is fairly limited.
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