Digital Thought Starter: How Pinterest Could Improve its Marketability

It is no secret that while Pinterest has become an extremely popular social network, it has lagged behind in usability for users and profitability for investors and businesses. The problem ultimately stems from its overly simplistic homepage design, missing out on key opportunities for users to discover what their friends are doing (in other words, what makes most social networks) and for businesses to promote their pins. However, with just a few adjustments, Pinterest could turn things around.

How Pinterest Could Become a Powerful Social Network

Simple changes could make Pinterest effective for users, businesses, and investors.

Simple changes could make Pinterest effective for users, businesses, and investors.

1. Suggested Users to Follow

Currently, Pinterest uses this section to suggest “Friends to Follow” based on the user’s friends on other social networks linked to their Pinterest account. Pinterest could update this section to include other suggested users to follow, such as well-known Pinners and businesses. This would provide exposure to Pinners the user may not otherwise notice or stumble upon. It also adds additional value, as often times friends on other social networks don’t pin relevant content to the user (for example, many men aren’t interested in following their women social network friends- all too many wedding photos!)

In theory, this section would be similar to Twitter’s Promoted Accounts product.

2. Network Updates

One thing Pinterest lacks for users is a robust notification center. Users are currently notified in the upper right hand corner when a user follows their boards or  repins, comments on, or likes a pin. However, there is one issue that sets Pinterest apart from other social networks. Given that Pinterest is completely focused on images, the amount of information a user can digest or even see on their homepage is minimal. This means users are missing out on potentially desirable pins their friends are posting, creating decreased social efficiencies and a somewhat unorganized and frustrating homepage.

To ease the pain, Pinterest should create a notification center summarizing pertinent activity, announcing things like “Bob pinned three new photos to the board ‘Places I’d like to Visit'” or “Mary created a new board called ‘Baby Things'”. Until Pinterest develops a good algorithm that displays the most relevant results in this notification center,  users could select a certain number of Pinners they claim are their “favorites”. This would add value for all users, displaying otherwise unknown status updates and increasing awareness of a user’s activity.

3. Highlighted Pinterest News

Pinterest often makes special announcements or board releases that are unknown to most users. For example, in the past Pinterest has created holiday boards displaying relevant products offered by various businesses. Since these boards have not been heavily promoted, many users are in the dark and brands don’t get the exposure they’re hoping for. Creating a special section on the header of the site would help increase awareness of these boards. In return, participating brands would get a better return on investment.

4. Promoted Pins

Finally, Pinterest needs to offer promoted pins. Similar to all social networks, Pinterest needs to keep its marketing offerings more social and relevant to users. Creating ads in the format of promoted pins would keep the pins’ social context and gain more favorability for users who are now accustomed to an ad-free social platform.

As far as placement, promoted pins could be scattered throughout a user’s homepage to decrease ad blindness and increase user engagement. The ads could feature words at the bottom of the pin such as “promoted” or “sponsored”. Otherwise, maintaining the appearance of typical pins will be essential to see the highest possible return on these ads.

The Importance of Targeting

To ensure relevancy of promoted offerings by Pinterest, the social network needs to begin developing targeting options outside of registration data. Facebook has become extremely effective at advertising because of the amount of data it has on specific user interests. If Pinterest can formulate targeting based on who a user follows and what type of pins the user posts, it can create more value for its users and for brands. The result will be content that means more to consumers and in the end, increases sales for businesses.

-Bryan Nagy