Somewhere near the crossroads of Facebook, Tumbler, Digg and an Amazon Wish List, there is a rapidly growing social network known as Pinterest. Developed only a couple years ago, this "virtual pin board" has been rapidly growing in numbers and clout since its beta launch in the spring of 2010.
To understand what Pinterest is and does, it might be best to reference Twitter. If Twitter is the lazy man's blog, Pinterest is sort of the lazy man's Tumblr, but even that is an oversimplification. Basically, the site allows users to curate areas of interest by adding photos, videos and the like from other Web sites like a virtual collage or bulletin board. The social part includes connecting with other users who have similar interests or just friends who use the service.
One of the primary benefits to Pinterest is it simplifies collecting information on a given subject. For example, if you really like a photo you see online, you can click on it and with the aid of a browser extension (or app on your phone), it's added to your virtual pin board and users can comment on it or share it themselves.
What's fascinating about Pinterest is that it is growing...and rapidly.
A recent study found that Pinterest is driving more referral traffic than Google+ and is nearly on par with Twitter. In fact, it drives more traffic than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and LinkedIn combined, according to the study.
That means if you have a Web site and an image on it was added to Pinterest with a link, you are more likely to get traffic from people clicking on it there than on Google+; the amount of visitors your site will get is about what you would get if it were posted on Twitter. That is substantial and represents just how powerful sharing is online.
This doesn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who uses Twitter, Facebook or even file-sharing services with regularity. People love to tell other people about the things they like, dislike or find interesting. When that process is simplified, as it is with Pinterest, user interest goes through the roof just as it has.
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Facebook is still king when it comes to sharing information, but as Pinterest grows, expect online retailers and other marketers to latch onto the service. Imagine just how important it could be for a relatively unknown clothing designer, for example, to have a new design shared by someone with a massive following on Pinterest. In a way, it would be like having a photo printed in a fashion magazine, but this would be organic and, like other social networks, free for the most part.
It will be interesting to watch Pinterest as it grows to see if it can maintain that hold on fickle Internet users. For now, it's the next new big thing, but for real, unlike Google+.