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Movin’ on up: Pinterest is now the third most popular social network [2015 update]

pinterest-logoUPDATE: It’s been nearly three and a half years since I wrote this post, which in the fast-moving world of social media is practically a lifetime. It’s worth a revisit to see just how the landscape has shifted. Pinterest was still fairly new on the social marketing scene in 2012 — but where is it now?

As far as rankings go, that sort of depends on who you ask. Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Social Marketing Industry Report ranks Pinterest at #6 behind Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube; while eBizMBA’s analysis of current Alexa global traffic reports puts it at #4 behind only Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

So Pinterest technically ranks lower in popularity than before, but don’t let that fool you. It may appear as though Pinterest now has a smaller slice of the social pie, but that pie’s a lot bigger.

How big are we talking? An estimated 250 million unique monthly visitors big. Compare that to February of 2012, when Pinterest had 17.8 million unique visitors.

But maybe the most telling metric is value. Back in 2012, Pinterest was estimated to be worth $1.5 billion. Today, it’s estimated to be between $5 and $11 billion. Its “Promoted Pins” advertising platform, which has just been opened up to any merchant, could very well generate $500 million in revenue in 2016. And rumors are swirling around a potential Pinterest IPO, which could happen much sooner rather than later. In other words, things are looking up for this formerly little company.

In short, today Pinterest is just as viable a marketing tool as before, and maybe even more so. It looks like we can finally call it — Pinterest’s success is for real.

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The Pinterest homepage on Friday, April 6, 2012.

We’ve had our eye on Pinterest as an up-and-coming social network for a while, but this news exceeded even our expectations. Experian Marketing Services just released the 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report, and in it they find that Pinterest has become the third-most popular social network behind only Facebook (#1) and Twitter (#2).

This news is particularly significant because Pinterest only cracked the top ten social networks in the past few months. The two-year-old social networking site, which got its start in March 2010, is a virtual board where users can “pin” images they like into collections and share them with others.

Experian reported that from February to January 2012 Pinterest’s traffic was up almost 50%, and Pinterest’s unique visitors increased from 11 million to 17.8 million. There were 21.5 million total Pinterest visits during just one week at the end of January 2012, which is 30 times the number of visits six months prior.

Pinterest received 104 million visits in the month of March. Facebook’s lead was still the strongest, though, at 7 billion visits during March.

The report only counted visits made to the sites from web traffic, not mobile.

Take one: Pinterest’s success is for real!

Google+, hailed on its release as the social network that would revolutionize social networking, trails along at #6 to Pinterest’s #3 — 61 million visitors in March compared to 104 million, respectively. Did anybody at Google see that coming?

All that growth in such a short time is staggering. It speaks to the success Pinterest has had in developing relationships among people with similar interests and then converting those relationships into profit — a lesson Facebook has already learned quite well. It also speaks to the success of their profitability model. The way Pinterest’s functionality has been — and continues to be — integrated into larger networks spells success now and into the future.

Remember, Twitter and Facebook started small, and now they’re at the top of the game.

Take two: Pinterest is a short-lived fad

But is the growth for real?

It’s worth noting that Pinterest’s users skew 60/40 female. Their main demographic is women aged 18-34 who live in the middle of the country. They’ve grown in leaps and bounds in that target market, but one has to wonder whether the ceiling is now in sight. Will Pinterest be able to expand into new demographics? Will we see it as #1 one day? Or will it just kind of hold steady, and then peter out?

Additionally, the pushback about image copyright and the resulting controls — such as scripts that enable websites to block users from pinning their images — begs the question of whether these will be limiting factors in Pinterest’s growth.

Bottom line: only time will tell. In the meantime, we’re happy to watch and see what happens.

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