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Inside Pinterest: Business angles worth exploring


By Flickr user ohmeaghan

Pinterest is worth paying attention to even for business reporters outside of the tech beat, but scarce specifics can make localizing the hot social media trend a challenge.

Over the past year, Pinterest has grown from a relatively unknown Palo Alto startup into one of the world’s top social media networks. More than 10 million users now look to Pinterest for fashion, beauty, cooking, decorating and travel ideas. Retailers are paying attention and for good reason.

“Pinterest has quickly become one of the most popular social media portals for customers to visit prior to visiting retailers’ websites,” says Monetate, a tech marketing company that specializes in building web traffic for retailers.

Same-store referral traffic from Pinterest to five specialty clothing retailer websites rose nearly 300 percent in the second half of 2011. Describing how traffic flows from Pinterest to retailer websites, Monetate says Pinterest could be “the social commerce game changer.”

Of course, Monetate hasn’t yet let slip any specifics about just who is profiting from Pinterest. But if a reporter can determine if a retailer he or she covers is among the pioneers profiting from the emerging social network, Pinterest might find a pathway to a fascinating local story with wide international appeal.

In 2011, Pinterest was named one of Time’s websites of the year. Now, it is the 16th most visited website in the U.S. and 45th most visited site in the world, according to Alexa, a site that ranks global web traffic.

Pinterest allows users to “pin” images of things they like onto virtual pin boards.

Semil Shah of TechCrunch says Pinterest’s most salient feature “is that it has deeply tapped into an important shift in consumer and purchasing behavior.”

For reporters who can use Pinterest to gain similarly deep insights into their readers’ behaviors, the site could provide an opportunity to try and get ahead of consumer trend stories.

But Pinterest is still limited in its usefulness as a tool for business reporters. It might become a stronger business reporting tool if metrics better gauge product sales related to pinning emerge, said Anthony De Rosa, Reuters social media guru.

At the moment that’s not something that’s easy to track.

One source of revenue for Pinterest – at least for a while – was its involvement in an affiliate program through which the third-party service Skimlinks tracked purchases referred to retailers by the site’s users, VentureBeat reported.

Several reports suggest that relationship may have ended in recent days, but somebody still has to be watching exactly who is profiting from Pinterest.

Media reporters, meanwhile, may find data about Pinterest referral traffic to publishers is more readily available.

Pinterest in February drove more referral traffic to publisher websites than Twitter, a study from the third-party social measurement service Shareholic found. The study was based on data from 200,000 publishers whose websites garner a combined approximately 270 million unique visitors month.

The Pinterest buzz is definitely worth exploring. It just may not be worth poking yourself over.

In Media | Advertising, Social Media, Story ideas.

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