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When it comes to the biggest tech companies, you might not immediately think of Pinterest as one of the dominant players. It is often thought of as a visual discovery engine for finding creative ideas. But its 250 million active monthly users actually place Pinterest among one of the most impressive mobile application companies today. While the company lags behind Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in audience size, it clearly making waves. In fact, more than half of US millennials use its social media images to help find things they want to buy. But then again, that isn’t something necessarily new for Pinterest.

While other companies offer users a variety of sharing contexts, Pinterest’s focus is on the discovery of ideas others with similar interests have saved. This concept has been Pinterest’s unique approach from the very beginning. Pinterest sets itself apart by committing to the community and building upon inspiration. As a result, it has made the company exciting and attractive to millions.

Pinterest at a Glance – Positioned to Excel in Retail

Ben Silvermann, Paul Sciarra and Evan Sharp launched the company in 2010. The concept was to allow users to upload, save, sort and manage images onto virtual boards. These images, called “Pins”, could be categorized in different “Boards”, with users saving their inspirations in a way others could also get inspiration from. Like social media sites, anyone who finds another user’s saved Pins interesting could choose to follow that person.

Ben Silbermann - CEO and Co Founds of Pinterest
Ben Silbermann, CEO and cofounder of Pinterest, cited as an Inspiring Quote at InspiringQuotes

Therefore, unlike other platforms, Pinterest was able to create catalogs of visual ideas. Currently, the most popular Pins fall under categories like homes, food, style and fashion, travel and DIY. But what is noteworthy is that this approach aligns extremely well with a number of retail and consumer industries. When people are searching for ideas, visual content and content from brands are welcomed. As a result, people especially migrate to this particular type of platform when they’re shopping.

A Slow and Steady Approach to Success

Prior to 2012, Pinterest required users to join via invitation or request user access from the company. Later on, users could register and share social media images as a matter of routine. Likewise, Pinterest chose not to monetize their site with ads until 2014. And even when it did, it was selective about the categories of advertisements. These decisions highlight Pinterest’s commitment to its values and to the environment it creates for its users.

Though Pinterest chose to wait before monetizing its site, it didn’t lag behind in its global pursuits. Over the last few years, Pinterest’s growth in foreign regions has doubled and tripled annually in some instances. This is attributed to notable increases in the sharing of social media images on the site. After all, social media images don’t have language barriers.

Pinterest's CMO, Andrea Mallard
Andrea Mallard, Chief Marketing Officer, Pinterest, cited on Pinterest Newsroom

Taking Community and Social Responsibility Seriously

Though Pinterest specializes in sharing social media images, it remains a media company. At the same time, it wants to ensure a safe, positive and respectful environment for Pinterest users. This philosophy recently led the company to block all searches on its site related to anti-vaccination messages. Why? Because Pinterest did not wish to advance misinformation that could potentially harm its user community.

Naturally, such actions raise questions about censorship versus responsible behaviors. For Pinterest, the abundance of anti-vaccination social media images compared to pro-vaccination information portrayed inaccurate data for people. Thus, the company decided to simply block all relevant searches until a safer process is devised. This decision highlights its focus on values, and it also sets the company apart in its corporate social responsibility pursuits.    

Ifeoma Ozoma - Public Policy & Social Impact Manager of PInterest
Ifeoma Ozoma, Public Policy and Social Impact Manager, Pinterest, cited on All Things Considered, National Public Radio (NPR)

What 2019 Could Bring for the Social Media Images Icon

Pinterest remains on the track for steady growth. Meanwhile, the pressure to advance advertising revenues will likely increase, and shareholders may have different perspectives from that of the company’s founders. Nevertheless, by remaining committed to its values and community, Pinterest has the opportunity to stand out. It can inspire not only through its social media images but also through its social practices.

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