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5 Reasons Pinterest is Addicting and 4 Weaknesses That May Kill it

Like Google searches for M.I.A. after her Super Bowl middle finger salute, the growth of Pinterest is positively ferocious. A 329 percent increase in unique visitors in 90 days is the kind of rocket ship acceleration that is usually far more myth than reality, even in social media start-up circles.

Why this newfound obsession with Pinterest? What’s fueling this rocket? There are actually several factors and features that have made Pinterest on par with Twitter as a traffic driver (according to a Shareaholic study).

1. Focused Functionality

Unlike many other contemporary social environments that seem hell-bent on adding features like ornaments on a Christmas tree, Pinterest does one thing, and does it well. They have embraced the less is more ethos that initially propelled Google search and Twitter to the forefront of their respective fields.

2. Intuitive Interface

Ease-of-use is the killer app. Pinterest would never have crossed the chasm to become the darling of the often non-technical crafting and fashion crowd if it was a hassle to figure out. It’s drop-dead simple, possibly because of its focused features, as is impacting Web design best practices in widespread and profound ways.

3. Passion Pit

Pinterest allows us to chronicle and share what we love. Our hobbies. Our desires. Our aspirations. I don’t have data on this (it would make an interesting study), but I’d wager a considerable sum that there are 10x more pins of things we want, compared to things we have. It’s akin to the Facebook “like” phenomenon, but with a far more visceral psychological anchor.

4. Massively Browsable

You can enjoy Pinterest without reading anything. Let that marinate. In a world where the tweet and status update have reigned supreme for years, you can now can fully immerse yourself in a powerful community experience that is 100% visual. It’s no wonder that Pinterest broke out at roughly the same time as Instagram, Path, and other social sharing opportunities that revolve around pictures, not words. (see post from Ekaterina Walter on whether photo apps will kill the written word) It’s the natural evolution of communication. A picture may not be worth 1,000 words, but it’s definitely worth 140 characters, and when the vast majority of the population began possessing a camera at all times via their mobile phone, this type of photo-driven culture was a natural byproduct.

5. Equality

There are no Sneetches with stars and Sneetches without stars on Pinterest. Brands have pages and access to the same features that individual users have. This democratizes the community in an important and powerful way, making Pinterest the only major social opportunity (other than Twitter) where people and companies are singing from the same hymnal. Strangely, Twitter aims to eliminate their edge in this area by rolling out brand pages to companies.

Is This The End of the World as We Know It?

Those are the five primary reasons for Pinterest’s success. But I advise that you temper your passion for Pinterest, as there are four reasons why the site as we know it today may not survive.

1. Link Spam

One of the digital marketing advantages of Pinterest is the fact that all links on the site are followable by Google and other search engines. On a pin, the from link, the image link, and even the description link (if you insert one) are all followable by Google, passing juice back to your site. This is too good an opportunity for SEO pros to pass up, and link spam on Pinterest will pick up significantly in the next few weeks. Pinterest will likely have to change links to no-follow, or risk SEO spammers dragging down the quality of the user experience.

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2. Shopping Spam

On a related front, the affiliate marketing opportunity on Pinterest is astounding. Already, you can set up an API feed of Amazon’s top sellers (or other products) onto a Pinterest board, create a potentially lucrative, automated revenue stream. This is going to explode soon, with a potentially overwhelming number of low quality, affiliate boards cropping up like mushrooms. Even Pinterest itself is getting into the act, inserting affiliate links automatically wherever it can do so, using Skimlinks. Again, this commerce-first shift may threaten the idyllic user experience that has made Pinterest successful.

3. Copycats

The fact that Pinterest is so focused is terrific (see #1 above), but also makes it far easier to copy it’s offering. Like daily deal sites aping Groupon, Pinterest is massively prone to other sites chipping away at its user base by creating more relevant offshoots. Already, you see clones like vying for the “Pinterest for dudes” audience, and angel investor online community Angel List includes several companies that describe themselves as “Pinterest for Architects” “Pinterest for Beauty” and so forth.

4. Too Good to Stay Solo

The most likely reason that Pinterest as we know it today will disappear is that it’s simply too ripe for acquisition. Suitors are plentiful, as Pinterest makes tremendous strategic sense for many social behemoths, but for different reasons.

Google could buy Pinterest to add pins and repins as a social signal for photos, serving as a de facto +1 for images and adding an entire new layer of relevancy to Google images search results. It would be a tidy add-on to Google Plus as well, and give it a meaningful advantage over Facebook.

For that matter, Facebook could buy Pinterest and make it the core of its still nascent social shopping efforts, giving Facebook pages an easy way to monetize “likes” at the product level.

Twitter could buy Pinterest and make boards and pins part of users’ profile page, taking today’s uninteresting “Recent Images” to an exciting new place.

Groupon could get into the game, using what you’ve liked and pinned as a relational database to improve the relevancy of deals you’re offered.

Certainly, in the interest of possessing a revolutionary new social commerce front-end, Pinterest would be attractive to Amazon, and probably eBay as well. Even Wal-Mart – which has quietly been getting very serious about social – would be an interesting and viable candidate.

I’m not a crafter or a fashionista (my first Pinterest board was favorite tequilas, and my most popular board is social media infographics), so I don’t fit the profile of the typical Pinterest freak. But, I love and very much appreciate the site for the five reasons I’ve mentioned. However, for the other four reasons I’ve articulated, I fear our relationship will be short-lived.

What do you think?

(post originally published on the Monetate blog)

Facebook Comments


  1. Chris_Eh_Young says

    I was on the Warrior Forum the other day and there are already plenty of internet marketers that have designed SEO and affiliate programs for Pinterest. It’s not coming, it’s here.

    • says

      @Chris_Eh_Young Good point Chris. I’d say it hasn’t overwhelmed/overtaken the platform yet, but I agree it’s just a matter of time.

      • Chris_Eh_Young says

        @JayBaer @Chris_Eh_Young I keep reading about possible lawsuits and copyright issues too. I like the idea of Pinterest but I fear that the model, in its current incarnation, is doomed.

  2. Troy Thompson says

    Solid post Jay, thank you for keeping it hype-free.

    Completely agree with pro #3…Passion Pit. Yes, all of that referral traffic is nice and yes, you can gather more social followers on the service, but the really interesting part of Pinterest is the insight into the consumer.

    Pinterest is a window into what we want our lives to be, rather than a reflection of what they are.

    Speaking from a tourism perspective, this is something we don’t often get to see. That critical moment when a destination moves from dream to bucket list. From magazine ad to a desire. With Pinterest, we are literally seeing this moment as it is pinned to a board.

    And that knowledge is very powerful.

    Now, can marketers restrain themselves from f*cking it up? We shall see.

    – Troy

    • says

      @Troy Thompson Exactly. Such a unique snapshot in time captured by Pinterest. Never really seen it done before, online or offline. Do you have some cool travel case studies you’re rocking? Want to write a guest post about travel + pinterest? Would love to run it here.

  3. wittlake says

    @jaybaer Jay, I’ve been getting a “page not available” on all of your post pages today. Homepage works, but I can’t get past there.

    • jaybaer says

      @wittlake Yes, there’s been some weirdness. We’re trying to work through it. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. DanaVotava says

    @HansenMichelleR Interesting, thanks for the share! I’m afraid I’m too far into the Passion Pit to back out now. I like their kool-aid!

    • AdamBritten says

      @eTselentis Me too, but they can really be applied to any network. Spam, copy cats…they all have them.

  5. carloverkat says

    @NancyCawleyJean I am SO hooked on Pinterest but for relaxation not work related. Its just fun…hope they don’t change it

      • carloverkat says

        @nancycawleyjean LOL but def not in a work kind of way… I just love looking at what people are pinning! And I get great ideas there

  6. cksyme says

    I’m afraid the recent call for them to provide the code so websites can block them might be their undoing in the long run. But, they are definitely the latest shiny toy.

  7. alisammeredith says

    Great article, though I hope you are wrong about #4 :) I just listened to a webinar, though, that said that the link to the actual image is now “no-follow” so the only links that are “do-follow” are the ones in the pin descriptions. Is that accurate, as far as you know? And, what is the official stand on pinning your own stuff? I pin items from all over, but definitely include my own, too!

  8. Rollie says

    So what is it with Pinterest’s TOS, where they require that users have “exclusive rights” to the content they pin or repin into their boards? Unlike Facebook who states they will be free to “use” the users’ content, Pinterest state they will be free to “sell” the users’ content! An original source URL back to the source (owner) of the image, does not mean a user has the right to copy (pin) and for other users to repin (share) content. So is sharing content like images on the Internet in this way not a breach of copyright? This thought would also extend to other sites that allow to copy/save third party content and that have sharing functionality.

    • sierratierra says

       @Rollie I’ll reply! I wrote about this very issue last week:

      • Rollie says

         @sierratierra Thanks, I just read your article. Nothing new in there for me,’s a nice short summary of some developments and I am not sure if comparing Pinterest with Napster can be considered apples with apples (maybe, maybe not)I am still missing opinions as to whether or not pinning (and repinning) third party content where a credit is given in the form of a return URL in fact constitutes copyright infringement, because if it does (which many people believe) then why would crawling sites and and indexing (then returning to a search) images in “Google Images” NOT be? Furthermore, when people repin content, could they be held liable when the original pinner did NOT in fact pin third party content (and thereby retaining the return URL) but saved it, then uploaded it? That to me would be a clear case of copyright infringement (since there is no credit given), yet I see this happen many times on Pinterest, where people have a mix of “properly” pinned content, allowing for people to click through to the original site, and some illegally copied and uploaded pins (you can see where it says “uploaded by user” under the image).

  9. ZaddleMarketing says

    @seotrafficlab agree – although I would imagine the initial community will get hacked off with “marketeers” trampling all over it…

  10. says

    Interesting thoughts and I tend to agree with you on most of your points. I never even thought of the idea of using Pinterest for affiliate links, then again affiliate links have been a bust whenever I use them!

    Only time will tell if the big giants like Google and Facebook take an interest, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  11. says

    Thanks for the Shareaholic shout-out :) Love your insights.

    On a personal note, when I think of Pinterest clones I can’t help but just sigh to myself. Ugh. Entrepreneurs: Please stop copying and solve a real problem.

  12. Rollie says

    So is everybody just posting here but no responses? I’d really love some feedback on the issue I raised which quite frankly I see as the 5th reason why Pinterest may not survive.

  13. catalystpart says

    I love it. You have 14 pins on your social media infographics board and 1,085 followers. I have 599 pins on my cool infographics board and 285. That really cracks me up :).
    Nice article BTW.

  14. catalystpart says

    I love it. You have 14 pins on your social media infographics board and 1,085 followers. I have 599 pins on my cool infographics board and 285 followers.
    That really cracks me up :).
    Nice article BTW.

  15. JenKaneCo says

    My biggest concern here is copyright issues, plain and simple. So much so, that i pulled down my company’s boards. The more marketers that flood the space, the more messy this is going to get. My contacts in the creative community — photographers, designers, illustrators — are freaking out with the giant uptick in their IP being traded like a commodity and co-opted on businesses’ boards.

    • ceil307 says

       First off- full disclosure- I am a pinterest addict.  However I work in the field of intellectual property so I too am concerned with copyright issues.  I have noticed in the past few weeks some of the people I follow closely are getting better at crediting their sources.  This issue definitely needs to be addressed and when it is, it will change the face of the site.

  16. Alicington says

    @AlixMontes so I have a pinterest, and I really don’t know what I should do with it…suggestions?

    • AlixMontes says

      @Alicington Think of things you like. Post them to @pinterest. You can also use it to organize good articles you want to go back to.

  17. says

    I love Pinterest just how it is. I do hope corporates leave it alone as I am sick of being advertised at relentlessly. I just want to search until my crafty hearts content! :)

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