An experiment with Pinterest

Pinterest is the latest darling on the social media scene. Pinterest reportedly hit ten million monthly unique visitors faster than any other website. It is currently claimed to have some 15 million users. Basically it allows you assemble (‘pin’) images from anywhere on the web into themed folders (‘pinboards’). You can download browser plug-ins that allow you to pin an image from a website to one of your pinboards in a few clicks. The social element comes from ‘following’ other Pinterest users and commenting on and re-pinning their images. It is a simple idea slickly executed. The emphasis on images makes it rather different to Facebook, Twitter and other social media brands.

83% of US users of Pinterest are women and typical pinboard themes include:  fashion, funny images of cats, interior design, places to visit, food and wedding ideas. Check the Pinterest home page to see a sample of images currently being pinned. The interest in weddings is particularly relevant to me as I sell wedding seating planner software. So I started to create some wedding reception themed pinboards as an experiment. I quickly decided that scouring the web for pictures of pretty seating charts, place cards  and wedding cakes wasn’t a) a good use of my time b) the right thing for a 46 year old heterosexual man to be doing (GRRR!). So, using outsourcing site, I found a nice lady in the Philippines to do it for me for a very reasonable hourly rate. She also (unsurprisingly) proved to have much better taste than me. I think she also really quite enjoyed herself! The resulting Pinterest pinboard is at

Here is some data from my little experiment:

Cost: approx $50, plus a few hours of my time
Total ‘pins’ to date: 551
Clickthroughs to 154
Avg time on site: 0:42
Bounce rate: 75%
Traceable sales (from analytics and cookie tracking): 0

So that works out >$0.30 per click for not very targeted traffic (as shown by the bounce rate and avg time on site) and not a single sale. Not very encouraging. What’s worse, it only generated traffic while new pins were being added. As soon as new pins were no longer being added the clickthroughs fell off a cliff:

I may get some SEO benefit. But Pinterest isn’t looking a like a win for me. Also there are issues with Pinterest terms and general IP issues. Pinterest’s terms originally claimed that they could sell anything you pinned. They have since amended that to something more sensible. But pinning images you don’t own the copyright to is still problematic. I think most sites will be happy for people to pin their images, as long as they are correctly attributed – it is free advertising for them.  And it is obvious that most Pinterest users are happily pinning images without any thought about copyright. But it could conceivably get you into trouble for copyright infringement.

If you are a big name company with a big marketing budget, it may be worth putting some effort into Pinterest. Especially if you already have a big catalogue of images you own. But, based on my experiences, I think most small software companies can find better ways to spend their time.

6 thoughts on “An experiment with Pinterest

  1. Tom Reader

    Thanks for doing the experiment, and sharing the data. It certainly highlights how inexpensive it can be to test the waters of a new marketing method, and back away if it’s not working.

    But if it didn’t work for pictures of weddings, I think pictures of barcodes are going to be a pretty hard sell. (Yes, I know there are websites full of barcode tattoos, barcode artworks, etc, but they’re really not my core market to be honest..). But I’ll bear it in mind for the future for some of my other avenues.

  2. Lyndsy Simon (@lyndsysimon)

    You are approaching Pinterest in completely the wrong way. Pinterest is a *visual* medium, and in order to do well, you have to have a visual product. Software doesn’t lend itself naturally to this, although you could conceivably make it work by creating infographics that get shared by your target audience.

    Your “seating charts” pinboard is a good start, but there really isn’t a way to get back to your site. You need to be creating that kind of content on your site, centering the conversation around it there. Pinterest is nothing but a way to get people involved in the conversation.

    Create content that these people want. Focus on that, host it on your own site, and include a simple benefit statement somewhere in your sidebars or header. The traffic to your sales pages comes from that.

    I’m amazed you got as many hits as you did. Honestly, it took me a minute to figure out how to even get to your site from your profile.

    1. Andy Brice Post author

      Pinterest doesn’t make it easy to get from a pin to your site. Unless perhaps you plaster your URL all over the comments, which seems a bit spammy.

  3. Alwin Hoogerdijk

    I agree with Lyndsy above.
    The way you’re using Pinterest, I am surprised you got any clickthroughs at all. Because you’re pinning pics from other sites, so the clicks go to those sites, not to your site.
    In other words, if people see your pins, and like them, there’s no benefit to you.

    Here’s how we use Pinterest:
    Note that all pins are from our own websites, so clicks go to us and at least gives us some chance of converting them.

    1. Andy Brice Post author

      It is my intention to add more PerfectTablePlan specific images. But, given the results so far, I don’t think I am going to spend a lot of effort on it.

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