Pinterest: A ‘Niche Social Network’ Success Story

Last June, my fiancé discovered Pinterest: a new social networking site where you pin images of things you like for others to see. It’s a sharing site for clothes, quotes, pictures, cooking, decoration, weddings, etc. By the end of that week, her sister and mom were both on Pinterest. Soon after, my mom followed. Six months later, in December 2011, the total unique visits hit 11 million. It grew 4000% in just 6 months. If you haven’t heard of it, ask any girl you know. Chances are, she’s heard of it!

Why? Well, Pinterest, whether intentional or not, has content that caters to a niche: women. The content on the site is dominated by images featuring home décor, crafts, fashion, and food. Although there are no limitations on what you can upload, because the site is dominated by a certain theme of content, it attracts a certain demographic. According to the marketing intelligence firm: Hitwise, visitors to the site in the 12 rolling weeks ending December 17th skewed female (58%) and between the ages of 25 and 44 (59%). The concept is simple. Like Facebook, Twitter, or Digg, you upload/share something you like, and other people can ‘re-pin’ it and/or comment on it. So why did Pinterest break through to the mainstream? If the capabilities are not much more than Facebook, Twitter, and thousands of other competitors, how did Pinterest make it into the 10 most visited social networks? The answer is simple: the content targeted a niche.

Niche content breeds an environment of exclusivity, privacy, and a sense of community. Supported by the ‘Social Identity Theory‘ in sociology, and the popular marketing strategies of ‘exclusivity’ and ‘scarcity’, Pinterest, intentionally or unintentionally, appeals to the niche market of women. Derived desirability from the niche market and the power of word-of-mouth marketing makes Pinterest a haven for women to share. Women tell their friends of Pinterest, their friends visit Pinterest, see something they like, become users, then spread the word to their friends. Pinterest has become a community housing the interests of women. And looking forward, when Pinterest inevitably initiates an advertisement-based business model, the refined majority demographic will attract exclusive advertisers targeting women.

As the market for social networks begins to get saturated, niche networks like Pinterest will begin to prevail. Social networks adding value to a niche are perfect candidates for word-of-mouth marketing. Supported by Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: with a high ‘stickiness factor’ and context within the demographic, a few powerful connectors and salesmen can turn the social network into a social epidemic. Complimented with advertisers seeking niche marketing, these networks will have a sustaining revenue base. Pinterest is one of the first niche social network successes, and as the market matures, and the demand for niche social networks rises, it will be considered a pioneer in its industry.

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