Monday, March 19, 2012

Pinterest? Five reasons why it’s not worth your time.

For most normal sized nonprofits and fundraising organizations – and many businesses for that matter – it’s not worth spending marketing resources on Pinterest.

What is Pinterest, you ask? (by the way, if you’re asking that question, you may have already proved my point.) It’s the social media phenomenon of the 2010’s. Imagine a virtual bulletin board on which you can pin your favourite images. But because this is an online board, you can also pin links to your favourite videos and other media. Most importantly, other people can pin stuff to your board and if you see something you like on someone else’s board, you can share it on yours. To top it all off, you can curate multiple boards. It’s very visual and very engaging and very powerful.

It’s also very popular. Pinterest is the fastest growing website in history, going from 400,000 users in June 2011 to 12 million today.

Based on all that, you probably think that my opening assertion to stay away from Pinterest is a symptom of insanity or a Luddite-like aversion to technology. Nope, it’s just being realistic.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a ton about Pinterest and my conclusion is that using Pinterest effectively, requires  a ton of thought, attention and time. That’s also true of other social media channels, like Facebook, but Pinterest has some unique qualities make it particularly demanding. Here’s why I think Pinterest isn’t worth spending a lot of time on:

1. The numbers aren’t there yet. Yes the growth over the past six months is impressive but consider that as of December 2011, Facebook boasts 845 million users. That’s 70 times the number of Pinterest users. In addition, Pinterest faces some upcoming copyright issues (the result of so many images being shared) that could stymie its growth.

2. Pinterest needs to be monitored. You can’t just pin stuff up and forget about it. Remember other users are pinning stuff to your board so just like a Facebook page you need to know what they’re saying – or in this case pinning.

3. You need marketing insight to use Pinterest well. There's a great piece on Pinterest that has been put together by Engauge that asserts "Before hitting the road, a Pinterest strategy needs to roll up into an overarching digital and marketing strategy" and then goes on to present a one page matrix of decisions and action that will be necessary. On the other hand,  Elaine Fogel recently reported that less than a quarter of nonprofits have marketing plans. Sounds to me like Pinterest is beyond the grasp of most npo’s.

4. Using Pinterest requires creative ability. The article I quoted before also says, “Use Pinterest to get the word out. But make sure you do this tastefully.” This refers to both the aesthetic quality of content and some ingenuity in coming up with content that relates to your cause but isn’t seen as blatantly promoting your cause.

5. Pinterest is a time suck. This may be my summary point. The marketing resources of most nonprofits are already stretched to the max. Adding Pinterest to the mix will only add to the burden. If its not done well, it will reflect poorly. And even if it is done well, current research is light on any direct relationship between Pinterest and donations.

Pinterest is definitely worth keeping an eye on – particularly from a nonprofit point of view. Here’s a list of nonprofit Pinterest pages that will show you the difference between using the medium well and not.

Beyond that, I wouldn’t do any more. In my view, most nonprofits should work on getting their marketing house in order before putting even a drop of effort into Pinterest.

What do you think? Is your organization devoting time to Pinterest? Do you have any Pinterest success stories? Please comment and tell us.


  1. Hmmn... Time will only tell whether businesses will find success on Pinterest. Here are my thoughts on your commentary:

    1. Numbers aren't there yet (I think, you really can't compare a newbie to FB)
    2. It faces some upcoming copyright challenges that could stymie growth (fair enough)
    3. You need marketing insight to use it well (Aha! That may be my problem!; still, folks didn't know how to use FB for business when it first came out. So...)
    4. It requires creative ability (Not that much, IMHO. And there are plenty of creative folks).
    5. It's a time suck (point well taken. But, what isn't these days?)

    Ultimately, I'd play with it. For organizations that have a lot of visuals to share, it's a great thing. They do say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Even for organizations that don't have lots of visuals, they should be doing more to incorporate them into their messaging. People love visuals. They tell a story. Maybe Pinterest will force them to do this, and that will be a good thing all around.

  2. Thanks for including a reference to my post, Chuck. As for Pinterest, studies show that it attracts a lot of middle-aged women in the mid-West. :)

  3. One can disallow people from pinning on your boards so you don't have to worry about that. Really, Pinterest is, for me anyway,just a visual bookmarking tool. I have not used it professionally...for the independent school I work for.

    You did not mention in your list of negatives the fact that there has to be an image on a web page in order to pin's all about images.

  4. Kate FitzpatrickApril 5, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    I've actually had great success pinning for the T.J. Martell Foundation, which raises funds for cancer & AIDS research mainly through events. So I pin images of celebrities on the red carpet with our logo in the background, as well as event decor, pretty pics of gourmet dishes, press hits, links to online auctions, and beyond. We now have almost as much of a dialogue going on via Pinterest as Facebook!

    1. Kate,

      I'm really glad to hear that Pinterest is working for you. My blog post was really intended to encourage organizations to think about Pinterest strategically and do not just jump in until they've figured out how its going to help meet objectives. Sounds like you've figured some of that out. Kudos to you. If you're interested in more in depth analysis of Pinterest, this post from Copyblogger is amazing