3 Ways to Use Pinterest For Marketing Research
3 Ways to Use Pinterest For Marketing Research
3 Ways to Use Pinterest For Marketing Research

Barely over 1 month into 2012 and folks around the web have been dubbing Pinterest as this year’s social media site to watch. This propelled by the sudden growth in users and talk of how businesses have seen considerable referral traffic from the site. Brands like Whole Foods, Land’s End and Etsy have set up profiles and amassed tens of thousands of followers across their pin boards and profiles. Even our very own Jason Falls has been sharing his thoughts on Pinterest’s marketing potential.

A quick overview for those new to the site, Pinterest is essentially a virtual cork board where you post images from all over the web. The images are “pinned” and organized into collections called “boards” which you name based on themes, topics, or just about anything you want.

For instance, I’ve created a a board for my favorite iPhone & iPad apps linking to the apps in the iTunes App store. Also, as someone who likes to frequently cook (and eat) I created a board for dishes I want to cook and inspirational ways to present food. Each pin links to the original web site where it was originally published so I can possibly backtrack and find out how to make that great recipe I found or others who follow me on Pinterest can discover some new iPhone apps I’ve pinned.

Pinterest users can also do much of the standard stuff such as “like”, “repin” or comment on any image they find. Additionally, one of the ways Pinterest is different than other social networks in the way that users can follow individual boards that interest them instead of being forced to follow a user and everything they share. That allows folks who prefer to follow interests instead of a particular person an opportunity to do so.

Whole Foods on Pinterest

That said, I’d like to share a few ways you might use Pinterest from a different angle for some quick and dirty research.

Discover What Are People Pinning from Your Web Site

When clicked, every image on Pinterest displays corresponding information like comments, “likes,” other images in the same board and more. The info I find interesting is the area on each pin that shows what other pins came from a specific web domain. Take a look here for instance. You can see all images pinnned from socialmedaiexplorer.com from all users on Pinterest. You can see right off the bat that people enjoy the infographics here on the site. Most popular after the infographics is an image of Jason’s recently published book. Remember, each of these images could have been pinned from any page on socialmediaexp.wpengine.com. Pinterest conveniently collects them all in one place for you.

Want to try it on your site? Type the following into your browser and replace “yourdomain.com” with your own web site: http://pinterest.com/source/”yourdomain.com”. You’ll likely find out something interesting about what visitors to your web site find visually interesting to them.

Let’s look at another example with the folks at FastMac: http://pinterest.com/source/fastmac.com/. Here we can see, out of all the products that Fastmac sells, 99% of people have pinned images related to their USB wall socket. Not only an image of the product itself, but the actual ad image on the product page.

This by itself is insightful, but let’s take it a step further.

Understanding Customer Perception

It’s been said that your brand is not what you say it is, but what your customers say it is. That said, understanding customer perception is important. Pinterest can give you a little insight into that by simply taking a look at the name of the boards that users have pinned content from your web site. In the case of Fastmac, you can see board names like “Products I love…”, “I Want”, “Geeky”, “Home Decor”, “Brilliant”, “For the Home”, and “My Future Home”.  If only a few images have been pinned from your web site then this might not be enough for you to care about, but with hundreds or even thousands of pins it has more meaning. Additionally, by clicking each board name you will be able to see what other images that user has found worth of shuffling into “I Want” or “Products I love…” and how many other users are following each of these boards. Similar to the common Twitter metric, the number of board followers could be counted towards the “reach” of any content shared in that specific board.

Fastmac.com Pins on Pinterest

Again, let’s dive a little further shall we?

Capturing Descriptions, Comments & Board Names

Being able to take a look at what folks have pinned from your web site is one thing, but might it be helpful to capture it to cull through later? There is a quick way to capture all of the board names, pin descriptions, user comments, likes and repins all into one document. First bring up all images pinned from your web site as described previously. Now scroll to the bottom of the page. When you hit the bottom of the page Pinterest automatically loads up any additional images. Keep scrolling until no more images load. Next, hit “control + a” on your keyboard (“command + a” for Mac users) to “select all” . You should now see everything selected on the page. Open up a blank Word document and hit “control+v” to paste everything into the document. Depending on how many images there are it might take a few seconds for it all to paste. Unfortunately the images are not captured, but all of the other information including links to the boards and user profiles, will be in your document. You can also paste into an Excel spreadsheet. It doesn’t look pretty, but you can use it to review later.

The Wrap

Beyond this there is still more you can do to dig a little deeper to get to know some potential customers and even competitors more. You might take a closer look at the users who seem to be getting the most repins or likes on the images they share. What else are they into? Have they added more social links to their Pinterest profile so you can connect with them on Twitter or elsewhere as well? What might you find out if you looked up what people were sharing from your competitor’s web site?

Adam Helweh on Pinterest

On a side note, I have recently launched a digital marketing podcast called the SoLoMo Show. In our next episode we will be discussing more about Pinterest and its prospects as a marketing channel. Want to be a part of the conversation? Then leave us a voicemail with your thoughts on Pinterest at (415) 633-6123 or tweet us. We might include it in the show. Also, feel free to check out my Pinterest profile here. Lastly, feel free to share your thoughts here in the comments. Were these tips helpful? is Pinterest a contender or just a fad? Share your thoughts.

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About the Author

Adam Helweh
Adam is CEO of Secret Sushi Creative Inc, a strategic design, digital and social media marketing agency. He specializes in the convergence of design and technology to provide businesses with more intelligent and interactive ways to connect with customers and grow. His clients have included Edelman, Broadcom, Stanford Federal Credit Union, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Bunchball and others. He's also the co-host of the "SoLoMo Show", a weekly digital marketing podcast, and he has shared the stage with professionals from companies including Facebook, Virgin Airlines, Paypal, Dell and 24 Hour Fitness.
  • Dana Schiattone

    It would be super if your sharing icons weren’t such and impediment to reading the really good article you wrote!

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  • stephanwhite

    these tips are really helpful and insightful into just what Pinterest can do for brands. Thank you Adam..

    Media Monitoring

  • Great creative tips! I get my data from social media monitoring tools such as Brandwatch, but if one don’t have the budget for such tools this is for sure a great alternative. 

  • This seems like smart/qualitative input that’s pretty hard to get elsewhere — especially at the price. What do you think of curating the most popular pins into a Favorites board. You might get more information plus devising tactical ways to take advantage of those pins, e.g. landing sites. Interesting possibilities, thanks!

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  • Very interesting indeed! Thanks for the post. I really appreciate this post. I will take note of this for my business.

  • I’ve been using Pinterest for quite awhile now for my Website search optimization and it’s really working. 

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  • See what Kotex had done with Pinterest, its has created ripples …I love it. 

  • Truelovemall123

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  • Pinterest is my new addiction. :) You can organized stuff that you are into to your account. :) Great post! :)

  • Pinterest is my new addiction. :) You can organized stuff that you are into to your account. :) Great post! :)

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  • Casey Domnick



    What a great blog on pintrest and how to use it
    successfully!  I myself have not gotten
    into the newest social media phenomena that is pintrest but a lot of my friends
    are tweeting about it and so this has given me a better look into just how it
    can be used. With how much people are using social media and how it is becoming
    a part of how this generation operates I think this is just another example of
    how important it is for businesses to be able to utilize this to their advantage.  In the book Handbook of Communication Ethics it says “there is no one universal
    communication ethic; there are multiple communication ethics” (Arnett pg.
    46).  This is so true and all businesses
    and people need to realize all of the different ways to communicate.  I think that pintrest is a great way for
    people to exchange dialogue between each other in the form of pictures.  I really like the examples that you have
    given because it has made me see that it is not just for girls to swap wedding
    dress ideas between each other but it can be a great way of finding different
    things that people have in common.


    Casey Domnick

  • Jessica Overend



    Thank you for writing such an interesting post about
    Pinterest research and how companies can use the information. We recently
    examined Pinterest in regards to communication ethics, more specifically
    dialogue perspectives. Pinterest connects people from completely different
    backgrounds and allows them to carry on dialogues about different topics. In a related
    article by Karl Botan, he discusses dialogue perspectives and how they relate
    to different professions, specifically advertising public relations. Botan
    states, “The dialogic approach to communication shares with the
    rhetorical approach the view that humans are uniquely equipped to use symbols.”
    Pinterest allows us, as marketers, to analyze the use of these symbols and how
    it benefits our companies. For an organization to be successful, I believe
    there has to be conversation with stakeholders and Pinterest is a place we can
    do exactly that! I think Pinterest is absolutely the next big social media
    website and I hope there are some new tools that come out to help the research
    easily accessible. I agree with earlier comments about research needing to be
    more in depth to technically be considered market research, but hopefully tools
    will come out soon to help with that. Thanks again for your post.




    Jessica Overend

    Communication Graduate Student

    Drury University

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  • I love Pinterest so far, makes it easy to find cool pictures, and wonderful resources, plus the became one of my top web traffic referrers alone side with StumbleUpon and Twitter

  • What a timely post, Adam. I just turned to Max and said, “You know, Max, I don’t see how Pinterest is useful for businesses.” And Max said, “Go read Adam’s post.” Which I have now done. As soon as you started mentioning etsy and some of the other b-to-c sites (actually, etsy is really c-to-c in my opinion), I totally got it. Yes, you can certainly glean some interesting things about what is being pinned, and you can do some sentiment mining around it.

    As I’ve mentioned to you, I’m addicted to Pinterest. I think I love the pretty pictures. I also love to see who has repined my pins. But, my interests in pinterest are purely recreational. I love to see your food pictures, I love to pin pretty quilts. That said, I simply cannot figure out a way that a b-to-b company, like mine, would use the site. 

    Any ideas?

    Thanks for being so timely!

    • Thanks Val and give Max a high five for me. Maybe we can talk and explore some ways that a company like yours can use it. Also, our latest episode of the podcast I co-host was dedicated to Pinterest and some ways it might be used for marketing. It should be posted here any day now: http://solomoshow.com/ Anytime you want to talk you know where to find me. :-)

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  • Todd Murphy

    Of course time will tell for Pinterest, like all #newtools of social media. We have analyzed a lot of social networking tools in the last four years and find that most based on pictures are far more useful for personal and B2C networks. Another common denominator is that the volume of hype and efforts taken to explain the #value of a platform have an inverse correlation to widespread adoption.

    I like Pinterest, but it does struggle to answer the question of “why?”.

  • I think these tips are really helpful and insightful into just what Pinterest can do for brands. Thank you Adam – a thoroughly enjoyable read! 

  • Adam,

    first and foremost, I think you are right on.  Our company is finding high interest in Pinterest and are getting requests for help much in the same categories as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.  I agree with your predictions in that by year’s end it will be a major player, especially among companies that have a visual product or service.

    We have been conducting experiments as well, by embedded affiliate codes into the Pinterest initial link and then associate with the original image so that we can track “click through” to give us more data on conversions (the kind of stuff that should make Simon happy and can be easily duplicated).  Initial results are stunning as each time an image is pinned it still tracks back to the first link it.  In short, perhaps a physical product sellers dream or yet another way to create lots of backlinks.

    We still are not sure if the high interest in re-pinning is due to Pinterests newness, as we’re conducting more test too, but my vote is it will be a contender.

    Fred @FunCityChief:twitter

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. The ability to upload an image directly to Pinterest and then customize the URL is quite powerful. Being able to add a trackable link is a good way to start quantifying the value of each pin and also understand what type of content really does drive traffic to your site and doesn’t just generate repins.

  • Adam, while this is interesting from a product management perspective, it is misleading to refer to this as Market Research. The element missing from your post is action. True market research leads to either direction (generally from qualitative research) or projection (generally from quantitative research). This type of quick and dirty data collection is generally used at the beginning stages of Market Research – true. It is secondary research in support of a generally larger Market Research program. All  you are saying here is look how people describe our product on one platform. This leads to the obvious question, is this trend or is it Pinterest? Market Research is what you would use to answer this question.
    Businesses are already swamped with available social media metrics and data which are essentially useless. Adding Pinterest board names and descriptions simply adds to the overload. This data collection doesn’t lead to measurable results. The better way for Brands to use Pinterest is to have specific Pinterest landing pages and tracking codes. That way they know when something is pinned, repinned and purchased.
    Sorry to be pedantic about the terminology but resources such as Social Media Explorer need to get this stuff right otherwise your readers are misinformed. Which I am sure is not the intent.

    • Sorry to object to your objection, Simon, but the headline says “marketing research.” We’re not trying to mislead anyone into thinking that observing user behavior and pins and what-not is qualitative or quantitative, scientific or anything beyond just basic observation and note taking. We’re just saying you can get some potential insights and ideas by watching the behavior of people on this social network. 

      I do appreciate your indication that we’re some sort of higher level resource for people, but in doing so you kinda indicate that this post isn’t of the quality people expect here. I disagree. Or it wouldn’t have been published.

      But thank you for voicing your concern and trying to hold us to a higher standard. That’s valuable to us.

      • Jason, you know I love this publication and so that’s probably why I hold it to a higher standard, the quality is always without question. My point here is not the use of “market” or “marketing” but the use of research. This isn’t research its data collection at best and to be honest it is rather pointless unless it is a pre-cursor to something more detailed – which the post does not allude to nor indicate the need for. 
        Businesses are already swamped with social media data that they are supposed to collect and measure. Most of which do nothing to impact their bottom line. This post mentions nothing about tying any of the collected data to revenue or even click-thru data. What is the point of putting this into an excel spreadsheet as suggested?
        My point being that this post only scratches at the surface and leads marketers to believe that this type of action qualifies as research.

        • I think our audience is smart enough to read qualifiers like “quick and dirty” from the above and understand that we’re talking about research in a vague and cursory sense. Anyone who reads this and thinks we’re talking about scientific analysis doesn’t know us well and isn’t thinking fully about what they’re reading.

          I, of all people, am fervent in my belief that many blogs report stats and call them “research” or “science” when they’re not. I call them out with regularity. Data collection is a part of research and Adam did nothing here to indicate he was doing anything more than a cursory first step. If you’re upset that we used the word “research” then I’ll just apologize. But I’m more confident our audience is smart enough to discern what we’re illustrating here than you seem to be.

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