Pinterest or How to Evaluate Social Media Opportunities

Pinterest definition

Every year or so a new social media “next big thing” appears on the Internet. Sometimes it’s a fairly new site gaining traction fast, sometimes it’s a household name that finally arrives in the mainstream.

As a business person you can’t always jump on the bandwagon like a teen.

Even as a private social media user you won’t be able to actively engage on more than just a few sites or apps.

Thus you need to know upfront whether a particular tool makes sense. You have to evaluate social media opportunities. Pinterest is a great example here.

Hype as Hype Can!

One fine day Pinterest [or insert latest social media hype here] is the best thing since sliced bread. Everybody has to be there!

I don’t want to join the myriads of opportunistic writers and hail each new hype.

Instead I want you to pause a bit and to try to learn how to evaluate social media opportunities and risks before investing time and money.

I will use Pinterest as an example although I might use several hypes of the past:

  • TikTok
  • Instagram
  • Ello
  • Google+
  • Quora
  • Foursquare

Do you remember Foursquare? It was the hype of 2010. You might still know what Quora is, it was the hype of 2011. Google+ came 2012 and went a few year later. Many website owners still haven’t noticed and show their buttons.

Here we are and this here Pinterest is “the next big thing” as everybody seemed to agree. Pinterest is a great site, don’t get me wrong.

Does Pinterest Work for You or Do You Work for Pinterest?

In case you or your wife, sister or mother uses it, don’t get offended! There is nothing wrong with occasional use of Pinterest for inspiration! Pinterest became a phenomenon for mainly female audiences at the beginning.

I will rather address my audience of search and social media professionals who seem to flock to Pinterest these days as well.

People from outside the established social media realm might even call them marketers but I personally don’t like this epithet. Remember than I am mostly working in

  • blogging
  • social media
  • search

I’m not a marketing person in the sense that I sell products on social media. I don’t. These days you might call me a social media or content manager. Why?

It’s because I create and curate content others want to find on social media and search engines. I also teach people how to create and curate such content.

I show you what kind of content you can use to appeal to the Pinterest crowd. Not here though.

Today I want to ask you: Why do you want to join Pinterest? Is it just to waste some time looking at pretty pictures? You are probably already on

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Maybe you’re also on Quora! This is quite a lot. It needs also quite a lot of work to maintain. Just consider the cost.

The Cost of “Not Working” on Social Media

Let’s assume you’re not very well paid. You get 50$ an hour as a freelancer. Then think or better track the time you spend on social sites per day. Is it one hour? Or two? Or just half an hour?

Personally I schedule 30 minutes for social media each day.

That’s just for using it, no marketing or optimization or anything – just simple participation. Just

  • checking what’s going on
  • keeping up with the people you follow
  • engaging with your audience

with no particular goal other than informing myself and sharing.

That’s 2,5h a week. 10h a month. So the cost of social media is an investment of 500$ a month or rather every four weeks. What other things do you spend 500$ or more a month on? Your

  • car
  • rent
  • education

Now think of it, realistically I use social media more than the scheduled 30 minutes a day.

On some days I assign half an hour for social media optimization, or more specifically social media outreach.

I have a clear goal then, looking up and contacting influencers for example, or spreading the word about new content I created etc.

Also I tend to use social media whenever I pause between tasks for a minute but not long enough to get up to do something else.

Thus let’s assume more realistically that I already spend 5 hours a week on social media.

Additionally let’s assume I earn a bit more per hour. Let’s say 100$. I know that many consultants in the search and social media marketing industry earn more than this.

The Money You Spend by Using Social Media for Free

Now let’s see, we have 20h a month worth 2000$ of social media work. That’s already 24k a year you spend on social media!

That doesn’t even include the tools you pay for when using social media or other investments to get traction there.

Now here comes the next big thing, Pinterest. Everybody is shouting how awesome the site and the traffic is, which is probably even true.

Then they advise you to just “engage in the conversation” or here rather in pinning images there.

How much time do you assign per day or week to engage?

Half an hour a day? An hour a week? I think it will be more like an hour a day as it’s a new site. It’s because you have to befriend all your social media friends from elsewhere anew.

You have to share the content you shared elsewhere again, or you have to find new friends and content specific for this site.

Creating social relations and sharing content is crucial to get attention on a new social site.

Thus you will spend probably around 20h the first month on Pinterest. Just to find images to share will take a lot of time and effort.

Either you will add these 20h to your current social media budget or instead of it. Ask yourself though: Will you really spend less time on Facebook?

Will you really tweet less? Probably not. You will spend 40h this month on social media instead of 20h.

Unless you don’t have much other work, or you’re not a social media manager like I am, you have a time and effort problem here.

Thus I advise you not to jump in on the latest hype but instead think twice about it and consider your other social media obligations.

How to Decide Whether to Use a Social Media Site or App

Ask yourself the following questions as well in order to know whether you have to engage on Pinterest or any other hyped site or app, be it TikTok, Instagram or whatever:

How much time do I have to spend using the tool for it to work for me? Make  a schedule for a week or month. Or at least add the time you spend on it to your time tracking or to-do list.

How much will you earn after half a year of using the site from just using it? In case you get customers who pay you more than the 2k you invest a month in it, great!

What direct use has the site for me?

Diigo for example has the use of having easily manageable and findable bookmarks for later use independently of the computer you are using.

Does the audience I usually address reside on that site?

Back in the days everybody wanted to “submit” my SEO 2.0 postings to Digg in spite of me not even having a “Digg it” button here.

They all ignored the fact that Digg users hated SEO. I never engaged on Digg for the purpose of pushing this blog. It would be like running against walls.

Do I get more visitors on my blog or site due to using the service?

Many sources exclaim how much traffic Pinterest is yielding. I can’t confirm that. I have sites that have been pinned a lot but the traffic is almost non-existent.

It’s possible to get organic traffic from there but it depends on a lot of factors. Visual content and a lifestyle topic (think travel, fashion or food) are needed.

Can I get my content and connections out of the system once the site goes paid only or changes in such a way that it won’t appeal to me anymore?

Just consider the case of Ning. It was a free site where you could create a niche community. Then one day it went premium out of the blue.

You couldn’t just export your community. You would have to start a new one elsewhere. Rented social media space is always risky for audience building.

In order to make this example even clearer I’d like to answer the questions for myself in a simplified manner and a hypothetical persona.

I’m a blogger using social media to spread the word on several topics like for example search engine optimization.

  • I’d need 20h a month to make Pinterest work for me. I’d need consulting jobs worth at least 12k after half a year to get even.
  • My direct use of the site would be organizing the images I like on SEO.
  • The audience I usually address (webmaster interested in SEO) isn’t yet on Pinterest but now if flocks to it in significant numbers.
  • Judged from the tiny trickle I get from Pinterest pins on other site I assume that only every 20th visitor of Pinterest who can see my content over there would visit my site.
  • I don’t know yet but I assume that there is no way to take out my content and network out of Pinterest and recreate it elsewhere without major effort.

Now the persona, I chose one for whom Pinterest might actually work. John is a real estate agent from the US.

  • I’d need 20h a month to make Pinterest work for me. I’d need to sell a flat worth at least 12k after half a year to get even.
  • My direct use of the site would be organizing the images I like on architecture.
  • The audience I usually address (middle class Americans interested in modern architecture) is already prominent on Pinterest .
  • Judged from the popularity of some architecture sites on Pinterest I assume that I will get 1k visitors from Pinterest  a month. These people might even share my images elsewhere as well.
  • I don’t know yet but I assume that there is no way to take out my content and network out of Pinterest and recreate it elsewhere without major effort but I have all the images I’ll pin on my site already.

To find out whether people have already pinned images for your site type this in your browser URL bar: but instead of using my domain name use yours.

It Might Work for You but You Have to Make Sure it Does

Your use Pinterest might work for some but not for others. It’s a matter of strategic planning and evaluation. It may or may not be an opportunity.

It depends on who you are, where you live and your business model. Does Pinterest already work you? Tell us how and why in the comment section please.

Btw.: I’m not really active on Quora, I’m not a member of Foursquare. I wasted years on Google+ though.

I almost forgot it: What exactly is Pinterest? It’s an image bookmarking site. There are lots of other image bookmarking sites.

I used some of them to promote on of my other blogs. They yielded more traffic than Pinterest from engagement of years ago in the beginning.

More on Pinterest elsewhere:

  1. Pinterest Marketing 101: How to Promote Your Business on Pinterest
  2. 24 Pinterest stats and facts marketers must know in 2022
  3. 24 Pinterest Stats That Matter to Marketers in 2022
  4. The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest Marketing
  5. How to Carry Out a Pinterest Marketing Strategy