January 19, 2015 / by Jim Dougherty

Sites like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook have demonstrated the power for visual media to influence publics online. One site that exemplifies this more than any other is Pinterest, a site that has captured the attention of a very unique audience cohort that many PR practitioners would be pleased to reach.

What I want to do in this post is to share some facts and best practices about Pinterest that will help you to understand the Pinterest audience better and to craft optimized messages in the Pinterest channel.

1. Pinning is “aspirational”

Aspirational - Pinterest for PR

How do you tell a story with visual media? In traditional storytelling the protagonists face adversity, which leads to jeopardy, and finally to catharsis. But when you’re “Pinning,” your message is encapsulated into a picture possibly with a little text providing context (you can learn more about digital storytelling by following this rabbit hole).

Robert Moore of RJ Metrics provides this insight that explains a lot about the storytelling that visual media on Pinterest is able to communicate:

“Pinning is aspirational, which means that data on pins is data on people’s aspirations.”

In other words, Pinterest users are the protagonists in their own story. The extent that a photo can offer catharsis for their adversity depends upon its capability to solve their problems. The most popular Pinterest categories exemplify this aspirational ideal quite well.

2. Pinterest’s most popular categories

One of the more innovative brain trusts for Pinterest marketing resides in my (adopted) hometown of Cincinnati. Ahalogy is a company that realized Pinterest’s potential quite early in its lifecycle and their thought-leadership is very well respected among social marketers. Recently they released a study about Pinterest user that revealed a lot about Pinterest demographics and behaviors. Their name will come up frequently in this post.

One of the things that they examined were the most pinned categories and the most browsed categories (by daily users).

Most pinned categories:

  • Food & Drink
  • DIY & Crafts
  • Home Décor
  • Holidays & Events

Most browsed categories:

  • Food & Drink
  • DIY & Crafts
  • Home Décor
  • Their home feed

The insight from this being that all content is not equal on Pinterest. This is the case anywhere of course, but especially for visual media on Pinterest, the majority of people have specific interests that they look to visual media on Pinterest to address.

3. Huge brand opportunities on Pinterest

The general thinking about social media is that people interact with brands for discounts and customer service (“social care”). Most serious studies about social media sentiment find that these two things are the main reason that people follow brands.

You might be surprised to find that Pinterest is an exception. In the Ahalogy study sited above, they determined the following user sentiment regarding brands:

  • 83 percent of active users prefer to follow a brand than a notable celebrity
  • 73 percent of active users prefer to follow a beauty brand than a notable makeup artist
  • 70 percent of active users prefer to follow a hair care brand rather than a notable hair stylist

As a PR practitioner or a marketer, this has got to give you pause (in the best way). This means that if you are providing quality content on Pinterest, you have an audience that wants to enthusiastically listen.

Want to learn how to use Pinterest for PR? View Jennifer Cario’s on-demand webinar!

4. Women are the significant majority

The prevailing wisdom about Pinterest for some time has been that it is overwhelmingly used by women. Business Insider estimates that gender on Pinterest is approximately 81 percent female and 19 percent male.

Of course this isn’t anything new, but it should confirm that the demographics hold as the scale increases (Pinterest has grown 111 percent year-over-year from 2013 to 2014). Of more note are some of the demographic differences within the 81 percent. More on that in a moment…..

5. Men on Pinterest have different interests

You might wonder what the 19 percent are doing on Pinterest. As you might suspect from your reading of John Gray or your deeply honed intuition: male Pinterest users are interested in different stuff than female users. (information published in the Ahalogy study)

Most popular Pinterest categories for men:

  • Food & Drink
  • Technology
  • DIY/Crafts
  • Humor
  • Gardening

They also described the Pinterest categories with the largest difference between male and female users:

  • Technology
  • Cars & Motorcycles
  • Men’s Fashion
  • Sports
  • Videos

These results likely seem quite intuitive to you, but I think it’s interesting to note that the aggregated men of Pinterest have quite different interests than their female counterparts.

Another interesting gender difference can be seen in behavior: men only account for 7 percent of all Pins on Pinterest. This suggests that content creation by male users on the network is far less prolific than by female users.

6. Millennials use Pinterest as much as Instagram


millennial use of Pinterest 2014

Business Insider reports that Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social platforms among millennials. This means that for many businesses Pinterest has an ideal demographic to outreach to.

7. Median Pinterest user is 40

A misconception that you might have after reading about Pinterest’s popularity with millennial users is that its popularity is driven by younger users. Although relatively speaking this is accurate for all things tech, the median age (quick statistics primer: median is the halfway point where half are over, half are under) of Pinterest users is a little over 40 according to Ahalogy.

What this means is that half of all Pinterest users are Gen X or older, a demographic that might otherwise be overlooked. For PR professionals and marketers, this means that there may be an audience for your message on Pinterest that you may not have considered.

8. Majority of Daily Active Pinners are under 40

While it may seem as if this is putting a fine point on the previous bullet, this fact is important to understand the Pinterest audience as well. While half of the Pinterest audience may be over 40, the most active users are decidedly younger. Ahalogy calls the most active segment “Millenial Moms,” and points out that they are a very desirable demographic for many businesses.

9. Not everything you read about Pinterest is true

{We interrupt this broadcast for a reality check}

Pinterest is undeniably powerful, but there are also a lot of generous and outrageous statistics about Pinterest floating around the Internets. For example, one statistic that is often quoted is that 47 percent of online consumers have made purchases referred (directly or indirectly) from Pinterest.

This sounds very impressive until you realize that only 28 percent of online adults have ever used Pinterest, and that 167 percent conversion is impossible (asterisk: the additional 67 percent could come from external sites, making this statistic implausible rather than impossible).

One estimate cites Pinterest conversion 50 percent better than Facebook, which while impressive would mean that Pinterest’s conversion rate would be slightly above one-tenth of one percent. It takes a lot of impressions with .1 percent engagement to reach 167 percent.

Point being: Pinterest can do a lot of heavy lifting, but it’s not going to be extraordinarily different from other social networks for distribution or conversion. Engineer metrics around your Pinterest campaigns to make sure they are doing what you expect them to.

10. Half of Pinterest users make $50K+

Remember the “Millennial Mom” demographic that Ahalogy identified as a huge opportunity on Pinterest? Here’s the kicker: the household income of half of Pinterest users is $50K or greater per year, with 10 percent of Pinteresting households making greater than $125K (again according to Ahalogy). This income profile is very similar to Facebook and Twitter users.

You can probably interpret this best in the context of Pinterest’s other demographics: there is a good amount of relative affluence among Pinterest users.

11. Active Pinners watch less TV and read fewer magazines

Ahalogy asked an interesting question about Pinterest usage: what are people doing less of when they are using Pinterest? And it turns out that media consumption is affected quite dramatically for active Pinterest users. The study found that:

  • Active users watch television two or three less hours weekly than Pinterest non-users
  • 43 percent of active Pinterest users claim to use Pinterest in lieu of reading magazines
  • 49 percent of active Pinterest users claim to use Pinterest in lieu catalogs
  • 29 percent of active Pinterest users say that they choose Pinterest searches in lieu of traditional search engines

The big takeaway from this is that Pinterest users are less distracted by other media than non-Pinterest users, which could be a useful insight when trying to reach then with your messaging.

12. Europe has been slow to adopt Pinterest

Europe - Pinterest for PR

A 2014 Globalwebindex study found that Europe lags behind the U.S. in user adoption of Pinterest. Specifically, they found that:

  • Only 8 percent of European Internet users have a Pinterest account
  • Only 3 percent of European Internet users are active users of Pinterest

For businesses that target European markets, this is obviously a point that should be vetted when considering Pinterest as a marketing or PR tactic.

13. Optimize reach by pinning 10+ times per day

Obviously the dynamic of every business and user is different, but Ahalogy revealed that the target number of Pins per day in order to optimize reach is 10-15. Especially as the scale of your Pinterest audience grows, deliberately timed Pins are an important aspect of messaging on the Pinterest platform.

14. Pinning accounts for half of iPad social shares

An interesting post-mortem from the 2014 shopping season was that users with the iOS operating system (Apple) spend far more money online than Android and other mobile operating system. Business Insider proposes that this is the natural consequence of Apple user’s affluence.

Why is this factoid significant to Pinterest users? Because BI published the statistic that about half of social sharing on iPads occurs on Pinterest (48.2 percent to be exact).

For PR and marketing professionals interested in the e-commerce potential of Pinterest, this is a very intriguing statistic.

15. Want Repins? Use between 200 and 300 characters

Not only is frequency an important aspect of Pinning, but it turns out that character count is an important factor in how often your Pins are Re-Pinned. Although Pinterest gives you 500 characters, keeping it short is ideal for sharing.

16. Image characteristics matter a lot

Curalate did an interesting analysis of images on Pinterest and determined some ideal characteristics of the most shared images. Among their insights, optimized photos have:

  • Reddish-Orange Color
  • Multiple Dominant Colors
  • Medium lightness
  • Aspect ratio between 2:3 and 4:5
  • Less than 10 percent background
  • Smooth texture
  • No faces

Definitely some ideas to keep in mind as you develop Pinterest content.

17. Website “Pin It” buttons require one piece of code

You can make every photo on your site easily Pinnable by adding one piece of code to your site. You simply would go to the Pinterest Widget Builder and it will create a code to add to your header scripts. Or if you prefer, here’s a code you can add that can do this (disclaimer – I don’t know what you have going on on your site, so I offer it with a disclaimer):




18. Add context with “Rich Pins”

Beyond the basic context that you provide to your pins, you can also add additional context via “Rich Pins” which are a set of Open-Graph meta-tags that you can add to your web images. There are five types:

  • Product Rich Pins
  • Recipe Rich Pins
  • Article Rich Pins
  • Movie Rich Pins
  • Place Rich Pins

If your content falls within these categories, you can add additional contextual information (as an example you can add the price to a product) which will populate in Pinterest pins. If you do use these contextual tags, be sure to use Pinterest’s Rich Pin Validator to confirm that they are communicated properly to Pinterest.

19. Don’t use short links on Pinterest

This may be old-hat to a lot of Pinners, but Pinterest has a tendency to flag shortlinks as spam. This inconvenience is easily rectified by using the proper web URLs rather than shortlinks.

20. Understand nuances of Pinterest hashtags

Pinterest hashtags aren’t like the contextual hashtags that you find on Twitter and Facebook. Vincent Ng of McNgMarketing points out that there are some major differences between Pinterest hashtags and hashtags on other social platforms. Specifically:

  • Pinterest hashtags are not available on mobile
  • Pinterest hashtags are not all indexed
  • Pinterest hashtags may redirect traffic away from your site

Of course there is a lot of value to contextualizing your content with hashtags so long as you test to insure that it is working as intended.

21. Promoted Pins to become more user friendly

In 2014, Pinterest rolled out Promoted Pins to a few bigger clients. In 2015, Pinterest is reportedly rolling out self-service Promoted Pins to all businesses (similar to Facebook Promotions or Adwords).

Pinterest Promoted Pins are a CPC (cost-per-click) product with no minimum budget. Businesses can currently sign-up for the Promoted Pin waiting list here.

22. Pingroupie finds topical Pinterest Group Boards

One of the more effective tactics to increase targeted distribution on Pinterest is participation on Group Boards. The tool that many people use to find the most appropriate boards for their intended audience is Pingroupie.

Ashley Faulkes of Mad Lemmings describes Pingroupie as “basically a powerful excel sheet that allows you to search and filter groups,” which is an apt description. The power of this tools is in the information it has and not in the user experience. 🙂

23. You can embed Pins to get repins

It may surprise you that Repinning doesn’t have to happen on Pinterest. It takes surprisingly little effort to embed single Pins or entire boards on your site. In fact, Pinterest has code generators that makes this very easy. Here’s an example with a Cision Pinterest board:

Follow Cision’s board Blog on Pinterest.

Pretty cool, huh? Here are quick links to the code generators:

24. Pinterest has analytics

This point may be a little evident, but with AdAge reporting that a majority of companies aren’t even planning with ROI in mind, it probably makes sense to bring attention to Pinterest’s analytic package. While it’s not super robust, it does quantify total impressions, unique impressions and the popularity of each Pin.

25. You can Pin more than images

Although visual media is the primary thing that you think of when you think of Pinterest, you might be surprised that you can also Pin video and audio. This is awesome for podcast content, or visual content that you may not have considered for placement on Pinterest. As an example, here are two examples:


Pinterest is a special platform because of its unique demographic makeup and by the behaviors that it promotes.

Hopefully these facts and tips about Pinterest give you more insight into who you can reach and how you can reach them with this powerful platform.

Want more tips to help increase your brand’s presence on Pinterest? Get our free white paper today!


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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.