1. It's social, but not as we know it.
If I post a photograph of my meal or my dog on Instagram you know what I want you to do: I want you to like my meal. Or my dog. The more of you who do, the happier I am.
But if I post a picture of the same meal or dog on Pinterest, I couldn't care less if you like it or not. In fact Pinterest has actually got rid of the 'like' button on their page. That's because Pinterest isn't social in the same way as other social networks. Certainly I can share pins with my friends and followers. But essentially Pinterest is for me – it's my personal library of things that I like. Not things I'm hoping you'll like.
Former Pinterest president Tim Kendall agrees: “We're not a social network. People don't use Pinterest to find out what their friends are doing. They don't use Pinterest to share. They use Pinterest to design their life. It's a tool for people to plan."
What are they planning? Where to get married. What to have for dinner. Where to shop for shoes on Saturday. They are definitely planning to buy stuff. Maybe your brand's stuff. So Pinterest has got to be a really good place to tell them about it.
2. It's not interruptive, it's additive.
Ads. Good ones shouldn't interrupt. Whether they show up on Facebook or TV, radio or Instagram, they should complement the user or audience experience – not with content at odds with what you are there to read, watch or listen to, but content that ties in seamlessly with it, that adds to it.
Imagine the ad you see provides a different service, meeting another of your needs. Sounds like magic... Say you've just stuck a picture of a particular style of shoe on one of your Pinterest boards. And then say a crafty algorithm works out which shoe brands make that kind of shoe. Well if one of those brands suddenly pops up in your feed with a picture of the style in question, you're not going to be resentful at all. You're going to be grateful.
The thing about Pinterest is that it's much easier for brands to help users do what they're there to do anyway. Brands that do that are going with the flow of what Pinterest is for – not against it, as they might be on Facebook. Tim Kendall called it “the alignment of the needs of the advertisers and the needs of the user".
Adele Cooper, the Irish woman who is Pinterest's UK and Ireland country manager, has this to say: “When you are thinking about raising awareness of a brand or business the traditional model would be via the TV; the digital model would be via Facebook. But these methods are often disrupting what the user is actually accessing the platform for". This isn't the case on Pinterest.
3. It's visual
The Internet. It's a visual medium, isn't it? It's all about the pictures. Odd, then, that that's not the way it's sold to advertisers. The search terms that SEO typically concerns itself with are words, not pictures. And in a curiously Orwellian turn of events, Adwords even offers to rent bits of the language out to the highest bidder.
But what's easier? Trying to describe those shoes you're looking for with umpteen hit-or-miss words ('strappy', 'shiny', 'peep-toe', 'has red soles'…)? Or describing them with a photograph of the shoes themselves?
Ongoing improvements in image recognition mean that searching by image is becoming increasingly efficient. This plays right into Pinterest's court, which is the most visual of all social platforms – and the only image-search native out there.
4. It's future-focussed
Timelines. Memories. Stories. By and large, social media platforms are very good at things that have already happened. History, in other words. They're far less good at the present. ('Mir21 started a live video', says my Instagram feed. '19 minutes ago.') And they're not much cop at all when it comes to the future.
Apart that is, from Pinterest. Because unlike Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, which are mostly about exploring the things you already know and love, Pinterest is about discovery. When you're using it, your mindset is different. It's more open to possibilities, to the new and the novel. Which means that Pinterest can help generate demand where it didn't exist before – for your brand, for instance.
Laurence Keogh is Creative Planner at McCannBlue. Follow him on Pinterest here: