Repeat after me: Pinterest is not a social media platform.

When was the last time you conversed with someone over Pinterest? Let me rephrase that. Have you ever had a conversation with someone on Pinterest?

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the answer to that question is no.

Most people consider Pinterest to be a social network because you can share stuff, but that idea doesn't necessarily hold much water. Amazon allows you to make wish lists public, thereby in a sense sharing. Yet no one considers Amazon to be a social network.

Yes, you can add comments to a Pin. But in all honesty, threaded comments on a blog work better. Of course, we don't consider blogs as social media platforms.

I'll hand it to you that Pinterest does have certain social elements. After all, you can follow your favorite people and specific boards. But is that enough to call it social media?

If you consider Pinterest just a social platform, you're at a serious tactical disadvantage.

What is Pinterest really?

If Pinterest is not a social media platform, then what is it?

First, realize that Pinterest takes advantage of our human tendency to collect stuff.

As a kid, I collected coins, stamps, and rocks among other things. Plus, I had a cork board to which I used to pin things. I'm not the only one with that hobby. Many people with similar childhood experiences have carried that hobby into adulthood. It's that desire to collect and organize that makes Pinterest so powerful.

So, Pinterest is powerful... But what is it? With more than 130 million visual searches performed every month, and the recent introduction of automatic object detection, Pinterest is really a visual discovery tool. I know it's safe to say this because even Pinterest uses the term.

Now I know that "visual discovery tool" doesn't have quite the same ring as "social media," but let's call a spade a spade. Besides, this revelation is rather quite exciting.

Why does the term matter?

Pinterest helps people conduct image searches, just like Google does. Well, not quite, because Google searches the entire Web, and Pinterest searches are restricted to its platform. But with over 100 million monthly active users, Pinterest is not that big of a deal.

What makes Pinterest more attractive is that it helps users sort and store their discoveries for later referral. (Good luck doing that in Google.)

The result is a remarkable longevity of pins. Unlike most social content, whose lifespan is frequently measured in seconds, Pinterest pins can last for months, if not years.

Moreover, unlike other true social media platforms, people don't go on Pinterest to chat, post selfies, or engage in other social behavior. Pinners (Pinterest's term for its users) engage with the platform to find, sort, and classify ideas—and most importantly for marketers, to buy stuff.

In a Millward Brown Digital survey, almost every respondent indicated that they use Pinterest in helping them decide what to purchase. Would you get a similar response in a survey of Instagram or Snapchat users? That's highly unlikely.

Here's more food for thought. Despite your best efforts, your position in Google's SERP can get knocked down overnight. But a pin on someone's board stays there until it's removed. On Google, you need to fight for dominance. However, gaining supremacy on Pinterest isn't as much of an issue.

It's not a question of semantics

This whole thing about Pinterest not being a social media platform isn't just a case of your saying "to-ma-toe" and my saying "to-mah-toe." Strategically, you need to grasp the specific nuances of each marketing channel utilized. So, in regards to Pinterest, you need to leave what you think you know about social media at the door.

At one point or another, Pinners always occupy a point somewhere along the buyer's journey. Pinners are not on Pinterest to connect with old high school buddies or provide friends with a status update. They are there to plan, search for ideas, and ultimately make a purchase.

Every pin needs a purpose

Every piece of content produced for Pinterest needs to match the buyer's journey.

Some Pins should appeal to consumers just beginning their research. Those are the Pins that build awareness of the brand.

Yet, it's not just about building a brand. Take advantage of Pinterest's Rich Pins, so consumers can make purchases without ever leaving the platform.

Social media marketers typically struggle to quantify their efforts because there is often little correlation between their activities and an increase in sales and revenue. But Pinterest is a different beast. It's not really a social networking site, and people love using the platform to help them buy stuff.

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Pinterest Isn't the Social Platform You Think It Is

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image of Stephen Jeske

Stephen Jeske handles Growth and Marketing at Viralwoot, a Pinterest tool used by over 70,000 marketers, bloggers, businesses, and agencies in 43 countries around the world.

LinkedIn: Stephen Jeske 

Twitter: @stephenjeske