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POV: Is Pinterest Becoming a Search Engine?

Mindshare Point of View

Background:

Pinterest is known in the industry as a social media platform, yet Evan Sharp, Pinterest co-founder and chief product officer, has stated “that was really a misunderstanding. It’s our fault for not being clear. We think of Pinterest much more as a search engine.” Since hiring Jon Kaplan, who previously worked at Google, the platform has continued to focus on improving the search capabilities. This is clearly the case as the platform has now moved the search and Pinterest Lens (a visual search tool) features to more prominent real estate within the app, now featuring on the home feed rather than in a separate tab.

Details and Implications:

Pinterest is making a bigger push into search with the addition of search and visual discovery tool, Lens, to its home feed. Users of Pinterest’s flagship iOS application (Android coming soon) can now search via the new search bar at the top of their home feed or tap the Lens camera to launch visual search, with ads appearing against the results.

Considering Pinterest has seen monthly mobile text searches increase 40% year-on-year, with that figure climbing to 60% for visual searches, there appears to be a growing opportunity for advertisers to take advantage of this search network, as both text and visual ads can be served against these searches, resulting in great potential for brands.

Pinterest has also pointed out the unique ways users search on the platform, stating that 85% of searches occur via mobile devices and although 97% of searches are unbranded, 72% of Pinterest users say they have discovered new brands and services via Pinterest. Therefore, advertisers should consider this platform as part of their generic paid search strategy as well as their social media strategy.

Brands must bear in mind that Pinterest is not a direct competitor to Google or Bing, as consumer behaviour across these channels is very different. Consumers go to Google to find a specific product, find a solution to a problem or to get information, whereas Pinterest users are looking to discover new things and get inspiration for how to apply these to their lives. Therefore, Pinterest should be used in conjunction with major search engines to ensure maximum paid search coverage.

Pinterest is currently only working with a couple of hundred advertisers, yet the potential growth in its search business could make this a more viable platform for advertisers. The company expects to make $500 million in ad revenue this year and this could grow significantly if they continue to focus on improving their search personalisation features and object detection for Lens and effectively crack the paid search advertising space.

Summary:

Pinterest is trying hard to shift their perception away from a social media platform and instead be viewed as a search engine. Advertisers should be aware of this conscious shift in positioning and explore how they can use this platform as part of an integrated paid search strategy, whilst also considering the social aspect to ensure all angles are covered in their media strategy.

Further reading:

Business Insider

The Drum