Scrapbooking, 21st Century-style
In the few years since its original release as a beta in 2010, photo-sharing and social media community Pinterest has gained incredible traction both here in the United States, as well as in emerging communities around the world.
Designed much like a bulletin board or pin-board you may have seen in the halls of your college classroom building, and utilizing the same photo-sharing social processes that have driven earlier communities like Vine and Reddit to similar lofty heights, Pinterest has entered what was considered a market already too crowded for new competitors. Indeed, at the pinnacle of the social media stratosphere stands Facebook (and to a lesser extent, Twitter), a shining example of constant innovation and ahead-of-the-curve thinking.
So how does a small fish in a pond created by a shark make a name for itself, let alone grow to a community that now includes tens of millions of unique visitors each day? By harnessing one of the most important lessons any new entrepreneur can learn when attempting to break their business into a market full of established competition; finding a niche (and an associated untapped market segment) and exploiting it to the fullest.
In this case, Pinterest identified that many female users of sites like Facebook were repeatedly sharing and commenting on consumer products, event-related images like wedding photos and dresses, and a variety of other trends, fashions, and consumer items. Coupling this realization with a slickly designed user interface, that allows users to simply “pin” images they like to personal “boards” that they can share with fellow users, Pinterest has since exploded among its target demographic; young, motivated, and outgoing young women, a market demographic that causes social media gurus and marketing executives to slaver at the mouth with long term monetary potential.
A Simple Difference, A Big Time Move
It seems like such a simple touch, and in its early days it was viewed as just another gimmick being used to entice people to a new social network. But the beauty and simplicity of Pinterest, and the reason it has become the exponentially growing phenomenon it is today (recent valuation estimates put the network’s value north of $2 billion), is directly tied to its common-sense and immensely intuitive user interface. One of the largest complaints of long-time Facebook users (your author included, having created his Facebook account back in the halcyon days of college-only thefacebook) is the increasing complexity and learning curve required to master protecting personal information on the site.
Pinterest took this complaint and tailored their network to avoid the major flaws that continue to dog Facebook among its users. Instead of attempting to compete with Facebook as a comprehensive social media service, or in mirroring Facebook’s UI and offerings, Pinterest decided to slim down the model to its basic function – allowing people to share and comment on photos or links that they think others would find interesting as well. This is especially efficient given the rise of mobile communications and mobile web browsing, which encourage simplistic UI designs in order to allow for easier app design and more mobile features. All features of Pinterest are available to mobile users, immediately allowing it to stand apart from Facebook and others who cannot offer the same perks to users.
What this leaves us is an extraordinarily clear takeaway as entrepreneurs; instead of trying to be the biggest or the best service on the market, especially in one with established competitors, sometimes our best bet may be to take an existing business model or structure and optimize it for our own use. Not only this, but by identifying a particular market segment that may be untapped or reached in a limited basis, we can tailor our product and service to specifically entice this segment, while generating the social media following and brand trust that can allow us to expand our product or service’s appeal to other target markets.
The S.W.O.T. Analysis
- Simple and user-friendly intuitive U.I.; Pinterest’s design, from the name itself to the functionality of the service, are all logically aligned to support branding and user experience simultaneously
- Domination of target market; Pinterest’s creators cited a dedicated focus on young, socially and technologically mobile women as a target market. Branding and content has been specifically targeted at this segment, successfully
- Low overhead outside of marketing and user experience upgrades, as well as a rapidly expanding user base, lead to a potentially astronomical market cap
- With Pinterest’s dedicated focus on such a specific target demographic, they risk permanently excluding other demographics (i.e. young men) who may find the service exclusionary (i.e. “too girly”)
- As with most start-ups, monetizing the idea remains the crux of investor’s questions. While the focus on sharing products and services remains enticing to bringing in advertisers and retailers, the company still needs to prove profitability
- Niche social media sites continue to arise on a regular basis, presenting constant danger from unexpected challengers or market saturation of this type of service
- Surprisingly, despite the heavy focus on sharing products and brands, the company has been very limited in contests or partner promotions, which seem to be a potentially lucrative avenue for advertising and sales partners
- Because of its unique user experience, Pinterest remains comfortably secure in its user base, especially as the first site of its kind to market. The niche service protects Pinterest’s growing market share
- As was mentioned earlier, constant arrival of potential competitors in the exploding social media scene keep market cap and profit projections in flux
- A new service that effectively targets the same market demographic could steal the one thing Pinterest has safely going for it; a dedicated target market following
Takeaways for Entrepreneurs
Pinterest remains a study in how best to attack heavyweight competitors in an established and crowded market, while minimizing risk. By doing extensive market analysis before rolling out the product, the folks behind Pinterest were able to effectively identify the potential in the 18-35 female market as a place where they could steal page clickers from Facebook most effectively. The company, as any prudent entrepreneur should, then designed its user interface and media platform in response to this target market.
What did this do? Two things, incredibly effectively. First, Pinterest was able to ensure it would physically and psychologically appeal to the market it was geared for, since the entire interface was designed specifically with those users in mind. Secondly, Pinterest was able to limit the threat from companies like Facebook, who while providing a similar platform, can’t offer the specific features that a niche site like Pinterest can offer to its users.
What we have left is a modern success story in a social media world full of abject failures and squandered investments. With a niche market firmly in its grasp, newfound brand trust and word-of-mouth among its dedicated users, and a business model that ensures long-term competitiveness and viability against even its most formidable competitors, Pinterest seems destined for the kind of success we entrepreneurs can only dream of achieving; that is, unless we take these lessons and use them to bring our businesses to the type of fruition that Pinterest has displayed for us.
Go cash in on today,
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