Pinterest Succeeds Through Grassroots Marketing

By Corey Switzer-Kruss
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a HUGE fan of Pinterest. Whether I’m pinning ideas for holiday presents on my “Ideas” board or surfing artsy boards while I’m on the phone with a client (yes, I do that – the distraction helps me concentrate), I spend a lot of my day on the social site with a greater purpose for sharing timeless visual information.
When Pinterest first launched in 2010 usage was pretty stagnant; the site had just 3000 users after 3 months. Pinterest now has over 10 million unique users and counting. The site is also the 3rd largest source of referral traffic on the internet.
The cool thing about Pinterest, is that its growth story is unique to most all social networking sites. When Ben Silberman – CEO – was pitching the site to venture capitalists he recalls, “a lot of people in Silicon Valley didn’t get, and I don’t know if they still get, Pinterest. The fact that it made sense to someone is what really mattered to me.”
Ben recognized that he didn’t need to improve upon his idea or the algorithms; he needed to go out and find the people who would love the idea as much as he did, make them aware, dedicate them to using the site, and then spread the word!
Ben went on a grassroots marketing campaign – an idea almost unheard of in Sillicon Valley circles. Pinterest started arranging meet-ups at boutiques, engaged with bloggers, and gave users a certain number of invitations to dole out to non-users.
Now, on a personal note I have to say that the “invite only” tactic was GENIUS. When I decided to check Pinterest out and was put on a waiting list to be able to join the site I frantically started Facebook messaging ANYONE who was already a member who could “invite me”. That dangling carrot hooked me, and when I finally got to bite down it was so yummy!
As a matter of fact, I was one of the first Pinterest users in our office (we’re big into social media) and by the end of the week we had almost the entire staff hooked!
The moral of the story according to Ben is that a good idea sometimes needs an old-school jump-start. Pinterest didn’t need better engineering, it needed better distribution. He warns dotcom entrepreneurs that it’s not always prudent to take the advice of VC’s and Silicon Valley. Go with your gut. Ben’s case has successfully come back full circle. 1. They didn’t come to him. 2. So he went to them. 3. Now they’re all coming to him.
Thanks for Pinterest, Ben!
This is my favorite board: