What’s the ROI of Pinterest?


Well known social media experts like to slough off tough questions about return on investment (ROI) with flip phrases like, “What’s the ROI of your mom?” Now it’s time to turn the tables and ask social media experts, “What’s the ROI of Pinterest?”

For the past few weeks we have experienced a deluge of Pinterest hype across the social media sphere, marketing media, and the periodic mainstream news piece. Pinterest is touted as the next hot thing, and we see a ton of suggestions from “experts” on how to market using Pinterest.

What is rarely offered is demonstrative evidence of ROI. And shared case studies are often sandbox level successes that produce light outcomes like follower counts, but not actual financial results. Here are some examples:

  • The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton now has 350 followers on Pinterest, and has received roughly 100 visits from its Pins. Certainly some early signs of local engagement for a new social network, but what’s the outcome?
  • Yogurt company Chobani has 2,000 followers and is driving user engagement from Pinterest. OK, again, good top-of-the-funnel activity, not massive, but good for a core loyalist group. But what are the loyalists doing once they get to the Chobani site?
  • Probably the most likely to have real ROI occurring is online retailer Etsy with its 43,000 pinners. But the case study I saw featured discusses retail branding and empowering users to build shopping ideas, not sales, store click throughs, conversions or any other statistic close to ROI.

Let’s be honest here. Outside of driving traffic and Pinterest follower counts, most people don’t have any outcomes to offer. Pinterest is a huge experiment from the marketing perspective. Fewer people have real answers to the ROI question.

Marketing Profs just published a comprehensive post on Pinterest user engagement, and they noted how quality was suffering with the recent hype and onslaught of new users. One has to wonder if all the hype is good or bad for Pinterest. Almost all of the Pinterest posts and stories discuss user behavior and marketing ideas, not actual examples of how companies have made it work.

Pinterest has great potential. And marketers targeting the core demographics it serves have every reason to experiment and share ideas.

So let’s get real about this conversation. The space desperately needed something new to talk about. And now everyone has gone gaga in touting Pinterest as the greatest Shiny Object since the iPhone app.

But reality is not meeting the hype, not yet, at least. Experts who tout Pinterest as the second coming of Facebook need to answer the ROI question or damper the enthusiasm. Otherwise, we’ll be pinning burst bubbles in six months.

Additional Reading: The Inevitable Pinterest Post