Does Pinterest Trump Facebook For Sales? [Research / Charts]

Are you distributing your social media budget effectively between Facebook and Pinterest? Before you answer, you must know what your business goals are, where your target audience is, and how effective each site is for attracting your specific market to achieve your objectives. 

On Facebook and Pinterest, size matters.

To put these two social media sites in perspective here are some facts.

  • As the 800 pound gorilla of social media, Facebook has 152.2 million unique US visitors via PC according to Nielsen. Over half of its members use the social media platform regularly.
  • As 2012’s social media darling, Pinterest has grown to 27.2 million unique US visitors via PC according to Nielsen.
  • As for mobile, Facebook dominates Pinterest with 78.4 million versus 4.9 million unique US mobile apps users and 74.3 million versus 14.3 million unique US mobile web users.
  • According to August 2012 Shareholic findings, Pinterest is the fourth largest source of referral traffic. While this referral ranking is significant, both Facebook (and Google) eclipse Pinterest in terms of traffic. Consequently, Facebook’s size makes it an important element of any social media strategy. Facebook and Google Higher Organic Traffic Generator than Pinterest

Facebook photos versus Pinterest pins

While Pinterest is a visual scrapbook, Facebook is the world’s top photo gallery. But marketers beware – photographs don’t necessarily translate into content marketing. Facebook images are just as likely to be someone’s newborn infant or grandmother’s 80th birthday snaps as they are product. Facebook is the largest library of photos (not all marketing related)Further research by Dan Zarrella found that the use of photographs on Facebook yielded more likes, comments and shares than other content formats. [Here’s more analysis of Dan Zarrella’s Facebook research.]

Shoppers and brands: Facebook versus Pinterest

According to recent research by Lab 42, 87% of respondents “Like” a brand on Facebook. Before you take this finding to the bank, of those who “Like” a brand, 77% did so to save money and 42% had no intention of buying from the marketer. Therefore on Facebook, for a third of participants it’s about the savings. Additionally “Likes” have a real cost beyond the Facebook marketing execution and engagement, namely the reduced price and free give-aways. 

Further, Lab 42 found that 50% of respondents thought that the brand’s Facebook page was more useful than its website. At a minimum, this should signal that you need to examine the effectiveness of your website before expanding your brand’s social media presence.

By contrast, Pinterest is similar to the social media virtual mall where participants go to get inspired to shop. Across a variety of attributes, respondents found Pinterest entertaining and inspirational for finding product to purchase. Participants preferred Pinterest over Facebook for these shopping related activities. Further 43% of Pinterest users agreed that they used the social media site to associate with brands with which they identify, about twice the rate who have the same feelings about Facebook (or 24%) according to the Bizrate findings. 

Earlier Bizrate research found that roughly a third of Pinterest participants purchase and slightly more than a third get inspired to buy product later. Marketers pay heed –Pinterest users get inspired to buy now and in the future. Even more important, one out of four bought product by clicking through the Pinterest image. (Of course, it helps to use a social media call-to-action.)

Further, the level of social media engagement, specifically, observer, participant or creator, influences Pinterest and Facebook interaction. With the exception of the response: “I’ve seen images”, less involved, more passive social media users tend to use Facebook more than Pinterest. By contrast, highly engaged creators favored Pinterest.  [Here’s more information on the three levels of social media engagement.]

Facebook versus Pinterest: Actionable marketing recommendations

Here’s what this research means for marketers:

  • Pinterest drives sales directly. This is particularly true for products in high ranking categories on the social media platform. Further, you should optimize your pins for sales such as including the product price. The drawbacks are that Pinterest isn’t strong across product categories and demographics and it’s still relatively small compared to Facebook.
  • Facebook helps grow reach. Due to its size Facebook outshines Pinterest in sheer numbers. For marketers, the problem is that there’s limited to no loyalty to these prospects. Further pricing incentives and additional marketing are needed to convert them to sales.

For marketers, the choice isn’t Pinterest or Facebook because the reality is that you need a cross-platform approach to social media. You must weigh the tradeoff between driving more cost-efficient sales directly in smaller numbers from Pinterest versus expanding your reach with Facebook to acquire prospects that tend to be price-oriented and may require additional marketing to convert. Unless you’re a small marketer with very limited resources, you’ll need a mix of these two social media options.

What has your experience been using Pinterest and Facebook to drive sales? Which was more effective for you?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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