Big Brands and How Women Fueled the Success of Pinterest

New Media Expo, formerly BlogWorld, understands that their conference attendees are hungry for meaty information about Pinterest. This past June 7th, I was pleased to organize and lead their Social Media Business Summit session on this topic in New York City. We were pleased to have representatives from Sony Electronics and Benjamin Moore discuss how their big brands succeed on Pinterest. Please note that the Social Media Business Summit took an exciting step this September in it’s evolution to become BusinessNext Social.

New Media Expo (next in Las Vegas June 6 – 8) always does an excellent job of capturing archives of their conference sessions. They have given me permission to share the video of my Pinterest session with you (see below).

How Pinterest Began and the Power of Women

I began the session with an overview of Pinterest, including the story of how Pinterest began. If you look at how Pinterest began, it is easier to understand why it emerged as a primarily female centric platform.

Of all social networks Pinterest has the highest percentage of females demographic chart

Of all social networks covered in this demographic research, Pinterest has the highest percentage of women. In February 2012, women accounted for 82% of active Pinterest users. In June 2012, with many more members, using data from the same source, it was still 79%.

The founders of most new social media platforms and tools work hard to get their product reviewed by the big tech sites. Pinterest founder, Ben Silbermann, took a different approach that completely side-stepped tech journalists. Instead wooing tech publications, Ben harnessed the power of women bloggers.

Note that I said women bloggers, not mommy bloggers. There are many women who blog about topics popular on Pinterest including interior design and recipes that do not specifically target mothers.

Bloggers were the perfect weapon for Pinterest because Pinterest images link back to the websites they are posted from. Aside from whatever intrinsic pleasures Pinterest may bring, every blogger loves to find free ways to boost their traffic.

Ben partnered with a popular blogger, Victoria Smith, to establish a program called Pin it Forward which launched in May 2010.

Pinterest’s invitation-only membership system proved to be an advantage in attracting bloggers. Participating Pin It Forward bloggers gained support from fellow bloggers, entry onto an exclusive platform and a hook for their own readers to both introduce and invite them to Pinterest.

Pinterest Pin It Forward Launched May 2010 on SFGIrlbyBay website

Pin It Forward launch post on Victoria Smiths’s SFGirlbyBay blog May 2010

Victoria used a Google Doc sign up sheet to gather 300 interest women bloggers to be featured in the Pin It Forward program. Each week 10 of these bloggers were given a particular theme to write about. Each blogger set up a Pinterest pin board called “Pin It Forward,” then blogged about the assigned topic linking to that pin board. The first topic was “What Home Means” to the blogger. In that blog post they also linked to the blogger that preceded them and the blogger that came after them. This Pinterest blogger promotion system was modeled on the “Blog It Forward” program that Victoria had launched from her blog in February 2010, a great system to support each other’s blogs.

Today Victoria Smith has over 450,000 followers on her SFGirlByBay Pinterest page. A source reported that Victoria may have worked for some time as Pinterest’s community manager following the Pin It Forward program, I’m not able to confirm that at this time.

Time Magazine first wrote about Pinterest in August 2011 and the tech world began hearing about Pinterest in October 2011 with a post by Mashable. Sharp companies that watched where their traffic was coming from, saw their fans posting items from their website on Pinterest well before they established a presence there. These companies were able to get a jump start.

What made Pinterest so exciting when it first splashed on the scene in late 2011 was not just that it had millions of users, the users were generally ordinary consumers. Huge numbers of women, mostly from the middle of America, were not trying to accomplish anything but bookmark and share their hopes and dreams with other Pinterest members. Many of Pinterest’s early users were friends and patients of Ben’s mother, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ben Silbermann’s mother’s account is called Jane Wang and is at this address: This account now has over 5 million followers. Certainly this was an early account but when new members sign up for Pinterest and choose a couple of categories they are given recommendations to follow. You can see how this can artificially build up certain accounts. So the accounts with the most followers aren’t necessarily the very best.

Pinterest was produced by Cold Brew Labs an incubator company established in 2008. Their mobile shopping objective evolved to social commerce which then evolved to Pinterest in 2009. The first pin on Pinterest was in January 2010.

Pinterest still provides a type of social commerce. You’ll see charts on how Pinterest drives sales for savvy brands in my New Media Expo presentation below. Hiroshi Mikitani, chief executive of the Japanese company Rakuten that invested $50 million in Pinterest this May, said that his firm and Pinterest share the belief that using online marketplaces should be an “entertaining” process that encourages shoppers to explore. “While some may see e-commerce as a straightforward vending machine-like experience, we believe it is a living process,” Mikitani said in a statement. “We see tremendous synergies between Pinterest’s vision and Rakuten’s model for e-commerce.”

Sony Electronics and Benjamin Moore Pinterest Case Studies

There is a great deal to learn from Callan Green of Sony Electronics and Nick Harris of Benjamin Moore in the presentation video link below.

One of the things that impressed me about Nick Harris’ marketing programs at Benjamin Moore was his skill at incorporating “transmedia” techniques across social media platforms and into real events. Their Facebook presence is excellent, as is their YouTube. Events they participate in leverage integration between the event, Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube.

Sony Electronics is succeeding on Pinterest in spite of being in an industry that is not particularly popular with the primary Pinterest demographic. Sony was one of the first brands to make each SKU pin-able, an important step in enabling Pinterest to drive e-commerce.

Both Callan and Nick gave kudos to the Pinterest image driven analytics company, Curalate and you’ll see examples of Curalate-generated data in their slides.

While preparing for this session, I also investigated many other brands that were early adopters on Pinterest and developed this list of successful Pinterest programs.

The following video, How Big Brands are Using Pinterest Case Studies – Slides with Audio Track is only one of over 100 recorded sessions from New Media Expo (formerly, BlogWorld & New Media Expo) New York 2012. You can get all of the videos — plus bonus interviews and other bonus content — by picking up the entire Virtual Ticket for purchase here. I always get the virtual ticket even though I attend every New Media Expo conference. First it is impossible to attend all of the sessions and secondly, even though I take notes during the sessions I attend, it is great to have all the presentations in one convenient place.

Following is the same presentation on SlideShare without audio.

Hope to see you at New Media Expo January 6-8 in Las Vegas. If you can’t make it in person, please be sure to buy a virtual ticket.

About Linda Sherman

International, multicultural marketing pro, Linda brings a distinguished background of international subsidiary CEO/CMO to her Social Marketing expertise. These include CEO Club Med Japan, Barilla Japan and CMO Wal-Mart Japan. Managing Editor, Boomer Tech Talk, she is passionate about senior services including senior health care and housing. Linda Sherman has been featured and quoted in Forbes, The New York Times, Christian Monitor and other leading publications. She devised and implemented an innovative guerrilla-marketing plan for ZIMA in Japan that produced a lasting, profitable success. Linda has hands-on technical skills in building and search optimizing WordPress websites and an influential on-line presence. Her company, The Courage Group, provides personal and start-up branding, digital film; social marketing strategy and training.

Connect with Linda Sherman on Twitter and Instagram @LindaSherman.


  1. LindaSherman says

    @venessapaech Thank you Venessa! Come join us on #GooglePlus I see you were active till July. It’s revving up again.

  2. @inkscrblr Thanks for the link #pinchat

  3. @LindaSherman I will be at #NMX for sure! #blogchat

  4. Yikes! Tough mistake to make. Representing a company on social media channels can cause a fair amount of challenges so I was glad to see you mentioning those rules or safeguards as some may call them. They may be seen as a nuisance but when stories like this hit the web, you can learn from other’s mistakes rather than your own.<a href=””>brand succeed</a>

  5. Hi Linda, I’m just seeing this article, but to clarify, I never worked as community manager or in any other capacity for Pinterest. It was purely a fun collaboration with Ben. Cheers,

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