Pinterest has matured into a different kind of online platform that’s successfully driving user and revenue growth. Elaine Burke spoke to UK and Ireland lead Milka Kramer about expanding in Ireland and furthering commercial opportunities.
Pinterest celebrated a strong 2020 performance in its full-year earnings call last week. Global revenue was up 48pc year-on-year to almost $1.7bn, with significant growth coming from international sources. In fact, Pinterest more than doubled its revenue from outside the US to reach $268m.
The social platform is also seeing global user growth and now has 459m monthly active users.
Growth is clearly the keyword at Pinterest, and its presence here in Ireland is set to grow too. In Dublin, where the company’s European headquarters are located, there are currently 80 roles open across engineering, sales, operations and recruitment. These new hires will join almost 150 full-time employees in Dublin. Though, right now, they’re not going to the office.
“We’ve definitely put the health and safety of our people first,” said Milka Kramer, country manager of Pinterest UK and Ireland. “The earliest that we’re going to have people in the office is going to be August 2021.”
‘Right now, if we have to hire somebody in Ireland, they don’t necessarily have to be in Dublin’
– MILKA KRAMER
August will mark one year since Pinterest’s commitment to working from home during the pandemic sparked headlines. If paying $89.5m to terminate the lease on a new HQ in San Francisco wasn’t enough of a sure sign that Pinterest is rethinking its work practices for the future, Kramer confirmed it.
“Basically, we’re going to move to, in most cases, hybrid roles. So people will not have to be in the office every day. And also there will be way more flexibility around working from home,” she said.
Indeed, when I spoke to Kramer via a call to her home in the UK, she braced me for a possible rowdy interruption from her two young children. (Sadly for me, but fortunately for them, this didn’t happen.)
Kramer sees the hybrid workforce as an opportunity to cast the net wider when it comes to hiring. “Right now, if we have to hire somebody in Ireland, they don’t necessarily have to be in Dublin if they are willing to travel to Dublin once or twice a week. It really allows us to expand the pool of talent we can tap into and bring that diversity that we are looking for,” she said.
Pinterest’s user base is also diversifying. The growth the platform has seen is centred on three major groups. Users identified as male are up almost 50pc, while Gen Z represents its fastest-growing user segment. Millennial users are on the rise too, with Pinterest citing 36pc user growth in this demographic.
This user variation is important for a platform that has long been dominated by women users, and perhaps even characterised as a product solely for women of a certain age and disposition. “We are very proud that we have so many women coming to the platform, but we don’t build the platform with a gender in mind. We build for everyone,” said Kramer.
Some sources compared Pinterest’s 2020 user and revenue growth to Facebook, which similarly smashed analyst expectations on users and revenue in its Q4 earnings. It’s a natural comparison, seeing as both companies are in the business of social media. But Pinterest is a different beast.
“It is very different from social media. Pinterest is a personal media,” explained Kramer. “People don’t come to Pinterest to talk about the news or to have conversations with their friends. The majority of our users, they are positive voices on the internet. So people come to be with themselves. People come to really think and plan and dream about what the future can be. And that is both a behaviour of men and women.”
Making every pin shoppable
Increasingly, Pinterest will also become a place to shop. According to Kramer, the goal for the company is to make every pin shoppable.
“Our ambition is that everything on Pinterest, you should be able to buy or we’ll give you a personalised recommendation of something that’s very much like it,” she said.
Pinterest claims that 83pc of weekly users have made purchases based on content they saw on the platform. These sales are best executed by merchants who understand the power of search and context over direct, in-your-face advertising.
“97pc of our searches are unbranded,” Kramer explained. This means users are looking for a product type or category, not a particular manufacturer or brand of product. This, Kramer believes, gives business of all sizes an equal chance to be discovered by a potential customer.
“This is the magic and serendipity of advertising, when you find a product that you didn’t necessarily know existed but it adds value to your life. And I think that this is the unique opportunity that we have on Pinterest.”
‘Our pinners are in this mindset of looking to be inspired, yet they have this commercial mindset’
– MILKA KRAMER
Making posts shoppable in new ways is also being rapidly rolled out on Instagram, but Pinterest is well positioned to drive sales for brands due to the context in which users arrive to the site. “This is the opportunity for brands because our pinners are in this mindset of looking to be inspired, yet they have this commercial mindset because they come here to make plans for the future,” said Kramer.
It’s a form of native advertising that Kramer said is “not interruptive, it’s inspiring”. But explaining that to brands is its own challenge.
“One of our challenges with advertisers is comprehension, which we are going to tackle this year as one of our major priorities,” said Kramer. “It’s really about understanding and educating brands on exactly the unique mindset that users have when they come onto the platform. They come with the commercial intent, but they haven’t made up their mind. The way you have to think about that in terms of the advertising and the messaging, it is different.”
These days, brands are also learning more and more about influencer marketing, and Pinterest is on a mission to bring more of these tastemakers to its platform. New publishing tools such as Story Pins have already launched in the US, and will launch in the UK, Ireland and other countries this year.
“We’ve seen a lot of videos being uploaded onto the platform and our users globally, on average, consume over a billion videos a day,” Kramer said of the motivation behind video-led Story Pins. Pinterest has not gone down the route of ephemeral content that many other social sites have adopted, though, as Kramer said it wouldn’t suit the platform’s typical use.
“Our stories don’t disappear,” said Kramer. “One of our values as a company is to make sure we always put our pinners first, so really that is content that they will find useful, that’s content that they will want to go back and refer to … For the type of content we have on the platform, it is inspiring and it is there to stay.”
Whether influencers are using creative content tools or not, Pinterest users can be helpful trend-signallers. “I think one of the things that differentiates us between other platforms is that forward-looking behaviour. We see trends way earlier because when users come to us, they come when they plan, they come when they dream,” said Kramer.
The nature of a network of planners means Pinterest can see what trends may emerge at Christmas by user activity in summertime. “In 2020, we released our trends report, and even in such an unpredictable year, eight out of 10 of our trends for 2020 actually came true, which just tells you how forward-looking we are,” said Kramer.
These trends tend to be global, with the top-level categories of user interest across various countries settling on the same topics – food, beauty, etc. However, there are some niches that emerge in different markets.
“For Ireland, the most looked-for ingredient for recipes is chicken. Whereas in France, that’s chocolate. In the UK, it’s avocado,” Kramer revealed.
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