Tech Talk: Pinterest Gains Ground with African-American Women

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December 4, 2012 ‐ By Kimberly Maul

A screenshot of the African-American Brides Pinterest page on wedding gowns.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, Pinterest was the break-out social site of 2012. In September 2012, the site came in at number 50 in comScore’s top 50 most-visited websites (not just social sites; all websites) with 25.3 million unique visitors that month. ComScore reported that Pinterest reached 26.7 million uniques in October.

The site was founded in March 2010 by CEO Ben Silberman and reached more than 10 million US monthly unique visitors in February 2012, the fastest independent site to do so, according to comScore. Additionally, we know that Pinterest skews heavily female.

However, in July 2012, the BBC reported Quantcast findings that Pinterest is also 79 percent white. Minority groups, including blacks and Hispanics, are not as represented on the site.

But, there is a growing interest in Pinterest from the black community and several entrepreneurs and social media folks have taken to the site to connect with them.

Krystle Sims, the owner of young.black.nappy, a company that sells t-shirts promoting black artists, natural hair, and Afro-centric pride, says she has seen an increase in black women not only on Pinterest, but also more interested in talking online about artistry and crafting in general. With a focus on natural black hairstyles and hair care, Sims said her target audience has been black women, ages 18 to 35, who are obsessed with natural hair or transitioning to natural hair.

On Pinterest, Sims posts images of natural hair products and styles, artwork featuring natural hair, and more personal pins including recipes, home décor, and craft ideas.

“Over the last year or so, I have noticed there are a lot more African-American women in my city and in my age range of mid-20s who are really looking for inspiration,” she told Madame Noire. “They are educated, they are looking for their purpose, they are really passionate about something, and they are really going for it and finding ways to make careers out of their passions and supporting other black women who are doing the same thing. Pinterest is a great hub for women who are doing that and looking for inspiration.”

Mike Street, a Harlem, NY-based digital strategist, has been looking into how the black community, and black women in particular, are using the site.

“We are seeing African-American women leverage the platform,” he said, though there is not yet any public demographic data on Pinterest. “There are hair and beauty bloggers who have been using it to send people back to their sites.” He added that Oprah has also done a lot with Pinterest and that brands are starting to figure out best practices for using the site.

Retailer Uniqlo used Pinterest’s visual nature and scrolling feature to launch a campaign in June that made the graphics they pinned look animated when users scrolled down the page. UNICEF took Pinterest’s aspirational nature (as users post items they want to buy, for example) to promote ways that less fortunate people around the world desire basic needs like food and clean drinking water.

The blog African-American Brides took advantage of the popularity of weddings on Pinterest and joined the site earlier this year to post engagement photos, hairstyles, and other inspirational ideas for African-American women planning their weddings. Fast Company also recently outlined how female-owned businesses have been using the site to reach out to customers.

Robin Foster, a writer for Examiner.com, uses Pinterest to share African-American history and genealogy, as well as tools and resources people can use to help find out more about their own history and genealogy. She has been working with genealogy since 1985, promoting products, tools, and resources people can use to learn more about their history.

“When I first went to Pinterest, I could not find anything on genealogy, so I thought, this is an open field,” she told Madame Noire. “People want to know who they are and where they come from, so I saw it as a good possibility to become a go-to person on Pinterest about this topic.”

She is very excited about the possibilities for Pinterest for businesses, especially since the site just launched business pages, which allow companies to use actual brand names on the site and verify the accounts. Pinterest plans to introduce more business-specific tools in the coming months.

Focusing on an African-American specific topic, she has found, actually attracts a wide variety of followers, not all of them black.

“Pinterest attracts all races and all colors of people,” she explained. “The African-American experience is one that is still being told. There are quite a lot of pictures, for example in the Library of Congress, and there is a lot of history out there that people are intrigued by, so my goal is to make that visual and make that info available so people can learn.”

Advice for Marketers
Sims’ advice for people who want to get involved with Pinterest is to just have fun with it.

“A lot of social media is planning… and there is a place for that,” she said. In her day job, Sims is a social media specialist for a distribution company. “But Pinterest, at least for now, is one of the last bastions of social media where you can have fun. Of course, think about where your links are going and make sure there is a purpose, but have fun with it.”

Foster encourages companies and business people to link together all their social media accounts. By linking Pinterest to Facebook, blogs, and other communities, the conversation can be extended beyond the visual nature of Pinterest, and you can go deeper with your communities.

The visual nature of Pinterest is what will keep the site popular for African-American women and consumers overall, Street said. “On social, photos over-index. Photos are the social currency that we exchange now.”

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  • Judih1

    I am African American woman who has been on Pinterest since last year and have almost 400 followers. Because my business (Mannequin Madness) is not specifically for African Americans. Pinterest might not include me in their stats of demographics of African American users. I do have my photo on my board, though. And recently I created a board called “Women over 50 and fabulous” Although the boards has photos of women of all races, I made sure to put an African American woman on the front cover of the board.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RobinRFoster Robin Foster

    Hi Kimberly!

    Your article will be very effective in educating and encouraging new and current users, especially African American. You represented my mission on Pinterest very succinctly! Thank you so much. For anyone who has questions, please feel free to e-mail me: robin.savingstories@gmail.com. Put “Pinterest” in the subject line.

  • lovely

    Yes, I’ve heard of it and noticed it a little bit on FB, but I guess haven’t really explored it enough to understand it. Can someone please explain what/how it works and what the purpose is? Thank you in advance : )

    • http://www.facebook.com/RobinRFoster Robin Foster

      That is hard to do it this short space, but I would be happy to answer your question in an e-mail.

  • Royaltee27

    I love Pinterest!!!! I’m on the site at least for an hour everyday