Pin your hopes on Pinterest to reach women

Apr 22, 2012 @ 12:01 am

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When financial planner Katana Abbott set out to follow her dream of helping disadvantaged women take control of their finances, she looked for a way to reach a wide female audience.

She found it in a fast-growing, 2-year-old social-media site called Pinterest.

“I am surprised more businesses aren't putting up boards on the site,” said Ms. Abbott, founder of the Smart Women's Prosperity Institute, which teaches women to develop financial skills and offers online social-networking support. “It is a great way to express who you are and connect with other people.”

The lure of Pinterest is in the bulletin boards that members set up by topic, then fill with pictures, articles or videos “pinned” from their own collections or other sites. The bulletin boards are public and searchable, and visitors can post comments and sign up to follow boards or members they like.

Pinterest stands out for its visual orientation, ease of use and strong hold it has on its mostly female users, who make frequent, long visits and often use the site as a springboard to make purchases, according to Internet analysts.

The bulletin boards offer a vast variety of subjects to peruse, and social-media experts said it's vital that financial advisers find ways to make themselves stand out.

NEXT BIG THING

“You need to think of it not as pushing your service but as providing content that has interest and value,” said Amy McIlwain, president of Financial Social Media, a consulting firm. “It is about having your name out in front of people.”

For advisers who are already on Facebook, LinkedIn and possibly even Twitter, Pinterest is the next site to look at, Ms. McIlwain said.

“Pinterest is it, more so than Google Plus, especially if you are trying to reach women,” she said.

The numbers back her up.

Pinterest, launched in March 2010, has begun to take off in the past six months or so, and with more than 10 million members, it is now the third-most-popular social-networking site, behind Facebook and Twitter, according to data collected by Experian Hitwise.

About 80% of the site's users are female, according to online re-searcher ComScore Inc.'s Media Metrix ranking.

What's more, ComScore reported that as of December, Pinterest was the third-most-popular social- networking site, after Facebook and Tumblr, in terms of the amount of time an average visitor spent on the site in a month. At 80 minutes, it is behind Facebook, which led with 423 minutes, and Tumblr, at 151 minutes.

More than 17.8 million unique visitors went to the Pinterest site in February, a 52% increase from January, making it the third-fastest-growing site by percentage change in visitors, behind health information aggregator Healthline.com and the Internal Revenue Service.

ComScore estimated that as of Dec. 31, 6% of Pinterest's members had household income of $100,000 to $149,000, and 3% had income of more than $150,000. It has become a go-to site for women seeking fashion and home-decorating ideas.

As of February, the site referred more traffic to online retailers than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined, according to online researcher Shareaholic Inc.

Ms. McIlwain suggests that advisers start by setting up boards on topics they specialize in, such as annuities, investment strategies or small-business management, and pin up articles, charts or videos that they find helpful.

They should also add some boards that feature personal interests in order to connect with browsers.

Financial planner Jeff Rose, a former staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, has both types of boards on his Pinterest site. Along with pictures of himself during his 2005 Iraq deployment and practicing weightlifting, he offers articles on reducing junk mail and making the most of a Roth IRA.

The pictures and articles are linked to Mr. Rose's blog and website, a feature of Pinterest that he likes.

Although he hasn't landed any clients from Pinterest so far, he has picked up 96 followers in his first several weeks on the site, and at least some of those are interested in his financial advice. One early comment asked him to fix a broken link to an insurance wholesaler.

“I see it as another area where someone can find you,” said Mr. Rose, the founder of Alliance Wealth Management LLC in Carbondale, Ill.

Pinterest is a good site to keep an eye on, it but isn't yet essential for advisers, said Geoff Evans, founder of the business consulting firm Social Media Coach.

“If they do want to use it, there is a lot of opportunity to share for visualization purposes,” he said.

TOOL FOR EDUCATION

Mr. Evans agrees with Ms. McIlwain that Pinterest has gained more traction than Google+, which he considers more of a “techie” site.

He said that some good uses for Pinterest could be to offer education on investment topics such as mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, or to provide pre-meeting checklists.

“There are some good ways of educating with Pinterest,” Mr. Evans said. “It does one thing, which is, it helps you share a picture.”

lkuykendall@investmentnews.com

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