Interest in Pinterest: Social media craze takes industry by storm

The Real DealApril 05, 2012
“Getting pinned” has taken on a new meaning for the 11.7 million monthly visitors to the hottest new social media website: Pinterest.
Not surprisingly, New York City real estate professionals have also gotten in on the action. And they’re finding that the photo-focused site is ideally suited to property sales, perhaps even more so than Twitter or Facebook.

“Pinterest is more helpful than those [other sites] because real estate is a visual medium,” said Matthew Leone, director of web marketing and social media for Terra Holdings, the parent company of Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property. “A lot of people buy real estate by connecting and looking at the visuals. Pinterest is built for that.”

Launched in 2009, Pinterest has recently exploded in popularity. It allows each user to create virtual bulletin boards. Then, as they surf the web, they can “pin” different items — usually photos — to their boards. Other users can comment on or “re-pin” these items to their own boards.

Prudential Douglas Elliman CEO Dottie Herman, for example, recently launched a personal Pinterest site, with boards titled “Favorite Places & Spaces,” “Dream Home” and, of course, one board dedicated to all things Elliman.
Pinterest’s image-centric concept makes it ideal for showcasing real estate listings, said Audrey Binkowski, director of marketing at the Manhattan brokerage RealDirect.

The site is “a great visual way to share information with people,” she said.

RealDirect “pins” photos of all its listings on Pinterest, Binkowski said, and so far, that seems to be helping them reach a wider audience. Other brokerages now using Pinterest include Halstead Property, the Corcoran Group and Core.

But the real estate industry’s involvement in Pinterest is so new that it’s not yet clear how brokers and firms can best utilize the platform.
Corcoran, for example, said its Pinterest strategy has evolved since it started using the site in December. Corcoran originally had popular “boards” about burgers at neighborhood restaurants and New York fashion, feeling that “the best way to increase our presence there is simply to share amazing things,” explained Matthew Shadbolt, Corcoran’s director of interactive products and marketing.

Then and now, the firm was skeptical that the site would lead directly to home sales, and saw it more as a way to grow the Corcoran brand.

“Selling homes specifically on Pinterest isn’t something we feel is going to happen,” Shadbolt said. “It’s not a lead generation platform for us, it’s simply a place where we can experiment, listen and extend our brand.”

But as more competitors started using Pinterest, Corcoran yanked these food- and fashion-related boards, and replaced them with ones that resemble those of other real estate firms, which focus more directly on showcasing homes. And the firm is working on other new ideas.

“Right now we’re experimenting with the idea of ‘The Best of,’ organized by rooms, but we also have several other ideas we’re working on,” said Shadbolt. “Basically, we have no fixed strategy here; we’re just experimenting with lots of different approaches and seeing what feels best for the user.”

Core, which has Pinterest boards on architecture, home decor and interior design, also views the site primarily as a way to raise brand awareness.

“We know that people aren’t necessarily buying New York City real estate off a social network site,” said Kristina Helb, director of communications for Core.

Core’s Pinterest philosophy involves posting “striking images from newly listed properties that link to our blog and our website, helping to build traffic and visibility,” Helb said. “That’s the ultimate goal — to put our properties in front of as many people as possible, which benefits our sellers.”

Core tries to focus narrowly on the realm of real estate, however.

“People don’t want fashion tips from us, or our burger recommendations,” she said.

As of right now, most Pinterest visitors are in the Midwest, while Northeast users are still a small percentage, according to Internet marketing research firm comScore. But that could soon change:

The number of daily visitors to Pinterest has reportedly grown some 145 percent to nearly 12 million since the start of the year.
David Rosen, business development director for the Rubin Group at Prudential Douglas Elliman, said the group hasn’t yet joined Pinterest because he feels that serious property buyers tend to search specialized sites. “They are going to go to StreetEasy or Trulia to find real estate,” he said.

Still, he recognizes the growing influence of Pinterest. “You have to try new ground,” he said. “So I think there is potential.”