With the growing hype around Pinterest, some interesting statistics have emerged about how people are using it. In the United States, Pinterest is a growing phenomenon among women aged 35 to 44. In the United Kingdom, the average user is a well-to-do, professionally-motivated young man between the ages of 25 and 34. Why the difference between the adoption in the two countries and what does it mean for business?

It is possible that Pinterest is so new that the UK demographic are professionals using and experimenting with it, trying to figure out what to do with it. There is no easy answer to those questions, because Pinterest has not been around long enough for us to gather any data on typical patterns and users. That does not mean that we should discount Pinterest for business, but we still need to approach the program as an observer.

The truth is that Pinterest is a new phenomenon driven as much by technological advances and an increased level of comfort with online communities as it is by gender. Facebook has given us insight into the power of the community on a brand. Increasingly sophisticated smartphones and tablets have made the online experience more immediate and continuous. It is natural that a user-driven, visual site that uses preference groupings would emerge from these trends.

Pinterest is an easy, social, visual wonder. There is no video to navigate, like YouTube. While it might be labeled social, it is much more participatory, so anyone who is familiar with Facebook can come up to Pinterest speed easily, especially given the links from Facebook to Pinterest. The layout and methodology of the site is based on topics and images, so there is no tough learning curve.

Even though the technology is still too disruptive for us to link it to a typical user, gender, business type, etc. there are some businesses that will have immediate benefits from the Pinterest experience. Retailers will have a natural fit on Pinterest, but so will pins for recipes, places to visit, architecture, consumer electronics and a host of other goods and services with a visual appeal. The “why” for Pinterest is the look it gives into the consumer mind-set.

Pinterest gives an incredibly detailed and varied look into customer behavior and value co-creation. As such, Pinterest is an extension of a good customer relationship management program. While it is technology, this part is actually not so much. Companies will need to participate and observe what people are doing and how they are using their products. Pinterest users can and will show businesses how they use and feel about your products and services. Businesses need to pay attention.

To put that another way, Pinterest is how you can view customer behavior and is the ultimate “Voice of the Customer” channel. Think of it as a love letter from your customer base. Listen, absorb and act. Don’t expect it to morph into a 1-to-1 communication tool. For years, through focus groups and surveys companies have been hoping for something like this to come along; now that you have it, what are you going to do with it?

The smart brands are not the ones who have x thousands of followers, but those who are following x thousands of people. Learn what your customers want and need and how they use your products. Don’t get caught up with being included in pins with competitors. Pinterest is part of the social circle of customer engagement. The Pinterest community does not follow a linear line to purchase of advertisement, brand awareness, purchase and loyalty. Rather, they approach your brand as a fan or learn about it from a fan, and add it into their circle of good products and services.