It’s very early days in the evolution of Pinterest, and it’s therefore difficult to predict the opportunities it might present to businesses and retailers but it has certainly caused a buzz.

Looking at the demographics who use it, in the US, women make up the largest proportion of current users and popular topics include fashion, food and the home, but in the UK it’s more balanced with more men than women signed up and a bigger mix of discussion topics from SEO management to crafts.

Pinterest users can only sign up by integrating with either Facebook or Twitter, so there’s value in terms of cross-platform marketing and optimising social channels to broaden the reach of customer engagement to multiple channels. Engagement on Pinterest is incredibly social and can include interactions such as re-pins, likes, comments, and follows. These are not only shared with followers, but also pushed out to the general Pinterest community.

For businesses, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have previously offered highly targeted display advertising, where the brand can choose the exact demographic they want to target. Pinterest differs from this and has chosen to adopt the original concept of an affiliate site. Applying a social angle, users of the site are the driving force, creating a crowdsourced, content heavy affiliate site.

Using social recommendation in this way means brands stand to gain more traffic to their sites but at the moment have little control over how they are represented on the site. But I can see an easy path to monetisation, simply by adding ‘Buy’ buttons to pins, or offering discounts and offers.

It has been revealed that Facebook is the most engaging social networking site currently available on the market, however, Pinterest is developing rapidly; not only gaining lots of users, but those users are spending a lot of time on the site.

What is becoming evident is that photos are highly engaging and brands should be looking to increase their engagement with users by exciting followers to entice them to visit their website. Creating their own Pinterest board is one example where they can show clothing combinations or home interior inspiration that link directly to the brand’s website.

Depending on individual sharing settings, users can share their board with others who have similar interests. Brands should be keeping a close eye on the popularity of products and the combinations users are creating, and actively use this information to engage followers. Brands can also look to run competitions and challenges and actively engage with users who are pinning content from their site or in their industry.

The very nature of social media is fast moving and reports of ‘Facebook fatigue’ have already begun to do the rounds. What is different about Pinterest compared to previous social networking sites is that it’s easy to use. Lots of people don’t fully get Twitter and the value of a stream of 140 character sentences.

With Facebook’s recent adoption of Facebook Timeline, many responded with confusion and annoyance and have been left struggling to understand the inevitable changes. Pinterest is stress-free and straightforward alternative, for now anyway, allowing users to follow others and create social recommendations by ‘pinning’ an item. It is certainly one for businesses to keep a close eye on to see how it develops and what opportunities open up.