Its most recent valuation of $5 billion makes Pinterest a clear No. 4 among U.S. social networking companies, behind LinkedIn (current market cap: $20 billion), Twitter ($23 billion) and, of course, Facebook ($170 billion). On the basis of users, however, it’s increasingly obvious that Pinterest deserves to be counted among the Big Three.
A recent study by the Pinterest marketing firm Ahalogy adds to the growing body of evidence showing that Pinterest has surpassed Twitter in popularity in the U.S. and looks set to widen the margin still further, while also catching up with LinkedIn.
Extrapolating from a sample of 1,300 males and females age 15 and up, the firm estimated that just over 22% of Americans are now using the service on at least a monthly basis. That’s slightly more than the 21% of U.S. adults who were pinning when Pew Internet Project tallied the data in September It’s equal to the proportion who were on LinkedIn, according to Pew, and somewhat ahead of Twitter, at 19%.
Ahalogy’s data suggests that Pinterest has about 53 million monthly active users in the U.S. (or 22% of the 16-and-over population of 243.3 million recorded in the last census). In its last quarterly report, Twitter said it had 57 million MAUs — but that’s including Canada.
Comparing the results of studies with different methodologies is tricky, of course. When eMarketer ran the numbers, it estimated that Twitter will reach 48.2 million MAUs in the U.S. this year, while Pinterest will hit 40.1 million.
One variable that could have an outsize effect here is Pinterest can become anywhere near as popular with men as it is with women. Currently its audience in the U.S. is around 80% female, and a study by RJMetrics suggested that the gender gap is widening, with the percentage of pins by men falling from 13% to 8% over the course of three years.
But Ahalogy’s survey captured a different trend, with men 36% more likely than women to report having tried Pinterest for the first time in the last six months. (Of course, there are a lot fewer women who’ve never tried Pinterest to begin with.)
Pinterest covered the same ground in a month. On Thursday, it launched a self-service option allowing small businesses to place Promoted Pins — its first ad product — into the search and category feeds of users.
Officially, the program is still a “paid test,” as opposed to the unpaid test it ran with Promoted Pins for the six months leading up to May. But it’s still a sign that Pinterest is moving aggressively to justify the $5 billion valuation attached to its recent $200 million fundraising round, says eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson. “They’re clearly on a very rapid track,” she says.
While Twitter took its sweet time getting around to offering self-serve, Facebook adopted them relatively quickly after launching monetization. “That was a real key to the growth of Facebook’s advertising early on, and it still forms a solid base of their revenue,” says Williamson.
There’s reason to think self-serve will be equally big for Pinterest. A high proportion of the images pinned on Twitter are for products sold by small businesses or independent craftspeople. By far the most popular domain of origin for Pins is Etsy.com; the online arts-and-crafts marketplace accounts for 3% of all pins, according to a recent report by RJMetrics.