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Pinterest is currently social media’s most brightly shining star. Early adopters have been using it for nearly a year and a half but during the past six months or so its membership (still by invitation only) has rocketed by something like 300%. Barack Obama is on Pinterest, for goodness sake. Well, at least Mashable thinks it’s Obama. It’s hard to tell, to be honest. But considering the US president’s affinity for social media and the fact that he’s reportedly using Instagram, a Pinterest account wouldn’t be illogical.

Which brings us to the (new) great social media debate. We’ve had Facebook vs. Google+, which, let’s face it, is getting a little stale. Now we have Pinterest vs. Instagram.

Visual Over All Else

Much of the debate centres on each platform’s value for business, which basically means its branding and PR value. PR people have to realise that Pinterest and Instagram have one major difference when compared to other social media sites and that, according to Mikinzie Stuart, is that they are visual platforms. But, their similarity with all other social media sites is that you can’t just pin any old thing. Pins have to be interesting, they should provide a pathway to deeper content and they should be audience orientated and not overtly markety.

Stuart’s primarily a Pinterest fan and so her advice is Pinterest related. For example, she says that linking and descriptions are very important. To keep your PR positive and to avoid any misleading re-pins, you need to link images to relevant content and not just your home page. You need to write accurate descriptions otherwise you risk having your pins re-pinned as something entirely different. Stuart gives an interesting example of coffee-bean shaped doodads whose real function is to regulate the temperate of hot beverages, but somehow the image is being re-pinned as silver painted coffee beans that look fantastic as vase decorations.

She underlines another very important difference between Pinterest and all other social media sites: who you is not important, what you like is. The biggest difference between Instagram and other social media sites is that Intagram is an app and an iPhone app at that. This means that its audience is restricted to people who have Apple products. That number might be growing but it’s still very limited (which probably explains why Obama is also on Pinterest).

Pinterest is also about images in their pure form, while Instagram is about manipulating images with various effects. Hillel Fuld sings Intagram’s praises, citing its social integration and shareability. But the bottom line is that it’s still an iPhone app. Pinterest is for everyone.

The Branding Wars

Now comes the part that PR agents and branding specialists have been waiting for: Pinterest is far more effective for PR and branding purposes. Compete recently released a State of Social Media report, which showed that Pinterest delivers a great deal of traffic to Facebook (great for brands) and in turn, Facebook drives a great deal of traffic back to Pinterest (more than it drives to Instagram). Furthermore, Pinterest could soon start appearing in Facebook’s automatically updated timelines.

This means more reach and more interaction; two things which are music to PR agents’ ears. For now is looks as though Pinterest is the forerunner in the but let’s not forget that the war is ongoing and the landscape changes faster than the drop of a hat.

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Posted by Sandy

Sandy writes on behalf of Livewired, a specialist in public relations in South Africa.

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