Pinterest vs Instagram – yes, they both are effective marketing platforms for your business. But it’s important to understand that they serve very different functions.
There are so many social media platforms out there to choose from when it comes to marketing your business.
We see a lot of people coming from Instagram when they begin marketing on Pinterest. They know how to market on Instagram so they attempt to apply that same approach on Pinterest. The problem is that the two platforms operate very differently
So what are the major differences when it comes to Pinterest vs Instagram?
Let’s chat about the purpose of each platform, break down the audience characteristics, and learn how to leverage both platforms in different ways for your business.
Pinterest vs Instagram for Marketing Your Business
As of Q4 in 2021, Pinterest had 444 million monthly active users worldwide, with 89 million from the U.S. Pew Research found that Pinterest ranked fourth in audience size after YouTube, Facebook and Instagram in 2021 with 38% of US adults claiming to have used Pinterest. Usage on Pinterest here in the U.S. is higher than LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp, Nextdoor, and Reddit.
Instagram has confirmed that they have over 1.22 billion monthly active users, but it’s rumored to be more like 2 billion monthly users. The audience size across the two platforms is considerably different. Instagram completely blows Pinterest out of the water when it comes to the number of users.
Let’s look at the user characteristics for each platform.
First, it’s interesting to note that there is a gender divide for both platforms with women outranking men. Women have always outranked men on Pinterest, but the gap may be narrowing a bit with 60% of Pinterest users being women.
Every year I see Pinterest saying men are the fastest growing demographic. I’m not sure what the starting comparison number for male Pinners was, but they say that number has grown by 50%. We do know that Pinterest is making another push to increase the number of men on their platform in 2022.
Stats on the gender gap for Instagram are slightly different. Fifty-one percent of Instagram users are female and 49% are male.
Pinterest is not a platform people visit multiple times a day. According to Cast From Clay, only 4% of Pinterest users in the U.S. and 8% in the U.K., use Pinterest multiple times in a day. Those percentages are low compared to Instagram users (who spend an average of 30 minutes a day on the platform).
Pinterest refers to people who use the platform three to five times or more each day as Power Pinners. Power Pinners are considered by some “the people to follow” because their huge number of followers can greatly enhance your user experience.
Keep in mine thought that most people visit the Pinterest platform just a couple of times a week. So the Pinterest user habit is very different from the habit of Instagram users.
The main function of Pinterest is search and discovery. Pinners use Pinterest to look for inspiration on topics of interest to them. They want to discover something new. In contrast ,the main reason people use Instagram is for sharing and promotion.
Both platforms are highly visual, leveraging images as their main type of content. When a Pinterest user looks at an image, they expect to find more value behind it. It’s kind of like, “you got me with a hook, now let me learn more.”
Instagram users, however, are more focused on lifestyle or the aesthetics of a brand. They seek to go beyond the image and want to get lost in what you are doing. That’s a very big distinguishing characteristic.
Pinners are all about the image. They might read the text overlay on an image, but they’re not going to spend a long time reading the pin description. For an Instagram user, images are just the beginning of the story. They are interested in knowing the context of the image and are willing to learn more by reading the captions. As a result, Instagram users engage with their platform more frequently than Pinterest users.
the role of branding on instagram and pinterest
Let’s talk a bit more about how you can leverage this information for your marketing strategy.
Ninety-five percent of searches on Pinterest are unbranded.
That means when people go to Pinterest to search, they’re not searching for a particular brand. Instead, they are searching for keywords such as “best throw pillows for my couch” or “best bathing suit for surfing”.
As content marketers, we need to understand that the Pinterest audience is looking more for the features that inspire them and less for a specific brand. Pinterest can be leveraged to bring awareness of the features of your products or your content to inspire the 85% of pinners that use Pinterest to plan new projects.
If you want people to be more aware of your brand, Instagram is the platform to use. Eighty-one percent of people use Instagram for research on companies, products and services.
Fifty percent of people on Instagram have visited a website to purchase a product or service they saw on the app. Shoppable posts on Instagram are tapped by over 130 million users every month.
Pinterest users watch one billion videos per day. Five hundred million people use Instagram stories on a daily basis. That is more than the global user base of Pinterest.
In terms of mobile use, Instagram is the fourth most used mobile app. Ahead of it are Facebook, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger.
So we see the stats are totally different between the two platforms. They have a completely different user base, which leads us to one of the biggest things that distinguishes the two audiences, audience habits.
cold vs warm audience
The Pinterest audience is generally described as cold. A cold audience does not know who you are.
The joke is that Pinterest is the introvert’s platform. They don’t want to talk to you and they don’t really want to go to Pinterest to learn more about you. When they want to know more about you, they go to Instagram.
This makes Pinterest an ideal place for finding new customers. On one of our podcasts, we talked with Laurelbox specifically about audience habits. By looking at their analytics, Laurelbox was able to learn that Pinterest brought their cold audience to them and Instagram brought their warm audience.
In contrast, the Instagram audience is warm because users follow you to learn more about your life, your product, and your business. They want to get lost in what you’re doing and they want to know that you’re the expert in what you’re talking about.
There are two different types of people. There are people who are very specific and niche down in what they’re talking about. Then there are the broad influencers.
Influencers can get kind of a bad rap, but they do sway users on Instagram. They bring in that warm audience and people who love shopping. Seventy percent of Instagram’s audience has confirmed that they like to discover new products through Instagram.
People will talk about something on Instagram and because I “know” them, I follow them for a while and gather a general idea of what they care about. So, if they recommend something to me and they talk about it authentically, I’m likely to buy it. I have done that multiple times and I’m sure I’m not alone.
If I go to Pinterest, I don’t need the influencer to sell me. Usually I’ve already decided what I want. I’m looking for a specific product.
If I know that I’m going to buy a light to put over my bathroom mirror, I already have an idea in my head of what I want. I’m not really interested in somebody’s opinion of that light. Their tastes and needs are likely different from mine.
Pinterest users are looking to be inspired rather than influenced.
user behavior: follow vs search
When Instagram users go to the platform, they follow people such as the influencers we just mentioned.
When they go to Pinterest, they search. That search dictates what will appear in their main home feed (aka the Pinterest smart feed).
We have an avatar named Susie that we refer to here at Simple Pin. Susie uses Pinterest a couple of times a week. She searches for great ideas.
Sometimes she’s trying to kill time so she gets lost in her main smart feed. But every once in a while, Susie does a few things that cause the Pinterest algorithm to take notice. It says, aha, I know what you’re interested in.
What does Susie do that triggers that attention? There are several behaviors that make the algorithm take notice.
First, Susie clicks on something and saves it. Maybe Susie is interested in the surfer swimsuit and has saved some examples. The Pinterest algorithm then decides to show Susie more pins from that board.
Pinterest also knows there are other people on Pinterest who talk about surfer swimsuits. So they are going to suggest more content from these other people.
Next, Susie searches on a related topic. Maybe she searches Hawaii and Maui North Shore. Now the Pinterest algorithm knows where Susie’s going and more about what interests her.
Then, Susie creates a board called Maui Travel Tips. That gives Pinterest another clue about Susie’s interests. Finally, she searches for the best places to eat in Maui and saves those pins to her Maui Travel Tips board.
Pinterest has gathered all this information about Susie based solely on her search behavior.
When it comes to Instagram, it’s all about who you are following. Instagram will suggest other people you might like to follow. It’s such a different user habit than that of the Pinterest user. It’s a follow vs. search mindset.
the hashtag feature
Probably the number one question I get is whether or not you should use hashtags on Pinterest.
Pinterest has had a long love/hate relationship when it comes to hashtags.
Back in 2018 they decided they were all about hashtags. They encouraged us to use a lot of them on each pin. Then they said — we don’t want you to use hashtags like you do on Instagram. We have rules. If you’re talking about dogs you absolutely cannot use #cat. Keep it clean or you’re going to get marked as spam.
Next, they wanted us to cut hashtags from 20 on each pin down to two or three. Then suddenly, hashtags didn’t hyperlink anymore. People were noticing lots of stolen pins and some connected the dots and found that it was related to hashtag use.
That’s when Pinterest said don’t use hashtags at all. But there were lingering recommendations in some of their articles that continued to promote the use of hashtags. Confusing, right? So here’s where we stand:
Don’t use hashtags on Pinterest.
Why? Because the user doesn’t use them. They don’t search by a hashtag. They don’t click on hashtags because at least half of the time they aren’t clickable.
In stark contrast, Instagram loves hashtags. I am not an Instagram educator. So I’m not going to teach about how many to use or how to select which hashtags to use. I will just tell you that you should use them on Instagram.
Video Content on Pinterest and instagram
Partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased user desire for video content. Short-form TikTok videos began to boom during the pandemic. As a result, Instagram decided that they wanted a piece of that pie and in August of 2020 they launched their Reels feature.
Fast forward to today (beginning of 2022) — my entire feed is filled with reels.
Then Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter — basically all platforms added a short form video format.
Not to be left behind, Pinterest introduced Story pins. They went down a pretty bumpy road with the introduction of Story pins in 2019. In 2021, they rebranded this feature as idea pins. I actually prefer that name because it fits much more with the whole purpose of Pinterest.
Idea pins are like Reels in that they use slides and like stories you can choose whether or not to use video. Idea pins on Pinterest are basically a way to showcase features, provide tips, or offer education.
When it comes to Idea pins, you have to tell people how to do something or provide a tip. It’s the, Aha! that’s really cooI or I want to do that, moment.
The dancing stuff has no place on Pinterest. If you want to do that on Reels, go for it. That’s what Instagram is all about.
TikTok and Pinterest are becoming more and more similar because both provide ideas. People learn a lot from TikTok and I think they learn a lot from Pinterest.
Pinterest vs Instagram: Which One Will You Prioritize?
So there you have it. There are many more things we could share when it comes to Pinterest vs Instagram but ultimately I want to leave you with this thought.
Ask yourself which platform you want to use for your marketing. If it’s both, that’s great. But you need to figure out how each one helps you reach your goals.
Looking at all the differences between the two, we can say Instagram is all about brand awareness. People come to the platform to learn more about my brand and to make sure that I’m truly an expert on what I’m teaching.
Pinterest is all about people searching for inspiration, tips and getting answers to their how-to questions.
At Simple Pin, we see Instagram as our brand awareness channel and Pinterest as our education channel. Pinterest is the place where we get to share how to keyword, how to upload video, how to clean up Pinterest boards, etc.
All the how-to stuff just blows it out of the water, every time. As a result, Pinterest is a great place for us to build our email list or sell our guides to people and tell our audience who we are.
When it comes to Instagram, it’s more about connecting. You want to learn more about this business and we want to tell you more. Let us share a little bit about our days. This is what we do. This is what we don’t do.
Each platform serves a completely different purpose.
I have a whole podcast where I talk about strategies and tactics. We talk about strategy being the why and tactics being the how. They’re fluid. They change with the algorithm’s features.
Strategies don’t change. Strategies are about deciding why you use a platform. Why do you use Pinterest for your marketing? Why do you use Instagram for your marketing?
I’d love to hear your “marketing why” for each platform. Feel free to DM us on Instagram at @simplepinmedia. We would love to chat with you and we’d love for you to see what we’re doing over there.
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