Interview with Pinfluencer Founder and CEO, Sharad Verma

Interview with Pinfluencer Founder and CEO, Sharad Verma

By Michelle Held,

I met Met Shard in New York last month to talk about his emerging company, Pinfluencer. Pinfluencer, focused on the fastest growing social media site Pinterest, offers deep revenue and click analytics as well as profiles of influential pinners and their top pins and boards. Essentially, Pinterest is a black box and Pinfluencer unravels the mystery of which products are popular and which people are influential.

Thank you for talking with me. To start out, can you give me an overview of Pinfluencer’s mission?
“We started the company in February 2012. Our first public facing product launch happened on August 2nd ”

And was that Pinterest Promotions or Analytics?
“In August we launched our Analytics Product and about a month-and-a-half back we launched our Promotions Platform. We branded our company and are leading with our marketing and promotions now. We are also going to be adding a content management suite that allows brands to schedule their pins, have a pre-published area where teams can collaborate on a board, invite curators to pin and work before publishing the board. We’re working on Pinterest engagement campaigns which allow marketers to set up alerts.”

So which product is leading for you right now? Which one has the biggest customer base?
“It’s promotions but we’re not really fragmenting the product, we are selling the entire suite. You need both analytics to understand what is going on to monitor your metrics and trends and then when those trends head south, you want to do something about and here is your content and promotions platform to run your contests and sweepstakes to drive up your pin volume quickly for revenue or what have you.”

Do you have any plans to offer anything to personal users or will you be strictly for business users?
“We will be strictly business.”

Do you have a background in social networking? Are you a power user?
“I spend a lot of time thinking about social. I was responsible for Yahoo!’s social search. I lead a project called Forum Search to allow searchers to get Q&A content from these communities. Then after Yahoo!, I started a social travel company that allows users to get tips from their friends and networks.”

What was that one called? Is It still around?
“It is not around it was called Trip Aha! It is Shut down.”

“After that I created an app to help customers find real time entertainment nearby. Like Hey! There is wine mixer 4 blocks from here starting in 20 minutes. It was about helping users discover casual events that they can go to and inject some real-time recreation into their life. Life happens. We move from moment to moment and there a lot of these small events that are happening all around us.”

It sounds like a great idea.
“You know I was meeting with an investor yesterday and he told me what his investment framework is. An insight can sound really cool but that doesn’t mean there actually a huge need for it. And even if there is a need for it that does not mean that there are business economics.”

Is there a relationship with Pinterest? No relationship? They haven’t opened up their API to developers.
“All I can say is that we have spoken.”

I read about Pinner360 on your blog. Is that you newest addition?
“Every month we launch something. We are a very fast and agile team. When we were demo-ing our product to Home Depot and showing them a list of their most engaged pinners they recognized that these people are our prospective buyers and we want to reach out to them and talk to them about products. So their missing piece was that they could see who the person was and click on their profile but they didn’t know what their specific interest was. Now With Pinner360 it allows brands to see exactly what an engaged user pins so they can have a meaningful conversation with them. And it also is a place where brands can see what a particular pinner is following. And we are expanding to include user’s interests and topics. So we can generate user mapping.”

Do you see any hope of men getting on board with Pinterest since its about 80% women in the US?
“Yeah. I don’t think that’s going to change. There are actually a lot of men who use Pinterest but here is what Pinterest needs to fix. They need to fix the on-boarding experience. As a male user you join, they make you auto follow your friends. The majority of your Facebook friends who are on Pinterest are female so when you go into your feed and it’s a bunch of skirts, shoes and stuff like and that… that’s a real turn off experience for a male user. Pinterest has sort of improved that. Now they ask you to pick 5 pins you would like to follow.”

Plus you can now choose Facebook and/or Twitter friends to follow.
“Yes, and that way your feed can be more masculine!”

Is there any ability to see who unfollowed you? That’s a huge feature for me.
“Very interesting. I can relate to why this would be so important. Let’s say we had that feature, what would brands do with that information? It’s almost a lost cause at that point. I guess you can try to win them back with some incentives. Well it’s good piece of data because if you have a large number unfollowing then a manager can go in and look for a pattern and see how you are offending the customers.”

Do most brands host their promotions from Facebook or off their websites?
“I would say its 50-50 ,maybe a a bit more from Facebook.”

Did the move by Pinterest to convert Pinterest for Business boards help your business model, harm, or no difference?
“It helps us because they have taken stand to be more business friendly. Which means that are also going to be more supportive of companies like us who are really educating brands on how to optimize for Pinterest. And now. Pinterest has come out endorsing promotions.”

If a website is not “Pinterest Ready” Do you help optimize a website for Pinterest?
“No we don’t. We make recommendations. One big thing to know ­is that 40% of pins come from the pin it button.”

Should every company use Pinterest?
“I’d say that if your business is in a visual category you are great a fit for Pinterest. Definitely. if you are in beauty, lifestyle, Fashion, travel, or any visual vertical or are associated with them. Even if you are not, you can partner with a company in Pinterest friendly categories and launch co-branded promotions. The key is achieving a match between the demographics and verticals. So, as a brand, if your focus is women between 25-44 you should still be on Pinterest even if your business is not strictly visual.”