The catalyst for Brittany Cozzens to join Pinterest was simple enough.
As a junior at York Suburban High School, she became bored with drawing the same old still lifes in art class. Instead, Cozzens, who’s heading into her sophomore year as an advertising major at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication, scoured the web for tattoos, which she would recreate for her class projects. Pinterest, she decided, was the best way to keep her images organized.
As she filled her pinboard (pinterest.com/bcozzens) with images of body art, as well as some more traditional Pinterest content like wedding ideas and fashion, her following grew. Some days, Cozzens would have to delete 60-some emails saying she had new followers.
“I thought, ‘This is taking up my inbox,’ so I changed my settings,” Cozzens says.
Without the notification emails as a constant reminder, she didn’t really pay attention to just how much interest her pinboard garnered. Two years after she created her account, Cozzens realized she had topped more than 3 million followers. That’s in line with some of the more popular boards on Pinterest. The site’s co-founder, Evan Sharp (also a York Suburban grad), and Lowe’s each have approximately 3.6 million followers.
She doesn’t really understand why her board has hit a nerve among Pinterest users (“I just kept doing what I was doing.”), but Cozzens now feels a responsibility toward her audience.
“It’s good and bad at the same time,” she says. “You’re pinning for what you like, but at the same time, I have to make sure it fits my style and the people who are following me.”
Cozzens has included her male followers by posting unisex t-shirts and tech gadgets or novelty items from fab.com.
Brooke Duffy, assistant professor of advertising, whose research focuses on gender and promotional culture in a digital age, says Cozzens has achieved something that advertisers and their clients yearn — going viral.
“I think it often boils down to a stroke of good luck, combined with hard work,” Duffy says. “Maintaining a successful fashion blog or a YouTube channel or, in Cozzens’ case, a massive following on Pinterest, requires a considerable investment of time and energy; the labor of creating/curating the content as well as responding to the interests of the audience.”
Building a brand
Since Cozzens has been studying advertising, her content has expanded to include boards on design, logos and typography. As she begins to produce portfolio-quality work through her advertising classes and Temple Ad Club, she’ll include those images on Pinterest, too.
Cozzens believes that Pinterest is a powerful social media tool because it stands out among text-reliant forums like Twitter and Facebook.
“Everything else is words,” she says. “Pinterest is visual and I think people today are very visual people.”
Cozzens believes an image is the best way to connect with people’s emotions. “Words can do that, but it’s another thing to have a specific image in mind that describes you and your style.”
She sees brands becoming more savvy in the way they use Pinterest.
“It’s a good way to get people to view your products,” Cozzens says. She believes Pinterest users will welcome brands into the fold “if they go about it in a different way than their websites are laid out. They can’t just keep it solely based on them. It’s got to be more than just products. I think people are getting tired of that.”
Cozzens says Urban Outfitters (which, by the way, has only 66,000 followers) stands out as a company that brands itself well on Pinterest. “Their boards include the latest trends, makeup, boards that relate to the season (for summer they have a pool party board) and a variety of different things.”
She hopes to use her success on Pinterest to break into an advertising agency after Temple – preferably in the South, far away from the intensity New York ad scene.
“I’m a smaller-scale person,” Cozzens explains.
Three million Pinterest users might disagree.