Real Simple caused a stir on the web in December when it told Ad Age that it was getting more referrals from a relatively obscure platform called Pinterest than from Facebook. Five months later, it has joined an exclusive "100,000 Club" comprising brands with a six-figure following on the social-media upstart.
Real Simple is the first print publication to crack six figures, according to a ranking by the social-media influence tracking service ZoomSphere, and trails only wedding blog The Perfect Palette (255,000 followers) and the hair and makeup how-to site The Beauty Department (123,000 followers). To give some context, the next-most-followed magazine account on Pinterest is Better Homes & Gardens, with 58,000 followers.
The title gets twice as much referral traffic from Pinterest than from Facebook and Twitter combined, and only Google refers more. Its success can be attributed partly to its being an early adopter on the platform, which it joined in October 2010. But the magazine's audience also seems to have a special affinity for Pinterest content, which RealSimple.com General Manager Shannon King characterizes as "bite-sized, visual and digestible."
"Pinterest is totally in alignment with our brand," Ms. King added.
A pinboard called "New Uses for Old Things" showing how mundane household items can be put to clever new uses has fared particularly well, with 166,000 followers of its own. Two of the three most-trafficked Real Simple pins are from that board, including an ironing board that 's been sprinkled with salt as a cleaner (745,000 impressions, 8,667 repins) and a Heinz ketchup bottle being used to pour pancake batter into a pan (390,000 impressions, 4,260 repins).
Recipes and party-planning and wedding content tend to be strong Pinterest performers, but user-generated content can also drive high engagement, according to RealSimple.com Managing Editor Kathleen Harris. For instance, she said, a photo of a chicken dish made with a recipe from the magazine that the chef posted on Pinterest with a link to Real Simple has been repinned more than 10,000 times.
On top of the huge bump in referral traffic it provides, Pinterest is informing content strategy. Real Simple's online newsletter The Daily Thought used to feature a quote along with an image, but the decision was made to combine them into one graphic, since quotes perform especially well on Pinterest. The title is also looking into doing co-branded sweepstakes with advertisers in which readers could qualify to win a kitchen makeover, for example, if they pin a piece of kitchen-inspiration content from RealSimple.com or of decor from the advertiser's site.
With an eye toward growing Real Simple's Pinterest audience, Ms. Harris enlisted several editors earlier this year to start pinning what appealed to them, regardless of whether the content was relevant for the magazine. (About 10 to 15 editors now have admin access.) An assistant photo editor was written up on Stylelist as one of "5 Pinners to Follow Now" after posting a photo to Real Simple's "Inspiring Photos & Design" board of a cat in spectacles reading a book.
"[Pinterest] gives us a little more freedom to push the Real Simple aesthetic and ethos beyond Real Simple content," Ms. Harris said.