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Pinterest lost in translation

News, 24 March 2016

SAN FRANCISCO: Pinterest began expanding overseas two years ago, but the US image-sharing site has since discovered that its content is often perceived as being too American for international tastes, and so it is seeking to change.

The great majority of users of Facebook and Twitter come from non-American markets, but only around 45% of Pinterest's more than 100m monthly users are international, the Wall Street Journal reported.

With ambitions to generate $3bn in revenue in 2018, Pinterest would need to triple ad sales in each of the next three years and do so by substantially building its appeal among international users.

However, according to research that the company has been conducting over the past year, Pinterest has underestimated the diversity of global tastes, which in the worst scenarios meant users did not even understand its purpose.

For example, the company discovered that Brazilians did not really understand references to "pins" and "boards" because these terms got lost in translation.

Ricardo Sangion, Pinterest's country manager in Brazil, explained that in Brazilian Portuguese the word "pin" is more often associated with an item used to fasten a diaper.

He said Pinterest may change the "pin" button to the Brazilian Portuguese word for "save" after the company already switched the word "board" for the Brazilian Portuguese word for "folder".

Other cultural mishaps included food recipes that were not measured in the metric system for users in European and Asia, or featuring dishes with ingredients not readily available outside of the US.

To overcome some of these problems, Pinterest began to customise search results by language and country since October last year and claims that, as a result, users in Brazil, France, Germany and Japan are now sharing twice as many local pins.

However, although the number of global users of Pinterest has doubled to 45m over the past year, sources told the Journal that the percentage of users in these key countries remain in the single digits, which suggests the company still has some way to go.

Indeed, according to recent reports, several leading marketers have advised that the industry should take a long view when considering the platform.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff