This article is by Troy Ireland, managing partner at Digital Current, a conversion-based digital-marketing agency specializing in content marketing and SEO.

Pinterest has always seemed like Facebook’s cozy little sister. Instead of sharing news articles and memes, Pinterest users (mostly women) curate pages of living room furniture and Halloween party recipes.

But underestimating Pinterest would be a huge mistake. “As social networks go, Pinterest doesn’t get a whole lot of respect,” wrote Kevin Roose in a New York magazine article. “Which will make it even more surprising when Pinterest eats its competitors alive.”

That May 2014 prediction appears to be coming true. Just after the holidays, IBM Digital Analytics released a report showing that overall holiday online sales were up 13.9% for the 2014 season. They looked specifically at Facebook and Pinterest sales and reported on a very interesting statistic: “Facebook referrals drove an average of $101.38 per order, while Pinterest referrals averaged $105.75 per order.”

Since its launch in 2010, the scrapbooking, image-pinning site has been steadily growing and picking up pace. It is estimated to have approximately 70 million active users and is worth about $5 billion. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook’s 1.2 billion daily users and $210 billion market cap. But Pinterest is growing quickly and, unlike Facebook, the whole setup of Pinterest is designed to move products.

“Pinterest’s power is the volume of referral traffic it generates,” explains Jason Miles, author of the book “Pinterest Power.” “When it comes to that metric, it is already in very rarefied air. The top four sources of referral traffic are organic search, direct typing of a URL, Facebook and then Pinterest.” And if Pinterest can get to 280 million users, it could easily surpass Facebook in terms of driving Internet traffic (and purchases), according to Miles.

To help marketers take advantage of all of this user-generated enthusiasm, Pinterest has started selling Promoted Pins, which are ads that look like Pinterest images and content shared between users. “[They are] sounding the call that Pinterest is open for business and that it wants to compete for ad dollars with the likes of Google, Twitter and Facebook,” according to CNBC.

In many ways, Pinterest is actually already ahead of Facebook. “Pinterest Expert” Anna Cadiz Bennett talked to one of my colleagues about why you might be better off funneling your social media marketing funds to Pinterest:

  1. Visual content marketing: The visuals on Pinterest are clear, clean and engaging. There arelots of reasons why visual content is important for a marketing campaign, but probably the most important is that it grabs instant attention and is quickly processed by the human brain.
  2. Shelf life: Pins last and are easily available forever. On Facebook, they are around for only a few hours (if you’re lucky). “On Pinterest, everything you create and pin lives forever,” Bennett says. “I have blogs from two years ago that are still being shared. No other socials are doing that. In terms of ROI, that’s phenomenal.”
  3. Intent to buy: If you’re lurking around on Pinterest, you are probably looking to purchase something. According to Shopify, “The average order coming from Pinterest is $80, higher than any other site including Google, Amazon and Facebook, which has an average of $40.” On Facebook (or Twitter) you tend to be there for a conversation.
  4. Promoted Pins: Maybe the best tool out there for marketers. They hardly look like ads, they are heavily shared and they are now open to all advertisers.According to Pinterest, “Brand advertisers achieved about a 30% bump in earned media (free impressions!) from their campaigns.” Pinterest now even has an analytics panel as part of its Pinterest for Business
  5. Large female audience on Pinterest: Approximately 85% of Pinterest users are women — and women have $7 trillionin buying power. “Women on Pinterest are 30% more likely to shop or buy online than the average woman, and Pinterest users spend nearly two times the norm,” according to Comscore 2014.

This year, especially as Promoted Pins open up to everyone, will be telling as to how our companies and brands are affected by this relatively new stream of marketing. As marketers adjust their brand plans and start figuring out how to be successful on this powerful social media site, there may be a few growing pains. I would love to hear about any concerns or major problems you have had marketing on Pinterest for a potential future article. If you have your own conclusions about Pinterest’s marketing evolution please share them in the comments below.

shared by permission Forbes Business News.