There are Vine stars. There are YouTube celebrities. There are Twitter personalities.
And now there are Pinterest* stars. Pinstars. Pinfluencers. Pinlebrities.
“Pinterest actually likes to call them Pinterest Influencers,” Kyla Brennan told me yesterday. “They don’t like any change to the word Pinterest.”
Pinteresting. But Brennan would know, and has good reason to keep the people who run the Pin happy as the head of HelloSociety, the largest Pinterest talent agency in the world.
As she explains, this is actually easy to become, because unlike other social media phenomenons, Pinterest has very few stars and even less fluctuation. A Pinstar is slowly, painstakingly built, well-chosen pin by pin; there aren’t really viral Pinstars. The majority of the Pinfluencers were just the lucky few who had some of the first Pinterest accounts and were, as such, suggested to new users.
That’s how the number of them stays around 400 highly paid influencers, according to Brennan, who came up from Santa Monica for the Techonomy conference in Half Moon Bay yesterday. Brennan — a 29-year-old from Littleton outside of Denver, Colo. — first noticed Pinstars and their influence on e-commerce while working at Science, an incubator in Los Angeles. She started HelloSociety in 2012 and eventually took over a whole floor of the Science building.
But do we really need Pinstars?
“I know. I totally understand the skepticism. People hear Pinterest star and they’re like, what?!,” she said. “But after three years of doing this, seeing clients making hundreds of thousands of dollars and quit their jobs and pin full time, it’s real.”
Pinstars now monetize their influence through brand endorsements (crafting with Kmart products, for example). Pinterest — set up like a catalogue in which users “pin” or save images to their “boards,” much like a series of wish lists — is ripe for such money-making. Brennan said she has seen companies completely cut their ad campaigns on other social media sites after seeing Pin results. Her average Pinner has about 1.8 million followers; top Pinners make about $250,000 a year. HelloSociety had $12.5 million in revenue last year and has 26 employees.
“Pinterest is commerce-based, it’s based on intent,” she said. “Facebook, it’s still disruptive to see ads [there]. Twitter’s not even in the conversation. Pinterest is built for commerce.”
The Pinstars in existence are extremely valuable and must be carefully managed because of how rare they are: “It’s much harder to get a huge audience in Pinterest — it’s just much rarer than something like YouTube, where you make one viral video and there you are,” Brennan said. “You’re not going to get one viral Pin and get a bunch of followers.”
Because Pinstars were early adopters rather than necessarily fantastic Pinners, some are strange. These Pinners, too, must be nurtured.
“In the early days, Pinterest suggested a few sort of strange birds who weren’t in their aesthetic. We’ve come across people who have all these followers for, I don’t know, like My Android Board or My Intergalactic Gemstones board. Or Frogs,” Brennan said. “We’ve encouraged a lot of those Pinners to broaden their topics. Maybe branch out of frogs. Or do frogs but think about frogs in other ways.”
*Pinterest executive Joanne Bradford is an independent board member of Re/code’s parent company Revere Digital, but has no involvement in our editorial process.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.