I remember back in January, reading an article on Mashable about community management predictions for 2012.

“While Twitter and Facebook are no-brainers for digital strategists, many have yet to tap into the beauty of niche social networks. These sites, including Pinterest and Stamped, popped up left and right in 2011 — and they don’t seem to be slowing down. For community managers, this means it’s time to get on the bandwagon.”

Boy, were they right. Pinterest has become the third most popular social network in the US and has surpassed Facebook in driving ecommerce.  Brands, seeing its potential value, have embraced Pinterest with open arms with sweepstakes, contests and continue to grow their brand’s boards each week, but has Pinterest returned the favor?

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With the introduction of “secret boards”, we are beginning to see a path that could lead to more brand friendly features. “Secret boards” now allow brands to unveil full and robust boards to the public, giving them time to create, strategize and perfect before publishing.  Pinterest also allows pins’ URLs to be modified, which has allowed brands to drive fans back to their desired websites increasing traffic significantly. These features that are available to consumers as well as brands and right now, Pinterest offers no special elements for brands – but does it need to?

There are a number of applications and sites which make the platform more useable for marketers and basically do the brand-friendly work for Pinterest. Dobango aids brands in connecting with consumers through Pinterest contests. It tracks engagement in real time and is considered one of the first marketing opportunities with the platform.  Pinfluencer is the top Pinterest analytics program aiding brands in measuring key numbers such as pins, repins, followers and traffic. Pinery, Curalate and Repinly also top the charts for Pinterest stats – you can find a nice roundup of them here.

So let’s ask the question again, when will Pinterest become more brand friendly? We were talking digital predictions for 2013 this week in the office, and here are mine for Pinterest; I see it continuing its upward traffic streak in 2013 while also evolving its interface to include better brand pages, a more integrated newsfeed for friends’ updates, sponsored pins and its own analytics platform. Like the greats before it (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), Pinterest will need to make all the same upgrades to survive, which will hopefully mean, it will see the importance of befriending brands.