A report released this week by Experian ranked the popularity of various social networks. Ranked first is obviously Facebook, followed by Twitter, and then by Pinterest. Yes, the startup that most people ignored for quite a while is now the #3 social network in the United States.

Before we get to take-aways from this report, a quick disclaimer: Yes, the report was probably done as thoroughly as possible to make it accurate, but Experian likely doesn’t have the actual real-time numbers at these sites, so these are probably best guesses. As far as we know, they are accurate, but they could be wildly wrong.

That being said, a few things that stand out about this report:

  1. Pinterest is now the #3 social network, after being largely ignored by the technology press. This shows two things: First, the technology press should probably start actually going out and looking for stories. Second, the company took off so quickly and unexpectedly, that the product is filling a niche that is apparently being underserved.
  2. Google+ is not doing so well. Look at the difference in invested capital behind Pinterest versus behind Google+. With Google+ you have one of the largest companies in the world putting the vast majority of its resources into promoting a product on one of the most popular Web pages in the world. Yet in spite of that, Google+ is not #3 and Pinterest is. This shows the importance of knowing the market, a problem that Google+ has faced for quite a while. Who is Google+ for? Facebook is for everyone, Twitter is for daily use, Pinterest is for marketers, and people that love pinning. Product is everything, capital is secondary. If you nail the product, it won’t take long to become a top three player.
  3. Sub-social networks are here to stay. There has been a bit of kerfluffle in the past year about whether or not social networks should be entirely dependent upon Twitter and Facebook integration. Well, it appears that Pinterest has solved the debate for everyone, as either a Twitter account or a Facebook account is needed to sign up for the service at all. However, as Pinterest has shown, if you ask for basic user information like emails from the get-go, you side-step the problem of platform dependence.

For startups that are looking for a role-model in this department, look no further than Pinterest. Regardless of where Pinterest goes from here, be it consistent growth or collapse, it is clear that it can serve as a perfect startup to learn lessons from. And this, not only concerning how to build and launch a product, but also the importance of coverage versus building an actually amazing product. Depending on how Pinterest deals with challenges in the coming year, it could be a pivotal startup for people to watch.