Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), its subsidiary Instagram, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), and Snap's (NYSE:SNAP) Snapchat often dominate conversations about social networks. However, Cowen & Co. recently found that Pinterest, a platform that allows its users to pin content to virtual pinboards, is the leader among social media companies when it comes to U.S. product searches and shopping.

Chart showing use of U.S. social media platforms for product searches and shopping

Data source: Cowen & Co. Chart by author.

Pinterest's lead is impressive, since it reaches a smaller audience than Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, with 250 million monthly active users. The platform encourages users to share photos of products they're interested in, instead of personal photos or comments on the latest news events.

Many Pinterest users build boards based on personal lists like dream weddings, birthday gifts, or clothing styles. This makes it an ideal platform for retailers to launch shopping lists.

That's why Pinterest recently let retailers upload their entire catalogs to the platform, and why e-commerce sites have added Pinterest-like feeds to their own homepages over the past few years.

eMarketer estimates that Pinterest's ad revenue rose more than 50% last year, and will likely grow another 45% to over $1 billion in 2019. That growth, along with its dominance of product searches, could spark a lot of interest in its upcoming IPO.