Few people expected Pinterest to be the smash-hit social network of 2011. It had strong competition in the form of Tumblr, Twitter and the more recent Google +, but the image-based social curation tool was on fire, making it to the Top 10 most visited social networks of the year.
Pinterest’s mission statement summed it up well:
Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests
Pinterest allows users to organise and share things of interest found across the web in the form of ‘Pinboards’. People use them to plan weddings, decorate homes and concoct recipes, amongst other things. David Lee, a tech addict, spoke his mind on this:
People use Pinterest to bookmark things they like and share them with friends and followers. It’s also fun to browse through things other Pinterest users have discovered. I’ve found lots of things that I otherwise never would have. It’s also plain fun to browse pins.
What really works for it, though, is the fact that it uses social bookmarking to aid ‘discovery’ through a collection of visuals. Blogger Joe Murphy cites this aspect as an important reason for using the platform :
I also use Pinterest for discovery:
• I browse what others pin in common areas such as books, travel, or products, for ideas to inspire my activities, books to read, places to visit.
• Christmas shopping: I watched people’s pinboards of products they love or want very carefully for ideas to add to my shopping list or wish lists.
Even though there are plenty of social curation tools around, Pinterest focuses on ‘images’ rather than conversations. When user Kary Delaria was asked her thoughts on what she thought made Pinterest different, this is what she had to say:
There’s no talking. Well, very little. Pinterest is a social bookmarking of visual items. It focuses on visual sharing
User Mariam Shahab likes that she can follow things that are of her interest by following specific ‘boards’:
For me, it’s much easier to filter my many interests on Pinterest than on Facebook or Twitter. Sure Twitter has lists, but people are dynamic and tweet about things other than what I categorize them under (i.e. fashion, PR etc). However, on Pinterest, I can only follow a user’s boards I’m actually interested in.
Pinterest is different from Facebook, Twitter or Google+ because it doesn’t focus on starting a conversation through posts. In fact, people post images of things that they love, which eventually gets the conversation going. Blogger Deb Ng thinks that Pinterest makes for a refreshing change:
It’s also giving me an opportunity to see another side of my social media friends. I can tell you who is renovating, who are moonlighting as foodies, who are expecting kids, and what kinds of books everyone is reading
With users finding new ways to use Pinterest, the challenge before brands was how to use its burgeoning success to their advantage.
Pinterest scores in terms of visual enticement, which plays a huge role in conversions for an oft-neglected segment – women in the 25- to 44-year age bracket who love cause marketing.
Pinterest is effective in creating awareness, driving conversations online and boosting consumer engagement through novel methods. Social media strategist Constance Aguilar feels Pinterest holds immense potential for brands:
Pinterest holds immense potential for brands to interact with their audiences and to visually entice current and potential customers. Using the power of image, companies can create buzz around products, display more in-depth aspects of their businesses, and ultimately create more personal and visually pleasing social experiences for their audiences.
On the other hand, detractors believe that marketers are trying to attain first-mover advantage on Pinterest without assessing its relevance for their respective brands. Critic and social media enthusiast April Jones agrees:
Not every “social” site needs to be a “social media” site and a source for self-promotion. I’m already seeing bloggers using Pinterest as a place to promote their latest article or ebook or webinar. Pinterest is more visual and using the stock photo from your blog post (pinning the orange RSS feed graphic? really?) doesn’t count. I go there to look, not read.
Anything new leads to discussions and contrasting opinions; Pinterest is no exception. The user experience for most is pleasant, but there were a considerable number who had qualms about it.
The positives are that the network is a visual treat and it makes sharing easy. This, in turn, makes its core purpose – content curation –seamless. It is also addictive and organises content well.
No wonder many like Ky Kow swear by it :
Pinterest is fantastic. Makes you wonder where all these visually appealing images have been hiding all these years. The only downside is that it’s probably setting some very unrealistic expectations “for the home” and wedding planning
Its biggest drawback is that beyond a point there is not much you can do on Pinterest. It lacks in variety of utilities.
Pinterest is such a hit partly due to its developers’ understanding of the need for structured social curation, which has been around for a while. It can be compared to networking in the sense that it always existed offline.
There was always a need for curation, as Erica Friedman explains :
Once upon a time, back when we didn’t have the Internet, I remember folks spending an afternoon cleaning up their Rolodex files; pulling out old, unneeded contacts, updating others.
Human nature doesn’t change. Human needs don’t change. All that’s changed is the technology.
As social media evolved over the last decade, long-form content, which can be a barrier to participation, changed to suit users’ requirements and the way they participate in conversations.
Pinterest has understood that most users want to consume content in a structured manner than create it themselves, which is why experts predict 2012 to be the year of social curation.
Other social networks understand this, which is why they are racing to incorporate push-button features on their platforms. Whether it’s the Facebook ‘share’, Twitter ‘retweet’ or Tumblr ‘re-blog’, social networks don’t want to miss the curation bus.
Whilst there are many social bookmarking/curation websites like Tumblr, Instagram, Digg, Quora, etc, Pinterest scores over them for a reason best described by Social Media specialist, David King:
By constructing content in a structured set versus a stream, sites such as Pinterest and Snip.It have prevented stream-based sites such as Facebook from becoming a compelling place to consume the Pinterest or Snip.It content (which contrasts with e.g. Instagram or other stream based sites).
Pinterest should not be taken lightly by other social networks. Its traffic has grown by 4,000% over the last six months. Its growth is different from other social networks as its early adopters were women – as of December 2011, 58% of Pinterest users were female.
Blogger Joe Waters recognised this differentiator in his post ‘Why and how causes should use Pinterest :
The heavy presence of women 25-44 on Pinterest is what distinguishes it from other new social media platforms, which are generally populated by men 18-24. Here’s a site that already has the audience everyone wants: women and moms who make most of the household buying decisions.
The buzz suggests that Pinterest will become the next big thing in social media. This could be because 2012 is expected to be the year of social curation, and that no other network or tool provides content curation in a more simple, structured and engaging manner.
People think it may be the next big thing also because the network has carved out a niche market for itself. Blogger Tilak Joshi explains how he thinks targeting a niche market will work for Pinterest:
As the market for social networks begins to get saturated, niche networks like Pinterest will begin to prevail. Social networks adding value to a niche are perfect candidates for word-of-mouth marketing. Pinterest is one of the first niche social network successes, and as the market matures, and the demand for niche social networks rises, it will be considered a pioneer in its industry.
Pinterest’s character will be truly tested only once it moves beyond its invite-only phase to a public avatar. That’s when it will face increased pressure not only from users, but also from rival networks and new entrants.
One thing’s for certain – its growth and user engagement suggests that Pinterest users aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
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