What is so novel about Pinterest?

Posted on February 16, 2012

If you happen to follow  social media news, you must have already heard about Pinterest, the visual social bookmarking service that is all the rage.

Why this sudden attention to a service which, at least at first examination, does something so familiar and so old?

It is the  twist in the approach that makes the difference: instead of relying on storage of links, article summaries and thumbnails , Pinterest utilizes the images of a page as possible visual markers.

This sounds like a trivial difference but it has some interesting implications:

  • The link of a page is unique (or it should be). Same goes for the title and the first few lines. This means that if one chose  to bookmark a page the old way, there would be only one representation of the bookmark (or, more precisely, if there were more, they would look too much alike). Now, think of a page with 12 images in it, all interesting ones. A Pinterest user will have to choose which one fits best to his taste and employ it as the visual bookmark. If many different people visit and bookmark the same page, then, almost certainly, 12 different representations of the bookmark will appear in Pinterest. This means that if you casually browse pins, there is a chance that you will stumble upon the same bookmark more than once. But instead of skipping it as a boring repetition, you will probably be drawn to it when the next image comes closer to your taste than the previous. In aggregate, the consequence is a higher chance of clicking the bookmark and visiting the page. Which is exactly the observed behavior: Pinterest seems to send a lot of traffic to the sites bookmarked, leaving in dust all the other bookmarking services and climbing right next  to Facebook, Stumbleupon, Google and Twitter .
  • An image in a page is of subordinate significance. It’s psychological meaning and allure is subject to the content of the rest of the page. Usually an image accentuates the text, rarely the opposite.  An image, standing on its own, is open to interpretations. We make free associations about it and are drawn to click  it in order to discover what lies ‘behind’. The way Pinterest harnessed this psychological process, makes it more of a discovery service than a simple bookmarking one. Bookmarking is about remembering, discovery is about revealing and exploring. There is an element of serendipity in it and  the path to discovery is not and cannot be predefined.
  • Since bookmarking is combined with discovery in Pinterest, a new kind of activity emerges: collecting. Users collect pins not just to remember the beautiful, interesting or desirable things they once saw, but also to arrange them in sets that attribute them a new meaning. These sets are called ‘boards’ in Pinterest and the title and description of these board is full of semantic data that marketers will drool upon. The most important: boards dubbed “I want”, “I need” and the likes reveal the dormant or not so dormant consumer intention to buy.
  • Brands of all kinds,  arranged in boards as posters or designs, exhibit what people think about them, how do they perceive them and how they classify them with or against their competitors.

There is always this week’s darling in the social media scene but a recent Comscore report found out that the average US visitor in November spent almost one hour and a half on the site, bringing  Pinterest only third behind Facebook and Tumblr and clearly ahead of Twitter and LinkedIn, a testimony to the sites’  high stickiness factor.
Pinterest is still in beta stage so no API, no third party apps and mashups are yet available. Once it gets to this stage, I think we are destined to see tools that will mine the aspects we hinted and provide the marketing professionals with a lot of surprises and a lot of potential. I could go on a lot more but I think you get the general idea. Pinterest is a discovery tool worth to be discovered.

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One Response to “What is so novel about Pinterest?”

  1. [...] σαν εισαγωγή για να πω ότι βαρέθηκα το Pinterest, για το οποίο αλλού έχω εκφραστεί θετικά. Το αντίθετο. Προς το [...]



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