Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 31, 201210:56 AM

A Pinteresting Story

That Facebook IPO...

With rumors swirling of Facebook's pending IPO (and the billions at play that go along with it), it does seem like the most opportune time for the online social networking behemoth to go public. With over 800 million users and talk that it will hit a billion connected people by the summer, it doesn't seem like Twitter is a true competitor... or that any other competitors are waiting in the wings. In fact, if Facebook's growth and interest continues to propagate, we can expect that more and more platforms will simply offer social networking solutions that can live and play alongside and within Facebook (much like Twitter does). Think about software that was developed for the Windows platform, and this will be a similar strategy for many of the newer social media startups.

That Pinterest thing.

That being said, Pinterest has been gaining a ton of attention lately and widely regarded as one of the hottest new and shiny bright digital objects to come along in some time. Pinterest is a digital mood board mixed with online scrapbooking. Users create a board (it can be anything from cool pictures of cats to the most fascinating business Blogs) and as you come across pieces of content online (and it can be text, images, audio or video), you "pin" the content (which is done by installing a "pin it" button on your web browser's toolbar). Pinterest creates a mood board or visualization of this content. All of the boards that users create are both public and can be followed by others. Users can also connect to one another, share, comment, collaborate and more.

At first blush this may not sound like anything all that groundbreaking.

Pinterest launched in closed-beta in mid-2010. In August of last year, Time Magazine named it in its "50 Best Websites of 2011" and last December, the analytics firm, Experian Hitwise, said that Pinterest's user-base had forty times the number of visitors it had from only six months prior. It was also this past December that it cracked into the top ten social media sites in the world. At the time of that explosive growth, Pinterest was still not openly available to everyone and those wanting to join were relegated to a waiting list.

Is Pinterest delicious?

For those who have been around the digital block, Pinterest seems like a more modern play on Delicious (which is a social bookmarking service for saving and sharing your web bookmarks). Delicious was created by Joshua Schacter in 2003 as the notion of tagging (or labeling) content to make it findable by others begun to take hold. Delicious got acquired by Yahoo in 2005 and became the defacto destination to share one's bookmarks online. Most recently, the two co-founders of YouTube - Chad Hurley and Steve Chen - purchased Delicious and have tweaked it into a place to "find cool stuff and collect it for easy sharing." Back in 2003, the Internet could not really handle too much audio and video, so text-based platforms were more commonplace. If Schacter were launching Delicious today, it would probably look and feel a lot like Pinterest.

What's with all of this sharing, anyway?

Businesses grapple with Social Media because they have been mis-informed that these platforms provide an opportunity for them to have a conversation with their consumers. While this would be panacea, the truth is that what makes something social is simply its ability to be as findable and shareable as possible (strong engagement and conversation can only happen after the other stuff has been mastered). Platforms like Pinterest are rising in popularity because we live in a world of over-sharing (look no further than the river of tweets on Twitter or your wall on Facebook). The only way we're going to get better at curating and aggregating this mass amount of content and bucketing it in a way that feels more cohesive is through platforms like Pinterest (and it's very friendly visualization of content). By sharing this content - which has been both aggregated and curated by human beings - odds are that some of this over-sharing can transition from the world of uselessness and benign to powerful and fascinating.

It's in the way that you use it.

What also makes Pinterest a platform that has captured the attention of many is that - according to Experian Hitwise - the site is especially popular with women between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four (nearly sixty percent of its users). Perhaps the days of new and emerging platforms being dominated by young, male users in the early adoption phase are finally coming to an end, as anybody and everybody has a computer, smartphone and/or tablet in tow? Perhaps the adoption is happening because these newer platforms are simply that much easier and fun to use?

Either way, we're faced with another online place for businesses to pin their hopes on. Pun intended.

The above post is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

Also of Interest:

By Mitch Joel

Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Bart
    Mitch Joel

    It looks like there is a "male version" of Pinterest now.

  • Posted by Annie Lynsen
    Mitch Joel

    Great stuff! Pinterest is definitely the shiny object du jour. I wrote about it last week, focusing on how nonprofits can make use of the tool:

    It'll be interesting to see it evolve.

  • Posted by Eva Smith
    Eva Smith

    Great post. I've never seen it compared to delicious before, but your right on!

  • Posted by Philip Powell
    Mitch Joel

    There are probably a few posts which could easily find their way out of your article today.
    The two pieces which caught my eye are a) the almost pavlovian response of some that the latest gathering place in social media land is ripe for harvesting consumer conversation and b) Over-sharing...everything. There is occasionally some wisdom in turning left when everyone turns right. I can see a point where the critical mass of "sharing" requires something to balance it out, almost a middle ground between everything is private or everything is potentially public.
    I see in Pinterest the creative potential for some natural or logical extensions beyond what it is today and I'll be interested to see where they take it. It is ultimately a far more interesting proposition than todays equivalent of Klout or Tumblr
    Good post and as always, thought provoking.

    • If we can use visual design to guide interest (and I think Pinterest can do this) we might start seeing an evolution in user interaction. I'd welcome that! Tell Jenn to get better fast... no sleep for the wicked :)

  • Posted by Mhairi Petrovic
    Mitch Joel

    Pinterest is visually stimulating and fun but one downside is that users are not mandated to provide the originating source of the image making it hard to give credit where credit is due.

    I also notice that you have a presence there Mitch but no boards as yet - is there a strategic reason for this?

    • Once you click the link, you're at the originating source, so I have no issue with how it's done. As for my "presence"... I haven't come up with anything to "pin" yet as most of the stuff I share is text and I do so via Twitter... I'm sure my habits will adapt.

  • Because of it's overwhelming female user base, I thought Pinterest was created by women, but no. Still as someone who uses Delicious for bookmarking, I have become a convert to Pinterest tho I have never been a scrapbooker. The UX is really fantastic and it's a very friendly community--unlike say Tumblr. The brilliant part about Pinterest...which I'm sure they never intended-- is how seamlessly brands have been incorporated into their platform, unlike both Twitter and Facebook. It will be interesting to see how it scales. It's one thing to be a smallish community of like minded hipsters, and quite another to incorporate real estate agents, plastic surgeons and who knows what else that have joined twitter recently begging me to follow them.

  • Posted by Kaz
    Mitch Joel

    "Perhaps the adoption is happening because these newer platforms are simply that much easier and fun to use." Hmmmm, women using it because it's easier.... or perhaps women just do tend to be more social. If you look at most families, who keeps the family and social connections going?

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