Two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what Pinterest exactly was. I knew it was the social media platform of choice for my mom and three sisters when they needed a new recipe or craft idea. I knew businesses were adopting it as another place to promote products and services. And I knew it thrived on the obsession with organization. Beyond these facets, I knew nothing of the website that many of my friends and coworkers described as “soooooo addictive.”
Ten minutes after creating a Pinterest account, I made the observation that it was, on the surface, incredibly similar to Tumblr. I’ve never had a Tumblr account (I will be exploring this site later in the semester), but there are Tumblr pages I regularly follow and read. The “re-pinning” of images, videos, and links drives Pinterest. Original content can be created, but most users focus on the collection and categorization of material grabbed from other users’ boards. Additionally, users can simply “like” a post without adding it to their own pinboard. From my experience, the majority of Tumblr bloggers “reblog” posts, but rarely produce anything novel, and “liking” is also an option. These two platforms differ from a social networking site like Twitter, where most content (in the form of tweets) is created by the user. Browsing Twitter, you’ll see the occasional “retweet,” but this is not the principal output.
Okay, so the setup and interface of Pinterest is far from unique. This isn’t a groundbreaking discovery, but it interesting to note that, despite the similarities to older sites, Pinterest is growing at a much faster rate than the “competition.” In fact, from 2011 to 2012, Pinterest grew an incredible 286%. Meanwhile, the number of unique Tumblr visitors is shrinking. What is Pinterest’s competitive advantage? What sets it apart and keeps users coming back?
I’ve been using the site for a mere two weeks, but I’ve come up with two elements of Pinterest that could be contributing to its success. The first factor concerns mobility. The Pinterest mobile app is pretty spectacular in the way it mirrors the web version almost identically. It’s clean, easy to use, and organized. This similarity may not seem so significant, but I think it can definitely play a part in how often users engage with the platform. I tested the Tumblr app on a friend’s iPad using my friend’s account. This quick assessment made it clear that translating social media to a mobile device is not always successful. Navigation and usage on the mobile Tumblr was challenging and certainly not intuitive, and I’m personally a fan of the non-mobile interface of Tumblr. My Tumblr-using acquaintance echoed my concerns, stating that she uses the iPad app only to view content but never to share, reblog, or interact with said content.
I believe Pinterest also flourishes because it is easy for users to find, organize, and display their “stuff.” Again, on the surface this may seem like a “duh” reason for why a social media site thrives, and it is. But Pinterest does it so well that users stick with the site instead of getting frustrated from lack of clarity and looking elsewhere for what they need. This simple feature allows users to really become social curators, which is crucial in a service like this. Being able to condense and organize social/personal artifacts is huge for a social networking site that is based on the connections between things the user is interested in. Tumblr allows users to have a feed and incorporate tagging as a way to present the content that will ultimately describe who they are as individuals. Pinterest allows so much more customization and organization that it makes this presentation of the self so much easier and coherent. In this way, users can find what they’re interested in and determine, through organization and design, the best way to make this content valuable to those who are viewing their pinboards. This clarity breeds enthusiasm and allows for growth.
I like Pinterest. It’s quirky and there are a lot of cool artifacts and content that I can use to describe me and to connect with others like me. But I don’t believe I will use it regularly until I can find a way to create and pin content that I create and that is unique to my pinboard. I like the idea of “re-pinning,” but I would like to move beyond this and use the platform in a more interesting way. I currently do not have the time to engross myself in such a way, but I’ll be back, I’m sure. The site has piqued my (p)interest.
Up next: Vine