Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Pinterest Pins Down a Social Networking Niche

I finally looked at Pinterest yesterday.

The name had been floating around in my subconscious for a month or so, but yesterday was the day somebody mentioned it on a social network or it was name-dropped in an article I glanced at, and I took a look.

My first impression was, “Oh look, it’s Tumblr again.” The colorful pictures and strings of comments give the interface a similar feel to the platform that’s half blog, half social network. Upon closer inspection, there are similarities. People use Pinterest to post (or “pin”) photos, and others respond to them or re-pin them, all very Tumblr-esque. What is different about Pineterest is that it is definitely not a blog. Instead of following the normal chronological format of a blog, Pinterest users organize content into groups (“pinboards”). Also, with Pinterest, almost all the content is photos, rather than the music, videos and text one finds on Tumblr. Another big difference is how the platform is used.

When blogging, there is an imperative to be current. Memes become passé within days. News stories cease to be news within hours, or even minutes. Even general interest stories must still be relevant when they are published. I’ve certainly abandoned possible topics because I was a day or two late; I even stopped before writing this Pinterest article to consider its timeliness, and Pinterest is relatively new. Compared to blogs, Pinterest is much more temporally forgiving, though.

The word I see around the internet most associated with Pinterest is “scrapbook.” Users collect images (and their corresponding links) and group them together. The focus is on the collection, rather than when each individual item is posted. So users collect images they like or find interesting. There are the usual cat photos and Tumlr-like stylized platitudes, but a lot of the activity centers around products. Users post outfits they like, home furnishings, shoes, etc. Shout out to my friend, Laura (@LLeskoven), who linked me an article that describes Pinterest as “half-shopping,” conspicuous consumption minus (in many cases) the actual consumption. This characteristic makes it particularly interesting for retailers. But another characteristic makes it especially interesting to me.

If you were paying attention to the items I listed above, you may have noticed that they are all relatively female-oriented. While it took me time to realize it as I was browsing around, Pinterest skews quite girly. I later found out that the majority of their user base is female.

As I dug around for more information online, it was no coincidence that bridal blogs and mom blogs make up a large portion of the conversation. Pinterest is ideally suited to bouncing around wedding dress choices or kids’ party ideas. Trying not to paint with an overly broad brush, Pinterest provides a great venue for essentially feminine pre-purchase behaviors (Dudes, when was the last time you posted up pictures of shirts you like on the internet?).

Social networks primarily consisting of women are not new. Communities have organized themselves around mothering, fashion, haircare and any number of women’s interests. However, this is the first time I am aware of a whole platform being geared toward female behavior. The directions this can go in terms of discovering and shaping consumer attitudes and behaviors are huge, and some marketers are already jumping in.

In a social media landscape with entrenched behemoths like Facebook that are now impossible to take on directly for all but the biggest players in the market, niches are all that is left. By creating a platform geared towards the natural behavior of a segment of the market, Pinterest has claimed a very interesting one for itself. It is also one that is capable of rapid growth, apparently. I have no way to say whether they designed a platform that happened to fit this need, or if insight about consumer behavior drove their creation of a suitable platform (chicken or egg?). However, the use of consumer insight to drive creation of new online networks is an exciting idea with a lot of potential. I look forward to seeing more ways niche technologies develop in the future.

And more cat photos.

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