Mariamz

#WhyWeLovePinterest – musings and whistlestop ethnography

Posted on: June 23, 2012

Pinterest has officially been the fastest growing social network this year. But why do we love it so? Why is it driving sales so much better than other social networks? Why is it so moreish?

Pinterest traffic growth to March 2012

I’m running a private Pinterest training session next week, where I’ll be covering:

  • A rapid introduction to the hottest visual social network right now
  • Overview of best in class activity
  • Activation framework

And I thought it would work well, especially for those in the room not already into it, to start off explaining why people love Pinterest… how they feel about it… to bring it to life. Personally, I’d muse the following:

  • We’re tired of looking at words on screens. I was talking to an old friend the other day who was at college when computers first hit the market. She said they used to tell them not to read on screen. To this day she usually prints everything – she says everyone has got too obsessed with saving trees (which can be replaced) – but your eyesight can’t. Whatever you think about this logic.. I think one of the reasons we love Pinterest is our eyes have become wary of reading reams and reams of information, and you can actually see a whole world of ideas on Pinterest (especially when you browse the ‘everything’ tab – without reading a word.
  • Simple serendipity. Eli Pariser, among other doom-sayers, have waxed lyrical at length about the danger of filter-bubbles in how we use the web as individuals. Our use of Twitter is mostly confined to the people we follow, the lists we have chosen to follow, searching for – or following the hashtags we are already interested in. On Facebook we see the pages and people we already like or know. But on Pinterest the ‘Everything’ tab is an easy, visual view into the world of many, many, others. It’s easy to skim past any picture you find offensive (and actually its Acceptable Use Policy and usage norms mean I very rarely see anything that fits that category from my perspective).
  • The whole world meets one click product discovery. When we shop online we usually go to a very few trusted websites, for the brands and websites we know. Or use massive shopping aggregators like asos which enable us to scroll through pages and pages of bags and shoes. But it can be samey. We get tired of looking at 300 dresses just to find one we like. We get ourselves into the mood to shop but somehow the pressure of scrolling and searching takes the shine off. You can’t touch or see the items up close and you get a bit fed up after watching 20 little videos to work out how the fabric hangs. But on Pinterest a dress or pair of shoes, new make-up or hair idea is all mixed up with cool travel and home and even digital inspiration. It’s not just one shop or even a virtual high street… it’s pictures of the whole world online.. it’s the beach, the bar, the library, the philosopher and the boutique all at once.

That’s just some speculation from me… but why do other Pinners love it? I thought I’d use the ethnographic method of observing what people say about their feelings about it on Twitter:

In keeping with ethnographic research principles – I started with a question, gave my feelings on the platform and the perspective from which I am approaching the question, and uncovered themes from my observations.. represented here in this word cloud:

Here are those themes in more detail:

  • It helps you easily share what you find and love.. without having to comment on it in any great detail – e.g. Danni Minogue’s pets board has shown me with pictures, some insight into her personality I’d never have really gauged otherwise
  • I’ve heard people say this in person too – it takes you into another world – a more dream-like world
  • It drives desire
  • It inspires you to make new things (or makes you feel you should be!)
  • It gives you hints, tips and recipes that can brighten your day
  • Music was a new one on me – how does one use it for that I wonder? Via video perhaps? This is how I discovered you can now pin sounds from Soundcloud onto Pinterest
  • The quotes help you feel positive (personally I always feel an undercurrent of embarrassment when I re-tweet inspirational quotes on Twitter but it just doesn’t feel like that on Pinterest)
  • It makes you feel good by letting you know when other people like what you love
  • I’ve often found it annoying that I can’t pin directly from G+ or Facebook – but the fact someone suggested it as a reason to love Pinterest made me think… it’s a good safeguard against it getting filled up with lots of personal pictures of people falling out of nightclubs and indeed outfits
  • It can lift your mood – or help you explore the mood you’re in
  • The ease which which you can share visually makes it less intimidating for non-technical users as a collaboration / bookmarking tool
  • Photos are usually professionally taken / shared when they fit with the professionally taken shots there – meaning their visually stunning appeal differs from the more amateur photography you might expect on Flickr, or personal (to you) shots you see on Facebook
  • It can help creative people to think visually

So that was fun… a view into the world of our positive feelings towards Pinterest. But I must report that in the course of this research I found a significant number of people reporting negative feelings – i.e. the wish their lives were as fabulous as the world they can enter on Pinterest / their Pinterest boards. This reminded me of criticisms levelled at magazines over the years – on how they make people feel in terms of pressures on how to be and what to buy.

Back on the sunnier flip side, something I realised in trawling tweets about why people have taken to Pinterest so readily – is how much they love to say how much they love eachother’s pins. We might posit here that if Facebook be the platform of like, Pinterest be that of love

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