Posts Tagged ‘ethnography

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

How do you analyse a Facebook page? Social media monitoring tools such as Radian6 and Sysomos give a useful range of quantitative data – and a measure of ‘sentiment.’ But to have a true understanding of Facebook page engagement you need to do a ‘deep dive’ into what is happening qualitatively – to discover the real nature of the interaction taking place.

A great advantage for the ethnographer with Facebook pages is wall posts are public – it’s just a matter of hitting the page and observing what’s happening. The main reasons you may want to analyse a Facebook page are:

  • Developing a deep understanding of your Facebook page users
  • Checking out how your competition are using Facebook
  • Conducting academic research into use of the platform by businesses, government or non-governmental organisations
  • Getting under the skin of potential partners or sponsors
  • Identifying how your target market are using the platform

Begin by assessing these questions on the two main ways people interact on Facebook pages: the wall (in reality this usually means their own newsfeeds) and campaigns. Especially if you are analysing more than one page – build a spreadsheet or table to help keep order to your findings. If you are delegating this task to someone else, be very clear about what you are trying to understand from the research – and as with all ethnography – be prepared for the questions asked, and categorisations set at the beginning, to change and morph in light of findings.

The wall

    • Can fans make wall posts or just the page owner?
    • Itemise each wall post:
      • What is it? A comment, question, blogpost link, poll, embedded video or link to video?
      • What is it about? Does it have a content / engagement theme? By scoring posts on this, you will be able to see overall what themes and topics the page is running with, and how well they are doing.
      • What date and time was it posted, and who by?
      • How many likes does it have?
      • How many comments does it have?
      • What is the tone of the comments? Positive? Negative?
      • Is the page owner responding to the comments?
      • Are people liking and responding to others’ comments?


    • Is there a campaign running? If so, what is it? How does it work? Does it use an app?
    • Is there a mobile / offline element to it?
    • Is it connected to other social platforms?
    • Does it include an incentive or competition?
    • Are people able to like and comment?
    • If the answer to the above is yes, treat each element that can be liked and commented on as a separate item for analysis as with wall posts

Once you have completed the above for 10+ Facebook wall posts you should have a sense of what kind of content the page is publishing and how people feel about the brand, the products and services they offer, and their Facebook content. This will provide useful insight for your Facebook strategy – whether you have studied your own or someone else’s page.

Two other things:

  • Time – allow a reasonable amount of time to read and digest what is happening for each Facebook post – if you are aiming to analyse 10+ posts – but some have hundreds of comments as in the skittles example above – each one could take an hour to read. Don’t rush – it’s better to analyse less posts than to make unfounded conclusions because you are skim-reading and not getting a real sense of what is being said
  • Don’t forget research ethics – for example, don’t unnecessarily collect people’s names and associate them with comments if you do not absolutely have to for the purposes of your study. Even if all the comments are public on Facebook, imagine how people will feel, if their comments are taken out of context and used elsewhere – if your report ends up online intentionally or unintentionally.

Also – if you are looking for successful pages to compare to / add to those you are studying – try:

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