Pinterest: The next big social network or just a collection of pretty pictures?

It’s the invite-only social network that has already attracted more than 10-million registered users. The virtual pin board has many technology writers lauding the site as the next big thing in social media and web design — it even made Time’s list of 50 best websites in 2011. But who actually uses Pinterest, how is it used, and just how “social” is it exactly?

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a visual online pinboard, where the “pins” are images and videos collected from anywhere on the web. Users can upload their own photos, or install the Pinterest browser extension which allows you to quickly pin anything you find online directly to one of your boards.

You can create boards for any interest — popular themes include design, home decor and DIY crafts. You can also follow other users, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or organisations like Time magazine, the Travel Channel and Mashable to find out what interests them.

Weddings and sharing

Users can log in with a Twitter or Facebook account and easily share pins with their networks (it’s even one of the apps for Facebook timeline) and their Twitter-style @mentions and Facebook-ish “likes” practically eradicate the learning curve for new users. There are also many social features built into the site: users can comment on pins, repin photos from other users, and build boards with multiple collaborators. But there isn’t the sense of real-time urgency associated with websites like Twitter or the constant notification-checking compulsion that plagues Facebook users.

Pinterest has a predominantly female user base — it is estimated that 79% of visitors are female and most users are aged between 18 and 34 — which has led to many jokes about how the website is mostly used by fashion bloggers and women planning weddings. Pinterest doesn’t seem to mind — they even suggest that users create a board to plan a wedding — as long as it is a useful tool.

And it does seem to be pretty useful, especially as each pin records the original source page, which means pinning an image is equivalent to sharing a link. Some studies even report that Pinterest was responsible for more referral traffic than Linkedin, Reddit and Youtube in January — it even outperformed Google+, which has ten times more users.

Yes, it’s primarily being used to create scrapbook-style mood boards for DIY projects and style inspirations, but the possibilities for sharing that repinning offers are immense. The site is essentially a web of shared links represented by images (which avoid the heavy text-based format of platforms like Twitter). This type of user friendliness makes people want to follow links, browse boards and explore the site.

It might not offer the same type of in-depth functionality as social networks like Facebook, but it’s obviously engaging enough for millions of users to request or accept an invite and to garner quite a bit of press attention.

What people are saying about Pinterest

“Pinterest didn’t invent the basic design structure, but it did help make it cool. It showed how the design could solve certain challenges eloquently and how the traditional reverse chronology layout could be broken without scaring users away. In fact, it was attracting them in invitation-only droves.” — Mashable.

“Sites like Pinterest allow their users to decide what aspects of the web (text, media, etc.) are worth saving and sharing, instead of browsing the web from Google. These networks allow for self-expression, and in doing so, re-sort and re-shape the web we see, and that is a very big shift away from traditional search toward social discovery.” — TechCrunch

“Google+ lets you turn down the volume on your circles, so you can adjust the noisiness of groups you’re following, but the people in those circles are just sharing wherever they share. Pinterest is the reverse of circles — if someone you like has a board for “desserts,” which you like, and a board for “spaceships,” which you love, but they also post to their “cute puppies” board all day long (and you hate puppies), the solution is simple: You unfollow “cute puppies,” and everything else remains.” — ReadWriteWeb.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.