Why Pinterest Isnt a Social Network And Thats OK

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Even though Pinterest gets lumped in with Facebook, Twitter, and especially Instagram as a social network, its much like a search engine than a social media platform.

Sure, it has some social components like tagging and messaging, but by design, it is a discovery platform. Guided search, interests, related (or picked for you) pins, promoted pins theyre all designed to help you discover something new.

That said, using the social elements of Pinterest can help you and your business stand out, so give them a try!

Pinterests Social Elements It LOOKS Social!

Tagging

You can (sometimes its buggy) tag someone in a pin to give credit to the author of a post youre pinning, to be chatty, or just to draw someones attention to a pin (Hey, @Tinausernamehere, you need to check out these running tights!). This is a feature that isnt often used, so if youre trying to get someones attention on Pinterest give it a try! Just type @ and start typing their username and youll be able to choose the user from a list (usually).

Repinning

I would argue that this isnt so much social as it is incidental. On Twitter, Facebook or Google+ we often repost an update because we think our followers will enjoy it. On Pinterest, the average Pinterest is repinning for their own benefit. While this will increase exposure for the pin, the intent is different, and therefore less social than practical. Something like 80% of all pins are repins, so repinning someones pins is not the best way to tell them you love their content the repin notifications get lost in the stream

Commenting

For some reason, maybe because you have to open a pin in order to be the first to comment, commenting just doesnt happen very often on Pinterest. I see the occasional Thanks for pinning! comment, but more often when a pin is crazy popular, the spammers will start commenting on them. Annoying. Delete. Comment meaningfully if you want to make a connection.

Messaging

This is a great addition to social on Pinterest, but its rarely used. I suspect people just arent in a chatty frame of mind most of the time theyre pinning. It is a fantastic way to stand out as an individual or a brand, however. Give it a try! You can message pinners who are following at least one of your boards.

Group Boards

Group boards are the Google+ communities of Pinterest. Some are good, but many spammy and they often fizzle out. They provide a wonderful means for collaborating on a project, or just for a group of like-minded people to share some of their favorite content. Private group boards can be exceptionally social, providing a feeling of exclusivity and community but they dont do anything to directly grow your Pinterest account. And thats OK.

What Pinterest Wants Us to Do Discover & Buy

As a marketer, I long for a way to create a list or circle of certain pinners whose content I always want to see. Alas, there is not. Im guessing the omission is by design. If I can just look at material from a limited list of pinners, I might not discover something new and that is what Pinterest is all about. Instead, I have a short mental list of favorites I check in with on a regular basis (this means you, Jeff, Peg, and Vincent!). These are people whose links I never need to double check and they share great stuff. Yay!

Last year, Pinterest also clamped down on Pin it to win it contests, making it nearly impossible to run a beneficial contest on Pinterest. I believe this is by design as well. It looks like Pinterest would rather we find content from all sorts of sources rather than develop a loyalty to one individual or brand. As a marketer, I protest! As a user, I get it. In a way, it levels the playing field a little more. Well, it did until smart feed came along. Read more about smart feed here.

Why Pinterest Strikes a Nice Balance Between Search, Discovery, and Social

If we REALLY want to be social on Pinterest, we can be. If we want to search for something specific, we can and smart feed makes it really easy to filter more and more tightly. In fact, Pinterest has replaced Google as my go-to search engine for most personal searches. I would much rather look for shin splint remedies on Pinterest. Why? Because I like pictures 🙂 In the process I might discover a new blog to follow, some new gear to buy, or new pinners to follow or invite to my group board. My specific search often turns into a wonderland of discovery.

This balance works well for consumers AND marketers, making Pinterest a destination rather than a tool. The more time people spend on Pinterest, the better for businesses in the long run, and Pinterest seems committed to the kind of user experience that will guarantee that. Even promoted pins dont seem to bother people too much AND they work great for getting affordable exposure to your content.

So, as much as Pinterest may not fit the mold of social, and as much as I still wish we had lists, overall, the direction theyre taking seems good for all of us. What do you think? Tell me, wont you?

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