I admit it. I didn’t get it.
Sometime in early 2011, a colleague, says to me “hey have you heard of this really cool thing called Pinterest?” Then, all I knew is it had to do with pictures on the internet. “Not really… what’s the deal?” After a brief play by play of her Pinterest board comprised of a collection of dresses, shoe pics and a recent birthday wish list I walked away unimpressed. Nevertheless, to guarantee my “in-circle” tech cred, I hustled an invite, created an account, jumped on the bandwagon and never logged in again. After all, what was the point? I could easily save any web pic by right clicking “save as…”
Fast forward a few months. And I’m buried under an avalanche of “Pinterest” mentions.
Pinterest is growing like crazy. Everyone’s on it!
We need to do something with Pinterest…
So and so left <insert big tech company here> to join Pinterest.
Were we still talking about the same company? This product is a simple platform comprised of a goulash of random online pics saved in categories. It solves no problem. Actions seemingly go unmeasured. No monetization strategy in sight. This maniacal frenzy is driven around a company founded on the pervasive premise of human collection behavior; a trait seen in both children and adults, in modern as well as primitive societies. Apparently a behavior so prevalent it exists even in non-human species. Some birds (e.g. the America crow, Northern raven) are known to accumulate aluminum and bright colored objects. Boom. Voila. There you have it. Forget about collecting real world treasures; collect images of their virtual counterparts instead sans restriction, limited only by imagination. Problem: people don’t care about other’s quirky passion for things.
This company and idea initially dismissed (by me) had become something I could no longer ignore given the sheer size of the numbers associated with it. The web’s darling element, the image, was being abducted from all corners and transformed into the base currency of an entirely new platform. Meanwhile, third party sites were conflicted between the idea of their intellectual property feeding another online construct vs the staggering traffic directed to them from that very same entity. This mutually beneficial arrangement works for now.
I get it. Users love pics. Pics lead to clicks. Clicks equal traffic. Lead generation, vc’s favorite online problem, is approached in a fresh visually centric way yet, lost in the overrated ecstasy of user re-direction is, Pinterest’s most powerful selling point. Inspiration on shuffle.
Inspiration on shuffle.
Just like Pandora and Youtube serve up music and video, respectively, in a chaos stream, Pinterest offers up inspiration in the same manner, and does so quite well. Fashion, DIY arts and craft projects and event wishlists are so efficiently dissected that Ryan Leak managed to surprise fiance, Amanda, with her dream wedding based entirely on her Pinterest board. Between fashion and weddings, this virtual inspiration platform has its finger on the pulse of two separate multi-billion dollar industries– weddings alone, in US, represent a 40 billion business. That’s it though for now. The rest is just hype and noise.
I ran a quick adhoc, very unscientific case study of my own Pinterest network (see below).
Nothing surprising here. Users are mostly female. Generated content created by top 20 percentile. Many still don’t get it; males definitely don’t get it. These points don’t bode well for a company dubbed by many as the second coming.
Pinterest is a young company with tremendous upside in handful of major industries. Mobile and increased video adoption along with audience education present significant challenges for a growing company looking to be more than a fad in the online social media game.