Pictured: Search results for “fathers day gift” on Pinterest.
Going forward, Google’s competition will not come from traditional search engines. You see, the nature of search is changing. Today’s generation of kids are using the web in ways that are far different from us.
The Nature of Search is Changing
On the way to school one morning, my daughter’s sixth grade classmate told me about the Fathers Day gift she made over the weekend: an apron that her dad could wear while grilling.
For ideas on what to make her dad, she searched Pinterest. Scanning through images of gift ideas, she came across the apron. She read the description, then clicked through to the website. The site listed instructions on how to make the apron.
When I asked my daughter’s friend if she was aware of Google Image Search, she answered, “Of course. But Pinterest is better.”
Why is Pinterest winning share with today’s kids? It comes down to a few C’s:
Let’s compare the broad reach of Google to the targeted reach of Pinterest. When you’re trying to find an answer to a question (e.g. “What is a storage area network?”), then indexing the entire web is an advantage. Chances are you’ll find the best answers in the search engine results pages.
But what if you’re looking for ideas for Fathers Day gifts? And what if you want to only view images of those gifts? Pinterest provides an advantage, since they only index images “pinned” by their users. Google Image Search, on the other hand, indexes the entire web.
My daughter’s friend determined that Pinterest search will give her better results than Google search.
Also, the core activity of Pinterest is to browse, and for that activity, Google is not even in the game.
My daughter and her friends own smartphones and each of them is an active user of the Pinterest app. They like images related to their interests: celebrities, singers, food items, pets and humor.
They value Pinterest for the content it delivers. And while they’re already using the app, it’s easy to perform searches right there. No need to navigate over to a separate search engine.
Some of my daughter’s friends are so active on Pinterest that they’ve accumulated several hundred pins. Whether they know it or not, they’re mastering the fine art of content curation: finding interesting things and deciding which ones they should share with their friends.
While my daughter’s friend didn’t re-pin the Fathers Day apron, it’s only natural for kids to do this: perform a search on Pinterest, find something you like, then re-pin it to one of your boards.
This is a missing element of the Google search experience.
When I find something relevant (or interesting) in a Google search, I have no means to “pin” that or share it with someone, other than emailing them the link.
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My daughter and her friends follow each other on Pinterest (side note: they follow parents as well!). For the most part, “community” on Pinterest is about the people they know.
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While they do get followed by strangers, most of their re-pinning comes via their friends, or via well-known brands they follow. They’ll also send each other private messages (via Pinterest) to share pins.
So not only does Pinterest allow them to find interesting content, it also provides tools to share, connect and bond with one another over shared interests. This “community element” is essential.
Bringing it All Together
Pinterest serves a good model of what Google Plus might have been: a way to tie Google search users together, from content that’s created via curation and community.
While Google prides itself on being a series of “one and done” experiences (i.e. take users quickly to the right/best search result), maybe there’s value in providing an “always on” experience, like Pinterest.
After all, today’s kids seem to be always on Pinterest. And that has implications for the future of search. Google needs to take a greater interest in Pinterest.