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Why Google Should Take an Interest in Pinterest

May 10, 2015

A Pinterest search for Fathers Day gifts

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 Pinterest?

Why is Pinterest winning share with today’s kids? It comes down to a few C’s:

Content

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.

Related Post: How a Pinterest Board Gained Popularity After I Stopped Pinning

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.

Curation

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.

Related Article: Google Takes On Pinterest With Google+ Collections (Marketing Land)

Community

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.

Related Post: The Real Reason Google Spent $1B to Acquire Waze

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.

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How a Pinterest Board Gained Popularity After I Stopped Pinning

November 19, 2012

@dshiao's MLB 2012 pin board on Pinterest

Read my prior post: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest

Introduction

At the start of the baseball season, I created a MLB 2012 pin board on Pinterest. Throughout the season, I’d pin images (mostly of players) as I read articles about the teams I follow.

I’d see a modest amount of Likes and Repins. I’d get more activity around popular or “interesting” players – injured closer Brian Wilson (of the San Francisco Giants) fitting into the latter category.

As the regular season drew to a close, my activity on Pinterest waned. My last pin was on September 30, 2012, before the start of the post-season. Throughout the playoffs, I’d continue to see modest amounts of activity on my board. And then the San Francisco Giants won the World Series.

Current Events Drive Interest in Pins and Boards

Once the Giants won the World Series, activity on Giants-related pins increased

While I’m a diehard New York Yankees fan, I reside in the Bay Area. And that means that I follow the local teams, the Giants and the A’s. Not surprisingly, you’ll find lots of Yankees, Giants and A’s in my MLB board.

The Email Settings menu in Pinterest

My Pinterest account is configured to send me email notifications for activity on my boards. And let me tell you, ever since the World Series ended, I’ve been receiving a daily stream of emails. Users are finding images I pinned (of Giants players) and they’re Liking and Repinning quite a lot.

Of course, shortly after the World Series comes the post-season awards (e.g. Cy Young, MVP, etc.). So it’s not a coincidence to see activity (on my Board) related to the award winners: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (rookies of the year) and Buster Posey (NL MVP):

Activity for pins on Bryce Harper, Buster Posey and Mike Trout

What Makes Pinterest Unique

I found the result counter-intuitive: that activity would pick up on a social network after I ceased my own activity on it. That would not happen on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. And that’s what makes Pinterest unique. Let’s consider the reasons.

It’s Both Timeless and Timely.

I’ve written before about how Twitter rules the roost on the real-time web. Real-time content, however, is “forgotten” a minute, hour or day later. On Twitter, it’s quite rare to receive a retweet on content tweeted a few days (or weeks) prior. On Pinterest, as you’ve seen with my MLB board, the activity continues to occur on images I pinned weeks (and months) earlier.

And while the unit of content (an image) is timeless, interest around that content can be tied to timeliness (e.g. the Giants winning the World Series). So as far as content sharing goes, you have content that “lives longer” than real-time content – and, can spur activity around events happening in real-time.

It Drives a Different Consumption Model.

Twitter (and Facebook, too) is all about the “scan.” I have hundreds (or thousands) of items in my feed and I quickly scan for items of interest, not paying particular attention to any one item. Pinterest also drives “scans” (of images), but because of the timeless aspect, there’s more browsing than scanning.

On Twitter, the half-life of content is short: current events, sports scores and the like, and that adds to the “quick scan” consumption model. On Pinterest, users are more apt to browse, discover and take their time.

Its Attribution Model Facilitates Curation

Let’s compare the retweet to the repin. Here’s how a retweet (that I performed) appears in my profile:

How a retweet appears in the user's Twitter profile

You’ll notice that the original tweet is preserved, including the “author” of the original tweet (@AllthingsIC). Now, let’s consider a repin. I originally pinned this image of Brandon Crawford and here’s how the repin appears on another user’s board:

How a re-pinned pin appears in the user's board

You’ll see that my original caption (about Brandon Crawford) is preserved (although users have the option to change it when repinning), but notice that, unlike in a retweet, my identity (as the original author) is not listed. You have to click on the pin to see the attribution:

The original pinner has attribution listed on the pin detail page

This attribution model facilitates curation because it leaves a “cleaner” board, while providing proper attribution one level deep.

For Marketers, It’s The Gift That Keeps Giving.

My MLB 2012 board has taught me that on Pinterest, content can have nine lives. Online marketers using Facebook and Twitter should consider a Pinterest strategy. Pinterest can create an annuity around your content: an investment that continues to pay out over time.

And here’s the kicker: you pin content from pages, which means that users who find your pins have the option of clicking through to the page (on which the image is found). What does that mean for online marketers? The ability to drive page views – and even product sales, for online merchants.

Conclusion

Let’s recap. Pinterest is an entirely unique social network. It all starts with a timeless “sharing unit” (an image), which can gain popularity around current events. The consumption and attribution models help to drive sharing (via curation). And users (i.e. pinners), can receive ongoing returns for activity they generated months (or even years) prior.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest

March 5, 2012

Check out my Pinterest Boards: http://pinterest.com/dshiao/

Introduction

Pinterest, an online pinboarding site, has gotten a fair share of press lately. In fact, TechCrunch shared exclusive data from comScore indicating that Pinterest hit the “10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history.” Wow.

I’ve recently joined Pinterest, maintaining pin boards on Major League Baseball and social media, among other things. Based on my experience to date on the service, I thought I’d share five things I’ve learned about Pinterest.

1) Sharing Begets More Sharing.

I currently have 143 pins across 5 boards. Across those 143 pins, only 8 have received interactions, in the form of Likes, Comments or Repins. In some cases, those interactions were quite “strong” – a pin on Jeremy Lin received 24 Repins and 4 Likes. That being said, those 8 pins represent 5% of my total pins. This tells me that, while folks may visit and peruse my boards, the interactions stem from users seeing the pins on other users’ boards.

A few users Like and Repin a given pin, which then “promotes” that pin to their followers, who in turn share it with their followers. It’s not surprising, then, that a few pins receive the most attention and interaction.

Side note: it’s been reported that 80+% of Pinterest users are women. And it seems that the pins attracting interaction on my MLB Board (from women) are those of up and coming players, such as Mason Williams of the Yankees and Wes Timmons of the A’s.

2) Spend a Lazy Weekend Afternoon Shopping (Online).

Pinterest detects when you type a price into the description of a pin (e.g. “$100”) and overlays a price tag on top of the pin image (for example, this $5 Disney product). They then provide a “Gifts” option in the main navigation. When you click on “Gifts,” you’re able to select a price range (for instance, this $1-$20 set of gifts).

This is a neat way to browse through assorted shopping items curated by the Pinterest community. Beware, though. Another thing I learned is that Pinterest is inserting affiliate links in pins, which means that they may be earning money on the pins that you post.

3) The “Pin It” Button Makes All the Difference.

If you’re getting started, be sure to add the “Pin It” Button to your browser’s bookmarks bar. It made all the difference for me. When I first started, I’d find an interesting image, copy the URL, go to my Pinterest page, click “Add,” and paste the URL. Then, I’d have to click through the images that Pinterest found and select the one I wanted to use.

Now, I simply click the “Pin It” Button from the current page and it overlays all the images on top of the page (including the dimensions of each image). I click on the image I want, select my Board, then write the description. I’m done. And it’s made a huge difference.

4) Categories Are Selected by the Pinner.

When creating a new Board, Pinterest asks you to select the category (e.g. Art, Sports, Technology, etc.). Pinterest then allows you to browse by category, both on its web site and in its mobile app. While users have been pretty good about matching their pins to the corresponding Board’s category, it does mean that occasionally you’ll see an image that has nothing to do with its assigned category.

5) Boards of the Rich and Famous.

From the Pinterest site, you can select “About” -> “Team” and view the “Team” page: http://pinterest.com/about/team/. On this page, you’ll see photos of (presumably) the entire Pinterest team. And with a nice touch, they list an assortment of their pins and link to their Pinterest page (see this page for team member Ryan P). I’d like to see companies do this more often: let us get to know the team and let the team show the world how they’re using the product.

Conclusion

It’s been fun being a part of the Pinterest community. I’ll be interested to watch the assorted use cases that arise. We’ve already heard about it being used for planning weddings and sharing information at events. And oh, speaking of weddings, I have an anniversary coming up soon, so I’m headed to Pinterest to … do some shopping!

Related: 5 Things Virtual Event Platforms Can Learn From Pinterest

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


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