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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 .

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Twitter on The Real-Time Web: There is #NothingBetter

November 5, 2012

Image source: User “thecampbells” on flickr.

Introduction

It’s a Sunday afternoon and the New York Giants are visiting the Dallas Cowboys. The game is being shown locally (in the Bay Area), but I’m at an outlet mall in Napa, CA. I search the stores and the food court, but no one is showing the game.

So I do the next best thing. With the battery on my phone running low, I make my way to the mall’s management office. It’s closed, but there’s an air conditioned hallway and bingo! An available outlet. So I charge my phone and make myself comfortable on the floor. From that spot, I take in the second half of this exciting game … via ESPN Gamecast.

ESPN Gamecast

If you can't watch on TV, using ESPN Gamecast on the web is the next best thing

ESPN Gamecast, delivered via your browser, is quite good. I’ve been using it to “watch” MLB and NFL games. It provides near real-time, play-by-play updates on the game, all without having to refresh the page.

In NFL games, Gamecast provides you with the result (e.g. “10 yard pass to the NYG 40 yard line”) and a few seconds later, updates the play with more details (e.g. “10 yard pass to the NYG 40 yard line. On a CROSSING PATTERN”).

Occasionally, I’ll get antsy when no update has been posted for 10 seconds. I’ll refresh the page to see if that pulls in the latest play. Sometimes that works. Other times, the game may have gone to a TV timeout without me realizing it.

An Endless Wait on a Key Play

And then it happened. Late in the fourth quarter, Gamecast posted an update that Dez Bryant of the Cowboys had caught a go-ahead touchdown. I was quite bummed. But then I noticed that no further updates (e.g. extra point, kickoff, etc.) were posted for close to a minute.

I then saw Gamecast post an update that the play was under review. A few minutes turned into a few more minutes. I nervously anticipated the replay result, but no news as of yet. So I turned to Twitter.

Real-Time Updates on Twitter

On checking my Twitter stream, I immediately saw tweets like these:

Twitter users provide insight about a key play in the game

And that’s when I realized:

On the real-time web, there is nothing more real-time than Twitter.

As it turned out, the call was reversed and the Giants held on to win the game.

It's official: the play was overturned

If you weren’t watching on TV, then Twitter was the place where you’d get the replay result first (it beat Gamecast by a few minutes). Twitter can be even quicker than real-time in some instances – it can serve as a leading indicator of what’s about to happen (e.g. sports, stocks, box office receipts, elections, etc.).

How Twitter Facilitates Real-Time So Well

The User Adoption and the Follow Model

Let’s face it, Twitter is the place where athletes, coaches, sports writers, general managers and owners choose to provide their updates, thoughts and musings to the world.

When I watch a big game, I can always turn to Twitter to get real-time scoring updates – and importantly, real-time commentary on what’s happening. And it’s all because the “right” people are active on Twitter – and, I’ve chosen to follow them there.

#WorldSeries was a popular hash tag during the Fall Classic

Additionally, beyond the athletes and the “experts,” millions of fans (like me) are active on Twitter as well. And while I may not follow them all, I can experience their tweets via event or team-specific hash tags, such as #Giants, #Postseason, #WorldSeries and #SuperBowl.

The Efficiency of 140 Characters

Twitter would be an entirely different animal if it permitted 280, 560 or 1,400 characters. The 140 character limit results in short bursts of updates and the smaller “payload” means that information can be distributed, read and processed quicker. For real-time updates, after all, we don’t want essays, we want snippets.

Accessibility Any Time, Anywhere

When watching sports at home, we’re likely on our laptop or tablet. Outside of home, however, we’re probably on our smartphone. And that makes it convenient to share real-time information with others – and to consume it as well.

That’s why Twitter has been effective in providing real-time information during natural disasters. A Mercury News article about the Tohoku Earthquake (in Japan) noted that the Internet (and Twitter) was used to communicate information when the phone system was unavailable.

To quote a member of Cisco Systems’ emergency response operations, “text data uses a relatively smaller portion of bandwidth than voice data does.”

Conclusion

In the big picture, an NFL game is trivial compared to other real-world events. But like those other events, things unfold in real-time.

And experiencing this NFL game via Twitter helped me fully grasp how effective it is for real-time communications. In fact, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s presidential election here in the United States, during which Twitter will provide me with updates. In real-time, of course.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


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