A Most Pinteresting Development
The year that brought us Jeremy Lin has also brought us another “out of nowhere” success story: Pinterest. If you’re like me, you probably scratched your head and wondered aloud: “What the hell is Pinterest?” It’s only the latest in a long line of social media websites that wants to “connect everyone” except that Pinterest wants to do it “through the ‘things’ that [everyone] finds interesting.” Ignoring the banality of that statement, we find a website that allows its users to “pin” items that they like (photographs, quotes, etc.) and invite other users to comment. It’s a virtual bulletin board.
When did this happen? While Pinterest’s origins date back as far as 2008 (although the media would have you believe otherwise), it first launched as an invite-only beta in 2010. It wasn’t until late 2011 that its popularity exploded. In January of this year, Pinterest more than doubled its 2011 user base, receiving 11.7 million unique visitors. Or, put another way, the percentage of unique users has increased by 2,702.2% (that is not a typo) since May 2011! Most of these users are women (68.2%!), and most of these women have children (50%!).
If you’re still confused about Pinterest don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even the U.S. Army has designed a slideshow explaining what Pinterest is, how it works, and why it ought to be on your radar. Major brands are scrambling to understanding how they can best utilize Pinterest to sell their products.
This last point may be the most significant and the key determiner of Pinterest’s future success. Referral traffic is nearly three times as great as Google+, Youtube, and Linkedin combined. Corporations can utilize Pinterest to sell their products more effectively. Designer Gregory Pouy has already created a presentation outlining how brands can use Pinterest. His five goals include promoting a lifestyle, using Pinterest like a focus group, driving sales, crowdsourcing, and running contests.
Pinterest seems part of a new trend in technology – creating something that makes it easier for consumers to buy more products. Smart phones and tablets allow us to stay constantly connected to the digital marketplace. The Kindle permits users to buy books directly through the e-reader. Likewise, Pinterest “connects everyone” through products. Pinterest users are part of a vast digital marketplace. They make life easy on the corporations because they are the ones selling the products. It’s multi-level marketing, only the sellers aren’t making any of the profit.
On Saturday, Techcrunch’s Jon Evans wonders if Pinterest represents real innovation. He quotes PayPal founder Peter Thiel who questioned “whether we’re still living in a technologically advancing society at all.” Thiel is not alone. Yet, as recent posts on this very blog have demonstrated, there are still interesting technologies being invented that could change our future for the better. Pinterest, sadly, is not one of them (which is no fault of Pinterest’s). Evans ends his short piece with this thought:
“But I’m finding it hard to shake the sense that the Valley has become a frothy sea of sugar water, interrupted only occasionally by islands of meaningful innovation.”
In other words, the Valley is now drowning in an empty sea. Creativity, the root of real innovation, has been abandoned on the altar of the almighty dollar.
Putting aside the threats that Pinterest poses to copyright holders, the website looks like an emerging juggernaut. It’s hugely popular among women and its most loyal demographic is the coveted 25-34 age group. If you think that Pinterest is a passing fad, the statistics say otherwise.