Review: Pinterest caught our interest

On: October 1, 2012
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About Charlotte
My name is Charlotte and I'm a master student New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amserdam. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of Amsterdam, I did a pre-master year New Media and Digital Culture. I have a passion for everything related to digital media, creativity and design. Having a background in psychology, I'm interested in the social and behavioral aspects of new media as well. My particular research interests are in data visualization, the relation between new media, data and journalism and the social consequences of new media.


“A picture says more than thousand words.” This is the strength behind social network site Pinterest, a virtual pinboard where people can collect and share pictures and photos of interest they find on the web. The founders of Pinterest have as goal to:

“Connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.”

Is this really the main purpose of Pinterest? As Pinterest users, we think this social network mostly functions as a platform to inspire and to be inspired, and to organize ideas and interests, not so much to connect and socialize with others. So, in our view the focus is more on the content and personal use than on connecting. We will go on discussing the possibilities and uses of Pinterest, focusing both on personal use and marketing purposes.


Possibilities and effects of Pinterest regarding users

First, members of Pinterest have the possibility to create a profile and several pinboards, where pictures can be collected and organized. Their identity is visible through a profile photo and a potential short biography or description. Social aspects have been added such as the possibility to follow other Pinterest users and to like and comment on photos. You can also repin pictures from other users and in turn your content can be ‘repinned’ by others, in this way spreading content.

Also, when joining Pinterest members can install a plugin for their web browser, which enables them to Pin photos from a website right onto their pinboards easily. In a way Pinning a photo to a pinboard can be seen as a form of “copying”. Yet, this can be seen as something positive, because in this way users are promoting that website for others to visit. When pinning a photo a link is created to the original website which hosts the photo and article. If members click on the photo they are being directed to the original site and in this way they escape the “walls” of Pinterest to engage in other niche websites as a type of hypertext. Pinterest is a new way to start off your internet search and discover new websites of which you wouldn’t have stumbled upon before. This ‘labyrinth’ possibilities of Pinterest are endless, all pictures can lead you to different websites. This way each pinned photo can be seen as a “point of departure for other forkings” (Borges 2003: p. 33).

Although Pinterest brings a lot of fun possibilities for users, it has some possible negative consequences too. For example, Pinterest can make you greedy for things you don’t have – furniture, clothes, beauty – and less interested in the things you already have. Moreover, it seems that most of the content of Pinterest focuses on positive, bright and even romantic sides of life. This creates a incorrect reflection of real life, and people may get unrealistic expectations and hopes out of this.

Pinterest claims to be a multi purpose platform for all users yet noticeable is that mainly all trending categories are feminine such as Hair and Beauty. When doing research on the users of Pinterest it can be said that most Pinterest users are female and since the content is user generated therefore most categories have a feminine touch to them. This information brings is to the next interesting step of Pinterest: marketing.

Pinterest: Open for business

Pinteresting for marketing purposes?

As every other social network, Pinterest is not only attractive for users, but also for marketing and promotional purposes. Since Pinterest mainly focuses on visual aspects, through a growing collection of graphics and photos, a clear representation of users interests arises. People often pin ‘objects’ they would like to have, such as clothes, furniture and beauty products. This information can be very useful for marketeers. Products can be promoted by the spreading of pins, for example through contests or deals with celebrities who are on Pinterest. Also, it should be noted that users can click on pinned photos, which directs them to the original webpage of the photo. In this way, Pinterest generates a considerable amount of traffic to other websites, such as webshops.

Since most users of Pinterest are from the United States and female, it should not be surprising that marketing on Pinterest largely focuses on American women. This brings us to another interesting use of Pinterest: politics. Last year, both Ann Romney, wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and First Lady Michelle Obama joined Pinterest. Through the sharing of personal interests and photos, these ladies attempt to connect with their supporters and hope to win votes. Pinterest can help them to reach a certain group of voters, namely American women.

A way to gain insights into the characteristics and interests of Pinterest users is by the use of analytic tools, which can generate very useful data for marketeers. Recently there have been developed different analytic tools designed for Pinterest. One website that offers tools to analyze Pinterest is Pinreach. Pinreach focuses on analyzing member’s personal use, leading to a Pinreach score: a numeric representation of a member’s Pinterest influence based on a series of social attributes. Through Pinreach, users of Pinterest can gain information about their influence on the social network. The formula here is first posting, then measuring and finally optimizing your use of Pinterest. This can be very helpful for brands or politicians for example, so they can get an idea of their popularity on the website and how they might improve their Pinterest use.

Another website that offers analytic tools is Repinly, which focuses on trending pins, popular pinboards and categories and active pinners. It also pays attention to popular pinning sources: websites that generate the most pins. Repinly created a statistics page, which gives a clear overview of this information, in this way providing useful information for marketeers.

Lastly, other useful information for marketeers on Pinterest can be found in infographics with statistical information on Pinterest. Via Google and Pinterest itself, a lot of infographics can be found. Notice the emphasis on visualization: statistics of a visual oriented social network are being presented through a form of data visualization. And in turn, the infographics are being pinned by users of Pinterests.

Infographic on Pinterest by MDG Advertising

Share your interest on Pinterest  

After having reviewed and analyzed the workings of Pinterest it is clear that it’s one of the fastest growing social sites on the web. Users are already so addicted to the virtual pinboard photo collection, that they’re roughly pinning 98 minutes per month on different topics, as can be seen in the infographic above.

Not only is Pinterest interesting for it’s user-friendly interface and as a way to organize your personal life but, it’s also great for business usage and marketing purposes. Pinterest is a multipurpose platform that is still to be fully discovered and analyzed, also its possible negative consequences.

The question is not “if” you should jump aboard on this new exciting phenomenon but “when”. To get an idea on what a profile looks like and what kind of subjects can be pinned please feel free to take a look at our Pinterest profiles: Anne-Claire Verheul and Charlotte van Dalfsen. Here you can see what kind of visual content we collect and how our profile is organized in different categories.

By Charlotte van Dalfsen and Anne-Claire Verheul



Borge, Jorge Luis. ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ (1941), in Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (eds) The New Media Reader, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003, pp. 29-34.

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