Like most men, I’m terrified of Pinterest.
It’s not the salivating dessert shots or daunting DIY crafts that creep me out – it’s the fact that I just don’t belong. The general consensus amongst guys is that we aren’t welcome on Pinterest. It’s the digital equivalent of a “NO BOYS ALLOWED” pillow fort. The site has always been heavily skewed towards female users (who make up about 80% of the community) largely because of how much design and fashion content it contains. As a result, going on Pinterest feels a bit like reading your girlfriend’s Cosmo. Secretly enjoyable, yes, but something you’d never tell your buddies about.
Not that any of this has been a problem for the social media juggernaut. In just two years, Pinterest has exploded in popularity, growing from 1.2 million users to over 17 million. They could quite easily stick with their predominantly female user base and do just fine.
As a marketer, I was incredibly curious. As a guy, I was totally perplexed. What made this thing so great?
It became my Rosetta Stone. I needed to understand it. I may not USE the platform, but I sure as hell wanted to know what made it so effective – especially when you consider the design influence that Pinterest has had on so many other websites. Over the last 6 months, their viscerally satisfying thumbnail layout has spread like wildfire. Big players like eBay and news outlets like The National Post have redesigned their pages to mimic the scroll-n-scan style that Pinterest has now made famous. It seems as though the World Wide Web is in agreement: this is how you organize content online.
To crack this thing, I would need to go undercover. The opportunity came a few days ago, when I watched a female friend peruse the site. Creepy? Yes. Highly informative? Double yes. Anywho, being the annoying marketer that I am, I began peppering her with questions about user interface and sharing functionality. She didn’t care about any of that.
“I just like browsing through it and getting new ideas.”
She didn’t even sign into a profile or use customized pinboards. Scanning the home page and its simple sub sections turned up more than enough table settings and sugar cookie recipes. One of the featured images on her screen was a simple homemade jewelry idea: bracelets wrapped in old scarves.
“See? That’s a great idea. Maybe I could do that. Cool. And then I keep scrolling…”
She went in, grabbed a few ideas, and got out. Pinterest’s bite-sized chunks of inspiration act as a perfect snack for today’s impatient surfer. The rapid-fire content teases your imagination for a few moments and then lets you move on. While a fashion blog could easily turn that bracelet project into a 2-page post complete with instructions, comments, and maybe a video, Pinterest chooses to abide by the less-is-more mentality. They assume you’d prefer the cliff notes version – a strong bet in today’s saturated media landscape.
Those little injections of visual and mental stimulation are the key to what makes Pinterest so, well, interesting. You never have a chance to get bored. Users have the opportunity to dive deeper down whatever rabbit hole they’re interested in, but in the meantime there’s always another piece of content lined up and ready to go. Keep it simple, keep it fun, and most importantly, keep it quick; that seemed to be the guiding principle Pinterest followed to become one of the world’s favourite websites.
It’s only a matter of time before us guys figure it out.