Why all the Interest in Pinterest?

Pinterest is easily the most talked about subject in social media right now. A lot of people are talking about Facebook and its recent IPO too, but for anyone who spends a good portion of their day using social media, Pinterest is sparking the most uh… interest.

We’re witnessing several dynamics with this little Palo Alto company that explain why. One is that there may not have ever been a Web site that has ever grown this large so fast. That’s right, Business Insider says no site has ever gained this many users this quickly. TechCrunch says, Pinterest now has to close to 12 million monthly unique visitors. It’s growing about as fast as the National Debt. OK maybe not that fast.

This is much more impressive than the growth of Google +, which has forced new adoption by connecting +1’s to search results, and by connecting the service at the hip to Gmail. Pinterest has received its massive influx from actual people who care about the site, as opposed to people blackmailed or bribed into adoption.

Another highly compelling aspect of this “Pinterest interest” is that the vast majority of users are women. One report indicates that women may make up 97% of the site’s Facebook fans. This is an especially important fact considering that a huge majority of Pinterest’s daily active users are connected to the site through Facebook.

Part of me thinks this just can’t be true. Are men and women’s online habits that different? Of course they are. And each day I receive my own wave of circumstantial, unscientific evidence backing up this claim of female domination on Pinterest. I see it in the type of folks who are becoming active there as well as those who are following my pins and boards. First of all, more of the people following me are women. More compelling than that though is what I know about the men and women who are following me. First and foremost, every one of the dudes, barring maybe one or two, are marketers or site owners bent on attempting to leverage Pinterest for the bountiful bevy of page views and visitors that it may or may not deliver them.

In contrast, the vast majority of the women who have followed me there have not been marketers. Rather, they include the meteorologist from the TV station I worked at 10 years ago. They include my high school buddy who loves desert recipes. They include actual real life ladies who like travel, food, home decor, animals, and other stuff that is exceedingly popular on Pinterest. Just regular folks. Not web professionals. Not one of the men I see on the site (except again for maybe a few) are engaging in typical Pinterest behavior, which involves posting things one actually loves or considers to be representative of their actual real-life likes and interests.

At first I wanted to doubt that women made up the bulk of Pinterest’s growth. From a marketing perspective it’s more work to have to construct separate strategies for different target audiences. Many hope to find “one-size fits-all” solutions for complex marketing scenarios. But my eyes have been continually opened by the early adopter stats I have seen in recent weeks. It makes perfect sense to me that a huge majority of new Pinterest users are female. Will it stay this way? Maybe for a while to some extent but I actually tend to doubt it. Pinterest is just part of a larger trend in marketing and online behavior. I think sometime soon we might see Pinterest clones that allow men to pin what they like about the worlds they live in too. Maybe that will happen on Pinterest itself. Either way, the book is rewritten, because Pinterest has, in a very short time, introduced us to a different way to spend time online.

What I find perhaps most fascinating is what this company says about social media. People tend to want to think that the book on social media is completely written. It’s all been done. We have our Twitter and our Facebook and there’s no need for another service. Well that certainly turned out not to be true. In a span of just a few months, the site has come out of nowhere and is said to send more referrals than Google+, LinkedIn, Reddit and others combined. If this teaches us anything, it’s that social media will never be “set in stone” for long. Developments in the space change at lightning speed. It underlines the overall sense that as soon as one learns which services and sites one wants to use in order to drive web traffic and find new customers, the whole process needs to be rethought again.

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