Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 31, 201210:56 AM

A Pinteresting Story

That Facebook IPO...

With rumors swirling of Facebook's pending IPO (and the billions at play that go along with it), it does seem like the most opportune time for the online social networking behemoth to go public. With over 800 million users and talk that it will hit a billion connected people by the summer, it doesn't seem like Twitter is a true competitor... or that any other competitors are waiting in the wings. In fact, if Facebook's growth and interest continues to propagate, we can expect that more and more platforms will simply offer social networking solutions that can live and play alongside and within Facebook (much like Twitter does). Think about software that was developed for the Windows platform, and this will be a similar strategy for many of the newer social media startups.

That Pinterest thing.

That being said, Pinterest has been gaining a ton of attention lately and widely regarded as one of the hottest new and shiny bright digital objects to come along in some time. Pinterest is a digital mood board mixed with online scrapbooking. Users create a board (it can be anything from cool pictures of cats to the most fascinating business Blogs) and as you come across pieces of content online (and it can be text, images, audio or video), you "pin" the content (which is done by installing a "pin it" button on your web browser's toolbar). Pinterest creates a mood board or visualization of this content. All of the boards that users create are both public and can be followed by others. Users can also connect to one another, share, comment, collaborate and more.

At first blush this may not sound like anything all that groundbreaking.

Pinterest launched in closed-beta in mid-2010. In August of last year, Time Magazine named it in its "50 Best Websites of 2011" and last December, the analytics firm, Experian Hitwise, said that Pinterest's user-base had forty times the number of visitors it had from only six months prior. It was also this past December that it cracked into the top ten social media sites in the world. At the time of that explosive growth, Pinterest was still not openly available to everyone and those wanting to join were relegated to a waiting list.

Is Pinterest delicious?

For those who have been around the digital block, Pinterest seems like a more modern play on Delicious (which is a social bookmarking service for saving and sharing your web bookmarks). Delicious was created by Joshua Schacter in 2003 as the notion of tagging (or labeling) content to make it findable by others begun to take hold. Delicious got acquired by Yahoo in 2005 and became the defacto destination to share one's bookmarks online. Most recently, the two co-founders of YouTube - Chad Hurley and Steve Chen - purchased Delicious and have tweaked it into a place to "find cool stuff and collect it for easy sharing." Back in 2003, the Internet could not really handle too much audio and video, so text-based platforms were more commonplace. If Schacter were launching Delicious today, it would probably look and feel a lot like Pinterest.

What's with all of this sharing, anyway?

Businesses grapple with Social Media because they have been mis-informed that these platforms provide an opportunity for them to have a conversation with their consumers. While this would be panacea, the truth is that what makes something social is simply its ability to be as findable and shareable as possible (strong engagement and conversation can only happen after the other stuff has been mastered). Platforms like Pinterest are rising in popularity because we live in a world of over-sharing (look no further than the river of tweets on Twitter or your wall on Facebook). The only way we're going to get better at curating and aggregating this mass amount of content and bucketing it in a way that feels more cohesive is through platforms like Pinterest (and it's very friendly visualization of content). By sharing this content - which has been both aggregated and curated by human beings - odds are that some of this over-sharing can transition from the world of uselessness and benign to powerful and fascinating.

It's in the way that you use it.

What also makes Pinterest a platform that has captured the attention of many is that - according to Experian Hitwise - the site is especially popular with women between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four (nearly sixty percent of its users). Perhaps the days of new and emerging platforms being dominated by young, male users in the early adoption phase are finally coming to an end, as anybody and everybody has a computer, smartphone and/or tablet in tow? Perhaps the adoption is happening because these newer platforms are simply that much easier and fun to use?

Either way, we're faced with another online place for businesses to pin their hopes on. Pun intended.

The above post is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

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By Mitch Joel