The Pinterest Frenzy: One more opinion

Like a designer loving, unique style finding, in-the-know fashionista who ends up in a room full of people dressed just like her, I delve into writing about Pinterest. I almost feel silly. What can I say that hasn’t been said by the volume of articles flooding my in-box and social media?

I made a Pinterest board to show a sample deluge of articles from the last two weeks. This doesn’t include tweets or Facebook posts:


For the record, my favorite one is Bianca Bosker’s The Secret of Pinterest’s Success: We’re Sick Of Each Other.

The whole digital industry is running to catch-up with a high school friend who lives in Minnesota and discovered Pinterest first. She’s busy making bird nests out of cut string with her kids (found on a How to Make or Grow board) while we all try to figure out when she got so cool.

I find this awesome. Curation and social have reached a crescendo – using a model that harkens back to the cork boards of Junior High bedrooms.

Pinterest is the cool mom with great ideas for birthdays, who makes desserts that tell stories and turns the backyard into a drive-in theater full of fireflies. She is the what-if of wedding excitement and the how weird of everyday life.

This social stage of inspiration follows us around the web via our browsers. It’s mood boards for the masses. If done right, it’s a boondoggle for brands.

At first I thought Pinterest was Polyvore’s missed opportunity, but now I think it’s the next iteration. Both companies leverage the fact that we all think (and shop) across categories with patterns and definitions that are unique to us. This makes us, and Pinterest, interesting. In commerce, Etsy was the prelude to Pinterest.

Five pinworthy things about Pinterest:

1. Pinterest fuels what-ifs: Pinterest is the wishlists brands have always wanted. But constrained by one site and one brand they were not to be. Like wishlists, Pinterest matches what-if aspirational elements with the tangibles of planning. Pinners get to design a user experience that matches their specific mental model – using a shared set of simple tools. Like Target’s early TV ads or method’s product design, there’s a positivity that permeates it.

2. Pinterest speaks without saying: Pinterest pictures are tagged with text but otherwise the images do the talking. As do the patterns that board titles define. We get to see how someone thinks and what they think. It’s ideas vs. daily actions.

This gets interesting for brands. What if brands could define the default board titles pinners get when then sign-up? Coke could call one Red and see how people picture their brand color. The North Face could label one outdoor adventure. Market research – one step beyond tagging on online photo sites.

3. Pinterest ends the above-the-fold fight: Digital design is reveling in showing vs. telling. The minimalism of mobile design is driving simplification across mediums. The fold of the newspaper era applied to web design is finally becoming obsolete.

Gilt was once our argument that people scroll – it insured they saw all the sales. Social media scrolling, Facebook Walls and Twitter feeds, further made the case. Pinterest puts another stake in the ground. Scroll for ongoing content and updating or miss out.

4. Pinterest is open: Pinterest automatically allocates Followers and folks to Follow. Folks we know and those we don’t know. Pinterest doesn’t have the privacy issues of Facebook. For consumers the two networks serve different purposes. But for brands the two may compete for social media resources.

The bottom line: Brands are invited to the party at Pinterest – content gives all pinners an equal starting point. With Facebook, brands sometimes knock on doors while consumers close the curtains and continue talking to their friends.

Note: There has been a hint of controversy around Pinterest’s quiet use of affiliate links. To me this isn’t controversial, they’re driving traffic better than banner ads (and Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined) and should reap the rewards.

5. Pinterest has 16 employees: comScore reports that Pinterest hit 11.7M monthly unique visitors in February, crossing the 10M mark faster than any other standalone site in history. Pinterest has 16 employees. That’s 731,250 unique users per employee. Like Instagram before them, with 4 employees and 4.25M users, a small team of people with a great idea prove to be powerful.

The potential small teams hold to innovate is incredibly exciting.

My vote: Play with Pinterest more than you read about it. The flood of coverage runs the risk of making people tired of talking about it before it has a chance to truly play out. It is, by the way, worth talking about.

And yes, I realize I waited until the end of a post about Pinterest to express this vote.