Pinterest is not a picture sharing site.
There, I said it.
Because Pinterest is sufficiently different from all of the other social platforms out there (and that’s a good thing!), people have had a hard time classifying it.
In a recent survey that makes up the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, the folks at Social Media Examiner discuss commonly used social sites, and include a new category, photo sharing sites, in which they include Pinterest (alongside platforms like Flickr and Instagram).
But to call Pinterest a photo sharing site does it a disservice. It is not merely a place where we store and share our photos. Sure, you can do that, but it is much more. You see, the difference between something like Flickr and Pinterest is the meaning that is attached to those images. This is not just a collection of our latest vacation photos or event photos.
My graduate work in Mass Communications centered around the study of semiotics; the study of signs and meaning, and their cultural implications. Semiotics delves into the world of objects and the words and images we use to signify them, and the meanings we attach to them.
The photos that are shared on Flickr are certainly subject to this study, but on Pinterest there is generally much more attached to the objects that we pin to a board. Those objects are curated in whichever fashion we choose, as determined by which board we pin it to. And those objects don’t just reside on Pinterest. They are connected to other parts of the web via URLs and are used to illustrate something greater. Click on a pinned object and you will most likely be taken to another site for an accompanying article or blog post, or perhaps an online store or business destination.
The objects on Flickr and Pinterest both have context and curation, as does everything on the web and in life, but Pinterest perhaps holds a deeper level of both. My blot posts are all pinned to a “Shared Blog Posts” board alongside other blogs I read and desire to share. On the board, you might see an image that is attached to the post, but that image holds meaning that is related to the contents of my post. Click on the image, and you are taken to the website where the post exists. Much of the study of semiotics has been based on the oral tradition and language, where meaning morphs greatly over time and space. The written word and recorded images and sound changed some of that, but the interconnected nature of the Internet, with it’s links and connections, as embodied by Pinterest, brings us even further to a greater level of shared knowledge and meaning.
On Pinterest you’ll find plenty of boards filled with images of food. But click on them and there is a good chance you’ll be taken to an article on nutrition, or perhaps even a recipe. That same picture on Flickr will most likely be just that: a picture. Sure, it holds meaning and will elicit emotional responses from each of us, but on Pinterest there is much more context that you can explore. Even if someone never clicks on your pin, but shares it, that context travels with the image.
This is one of the reasons why I believe that Pinterest has a bright future, besides that whole nagging little detail of how they will make money. And in spite of the fact that spammers have discovered the platform. This is not merely an archive or repository for our own work. For years, pundits have said that the next wave of social media will not be about creating content, but curating content. All of us are creators and curators to some level, but Pinterest is based heavily on this notion of curation. As I peruse the boards of others, I can choose to follow all or just some. I let others curate for me, and I, in turn, further curate that material for others.
And for businesses and marketers, Pinterest offers a new level of fun and interaction for our customers as they work with us to create and curate content.
So don’t write Pinterest off as just another photo sharing site. It is far more, and I see some great possibilities.
Oh, and guys, it’s not just a girl thing. It’s OK for us to use Pinterest as well. No one is going to take away your man card.
How are you using Pinterest, and more importantly, how does your view of the platform impact your use of it?
- Kotex Sparks Nearly 700,000 Impressions with First-Ever Pinterest Campaign (v3im.com)
- The Only Pinterest Post You’ll Ever Need to Read – EVER! (dannybrown.me)
- The Pinterest Debate Between Two Friends (spinsucks.com)
- Shiny Object Syndrome Hurts Us All (spinsucks.com)
- Pinterest drives enormous blog and business success (businessesgrow.com)