Pinterest’s Value Lies in what it Isn’t

by Ken Mueller on April 23, 2012 · 22 comments

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Pinterest PrimaryLogo Red RGB Pinterests Value Lies in what it IsntPinterest 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).

And in a more recent article on Pinterest’s recent loss in users (with some rather good analysis), Business Insider refers to the platform as a “photo sharing/collecting site”.

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?

 Pinterests Value Lies in what it Isnt
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21 comments
jessm918
jessm918

Everyone just leave me and my happy place alone! Take your business strategies out of my little slice of heaven and just let me look at my pretty things in peace again! There I said it. Take that grumpy porch man.

KatherineGray
KatherineGray

hi, Ken.

I couldn't agree more with you.

yes sometimes people misunderstand what is the function Pinterest.

they think it is for show up their picture, but actually it's not for that.

thank you for finally speak out our mind.

by the way, have you ever heard pinfaves dot com?

it's a great website where you can submit your favorite pins from pinterest.

you can also vote up the pins you like or vote down the pins you hate.

it's great, isn't it? just go to pinfaves[dot]com and trust me, it's worth the try. :)

love,

Kat

margieclayman
margieclayman

If you click on the picture and you really do get taken to a recipe, it can be great. My problem is that I consistently clicked on things and got taken to malware sites. It made me cranky. That was a big problem for me. I like to be the not-cranky. :) Interesting post though. Pinterest is sort of the baby that curation and images had together. Back in the day.

girlseeksplace
girlseeksplace

An interesting post. I use Pinterest to share my own posts as well as posts by others. It's interesting to see what posts get liked/repinned by others, as well.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

I find Pinterest a fascinating opportunity of curation with such ease of personal categorizing. I have yet to complete a scroll of my landing page of boards I follow instead drifting off  from one pin into sites in a domino fashion, traveling the world, tasting the different cultural foods and architecture, rivers of beauty, historical events, tips on social media marketing, books, music and people of interest. The list and possibilities are endless and now I know it is name..semiotics.

MarkJMuellerJr
MarkJMuellerJr

I signed up for this site about 2 weeks ago and already the over alpha males that I know have taunted me about it being girly and I deserve my man card be taken away. I think it's funny that you said that. I think the main reason that is the over abundance of cutesy craft ideas that populate the site and most guys seeing that get turned off towards the site. I said from the very beginning when I joined that my boards would be like GQ or Esquire, cool stuff guys would be into. I really hope in the future guys will be more open to what Pinterest has to offer.

Latest blog post: mjmconsulting1-01 «

ElizabethKCross
ElizabethKCross

"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.Read more: Pinterest’s Value Lies in what it" 

Glad you put that in. That info made a difference to how I see Pinterest. Thanks.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @margieclayman Well, I've not yet had the blessing of clicking on any spam. And I think it can be worked out. As we chatted about it on Facebook, I'm working up some thoughts for a post about spam in social media, and what are response should be. And like I said, I'll probably refer to you and your post. 

 

Maybe you just need to watch who you're following on Pinterest... :P

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @C_Pappas I think there is a lot of value in it, but I would say (like i say about any platform) use it for yourself first, not for business. That should come later. Take a look at @ginidietrich 's Pinterest. She shares food ideas, household ideas, book ideas, etc. You just create boards and organize your interests and thoughts. Even if it is just for yourself, but then you can share with others, and get ideas from others.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @ginidietrich Gee, really? I never would have known. You should go shout down the haters over on my Facebook wall. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @girlseeksplace Pinterest has become a great source of traffic for my blog, greater than even G+. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @annelizhannan It really is easy to get on there and start chasing down bunny trails, isn't it??

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @MarkJMuellerJr Well, since it was originally positioned like a scrapbooking site, it naturally attracted women. The male population is starting to drift in, slowly, though many of them are arriving from a marketing perspective, which isn't always a good thing.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @ElizabethKCross I could have spent a lot more time on that part of things, but didn't want to make everyone's eyes glaze over. Me? I find it fascinating. But even the people who work in the field of semiotics can get rather obtuse, even for me.

jessm918
jessm918

 @KenMueller I would just encourage you to consider this: Pinterest means different things to different people. Perhaps there is no right or wrong way to use this website. For me it is pretty things, for you it might be marketing. That's okay. My initial response was a way to lighten the mood. What you have to said is incredibly valid- however, again, I would encourage you to consider your approach.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

 @KenMueller Like the Mad Hatter, the only thing that slows me down is some awkward manipulation in pinning. Of course, I could always brake on creating boards!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @DavidBailey1 interesting infographic. Clearly the site is dominantly female overall, but the UK is bucking that trend, at least in the early stages. Would be interesting to see how that continues. 

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