Deconstructing Pinterest

It took me a lot of time to get Pinterest. Although I live and breathe social media, Pinterest had me confused initially. Don't get me wrong. I understand how picture sharing works and was a big supporter of Flickr back in the day. But why is Pinterest so successful? I read tons of articles about the phenomenal growth, the initial struggle of Ben Silbermann, aka the founder, but most importantly I noticed how  Adelina, my Facebook addicted girl, was using Pinterest every single day.

So I made an account and forced myself to use it. And after a few months I can say I enjoy it. Quite a lot actually.

This article is being written because a few months ago I decided to create a new habit for myself. Whenever I like or dislike something I try to take a moment to explain to myself why that is. Just like when you were a kid and were breaking toys apart.

So ... back to Pinterest and why I like and think Pinterest is succeeding.

Curation as a creation mechanism

 Pinterest in 2009

Pinterest in 2009

I think Pinterest is to Twitter what Twitter was to Wordpress. As more people come online and mobile devices become more and more popular, users need easier way to create. Writing a blog post is hard. A tweet is easier. With Pinterest you don't even have to do write a word.

In order to become a "creator" on Pinterest all you have to do is like a picture and pin it. You don't even have to look for the picture. When you log in you're presented with a row of amazingly shot and inspiring pictures to choose from. But more on that later.

Implicit vs Explicit

Think about Flickr. Flickr has tons of pictures. but you need to search, and click around a lot to get to a picture you may like. Pinterest doesn't require you to do anything. Once you subscribe to a few boards we push all those images to you. You just sit back and relax.

It's the difference between Explicit discovery, where you go look for stuff, and Implicit discovery, where the stuff comes to you. Facebook made the switch from Explicit to Implicit when they introduced the Newsfeed. Instead you going from friend to friend, all the news from all your friends come to you. the It's same thing with Pinterest.

No network required

Pinning is a form of curation. But there is twist. Unlike the "Likes" on Facebook or "Favourites" on Twitter, Pinning on Pinterest has an extra step. And that is picking a board to pin the picture to. This taps into a very fundamental human behavior. The desire to collect and categorize things. And that is very important.

 Meet Kuky

Meet Kuky

To explain that allow me to introduce my beautiful cat, Kuky. She is quite fat and lazy. But no matter how big her belly gets, if you put a laser on the wall, she will chase the dot like a professional sprinter. Pinterest has the same effect. You open the website and you know what to do: "Wow ... nice sofa. I should add this to my Livingroom collection", "Great painting. This will make a great addition to my paintings collection".

What this also means is you don't need the network effect for Pinterest to work for you. Pinteresting can be a very enjoyable experience even if nobody is following you and you are not following that many people.

Fresh evergreen content

A tweet retains its value for a few hours. For Facebook it's maybe a few days. Pinterest is forever (not like diamonds though). Through your Pinning you are creating evergreen content and aren't working that much to do it.

Notice that when you go through a board you don't care about how old the items in there are? It's not that important. All you care about is for the board to have good stuff, which is why the timestamp is barely visible in the interface.


I am not saying this is the ultimate explanation. Not at all. I'm a founder too and know how complicated this really is. The reality is much more complex than a simplistic, two page blog-post, but thinking about what the ingredients that make a product a stick is a good exercise.

PS: You can follow me on Pinterest. I have quite a few boards and if you want to buy me something for Christmas check the "Buy me this" board. Cool use case, don't you think?