Among “social” media, Pinterest is different. Instagram users view others’ dream vacations that they’ll never go on. Facebookers observe holiday parties or eavesdrop as friends debate politics. But a Pinterest user can relax on the couch and plan a remodel or special event—totally solo. Has being “un-social” helped Pinterest keep users happy?
Pinterest was founded in 2010 by Evan Sharp and Ben Silberman. The service attracted women from the Midwest and central United States, rather than men and West Coast techies.
Pinterest purposefully avoids the “social network” label. The app doesn’t push users to add friends or build connections like the other guys. Pinterest works just fine without human interaction, thank you very much.
The main goal is discovery and inspiration. Pinterest helps people find ideas for the ideal outfit, perfect meal, or dream home. Users “pin” collected images onto virtual bulletin “boards.”
“Social media is about sharing what you are doing with other people,” says Sharp, co-founder and chief product officer. “Pinterest isn’t about sharing. It’s mostly about yourself, your dreams, your ideas for what you want for your future.”
This solo aspect keeps Pinterest smaller—and therefore less profitable—than Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. But it also helps the app avoid much of the others’ misinformation and misuse trouble.
Until now, Pinterest has grown slowly. Analysts believe that may change. In 2019, Pinterest could begin wooing investors by selling shares of stock. Potential investors will want to know how much money Pinterest makes. They’ll want to know if it will grow. The app may need to up its social quotient to make more profit.
So Pinterest is trying something different. It’s making Pinterest boards more than pretty things to look at. New boards will suggest something to buy or make—anything a business would want to sell a potential customer. Users who pin dresses, doorknobs, or daybeds will now be able to tap links to merchants’ websites. If exact items aren’t available, Pinterest will make it easier for people to find similar ones. The pinboards are becoming virtual advertising billboards.
Will Pinterest’s new interactive features mean getting what it wants (profit) but losing what it had (privacy)? (Psalm 106:15) Market analyst Andrew Lipsman thinks Pinterest’s un-public, un-social side helped it avoid some “downsides” of social media. He says the app has “a more positive, upbeat vibe.” Paving the way for the stock offering could change all that.