I have been hesitant in jumping on the bandwagon of every trendy fad I see developing in Social Media. How many times have we all gotten caught up in the excitement of the next “great white Facebook” only to be disappointed when all of the advance hype devolves into wide yawns? 2009’s greatly hyped, Stumble Upon is still growing, but has settled into its special niche as a discovery engine. 2011’s Google Plus is really a minus. I love Facebook. I use Facebook. Mr. (Eric E.) Schmidt; Google Plus is nothing like Facebook. But this year’s newest find, Pinterest, is definitely appealing and seems to have some real staying power among the Social Media leader board.
Now, don’t get me wrong. While I really like Pinterest and think it has a good chance of becoming a major player in Social Media, I think its developers still need to do quite a bit of tweaking to make it even more user friendly. The central idea of making photos and graphics a topic for discussion is already tried and true. See Flickr and YouTube. Most people think of Pinterest as being more similar to Stumble Upon, which is a discovery engine far more geared to articles than visuals. This may be true, but Pinterest may have a more untapped appeal functioning as a discovery engine with a community orientation appeal. I am not convinced that Stumble Upon is inherently capable of that same level of comfort appeal. Why? Because, as soon as you look at a photo or graphic you are immediately ready to discuss it with others, whereas you must take the time to read through an entire article before you are ready to converse with a following. The time it takes to read has to reduce a great deal of the immediate reaction that generally drives spontaneous conversation in Social Media.
In addition, the folks at Pinterest have spun their theme as a visual discovery engine to one that considers their property as a collector’s community where people discuss their pastime passions. Smart move. Aren’t most of us extremely passionate about whatever it is that we collect? We must be, because we allow our homes to be cluttered with doll collections; sets of baseball cards; and loads of sports memorabilia. On Pinterest, we can store photo and graphic representations of all this in a much safer place and out from under foot for the entire world to see, enjoy and talk about.
Very quickly, Pinterest gathered a ton of steam among an audience of women, since it was originally heavily loaded with pictures of fashion, food and arts and crafts. More men and even some businesses are now coming aboard with more male oriented themes related to sports, music, automobiles, cigars and business “infographics”. Did anyone really think it would take long for businesses to see Pinterest’s growing marketing potential?
As interesting and fun Pinterest may be, it still needs to be carefully conceived of and continuously modified in more user friendly ways. For example, I find it difficult – if not impossible – to converse with “Pinners” outside of their “Pins”. Shouldn’t there be ways to meet and converse directly with people, who may share similar interests rather than forcing them to create lengthy conversations under the photos themselves?
Also, while offering the opportunity to create major categories for photo inclusions is tantamount, so is being allowed the option to create subcategories. For example, I have a category for “Classic Rock”. Because of the current layout of Pinterest, is a jumble of photos from that era. As I add more photos of the Beatles (for example) – presently – they cannot be grouped together, unless I create a separate major category for them. I would prefer to have a “Beatles” subcategory within “Classic Rock” so that I can continue sharing a visual story about the music of the day.
Related to all of this is the need for filters that let you know when you have chosen to “re-pin” a photo already saved to your main category. Why bore everyone with three copies of the same photo “re-pinned” weeks apart, because you are unable to remember whether or not you already have captured the photo?
I also find it difficult figuring out exactly how to “follow” someone without being forced to follow all of their categories; some of which I may not be interested in. For example, if you select their main follow button everything they “re-pin” becomes part of your bulging timeline. New users, especially, must be confused and not realize that if they wait a second and scroll down the page, they can choose whichever “Pinner” categorie(s) they wish to follow and disregard the rest. Frankly, I am still a bit confused, though. If I only follow one category rather than all categories, am I still following that person? It just doesn’t feel comfortable to me. The developers should realize that many of us coming over from Facebook, have a natural inclination to want to seamlessly connect with those we share similar interests. That connection on Pinterest does not feel natural and confirming. Anyone else feel that way?
Of course, I am looking at Pinterest from a user’s perspective and not a developer’s. We all should – unless we are developers, of course. I know that I bring many personal biases and expectations to the table that have been developed through years of web and Social Networking exploration. I also know what I like and what I do not feel as comfortable with. There may be many other views out there and it’s the average of those views that should concern the Pinterest people the most. For me, and apparently for growing numbers of “Pinners”, Pinterest is being greatly enjoyed and seems to be catching on quickly with the online populous. It may not be long before there is keen buyer’s interest from people like Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt or one of the other major players of Social Media. These industry leaders will surely be looking to add more functionality to their own platforms or to do a pre-emptive strike on yet another industry upstart with growing numbers. If and when a takeover happens, there are sure to be the kinds of changes I suggested as well as those some of you may be thinking about. This is why the people at Pinterest need to be “listening” attentively to their user’s comments and carefully considering what they are hearing.
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