Pinterest and the Evolving Niche of Social Media

January 11, 2012

pinterest, social media,


Four years ago, when Twitter began gaining traction, its critics proclaimed that no one would care about your status updates - what you had for lunch, the boots you wore to class that day or how your trip to the gym went.

This past year, Twitter crossed the 100 million active user mark and is valued at close to $10 billion; it’s become the go-to source for information for millions of users.  

The original criticism of Twitter was that micro-blogging was a too niche form of one-way communication.  With the explosion in the past year of Tumblr and Pinterest and the rapid growth of Path, niche communication has become even “nich-ier” and is quickly becoming one of the leading ways to communicate interests.  

Social media has evolved from the long-form blogging in the early 2000’s to what social media blogger Elad Gil describes as today’s “push content and social curation.” He explains:

‘The (social media) trend has been a move from long-form content, which has high friction of participation (both on the production and consumption side) to ever lower requirements placed on a user to participate in a conversation.”

Twitter is the 800-lb gorilla in the room with a large number of users, tons of publicity, and a high valuation but newer social interest sites like Pinterest and Tumbler have the tech and social media world buzzing.  

Pinterest has cornered the niche area of image social media and consequently, seen its user base grow from 1.2 million in August to over four million to date. 

According to the blog Technology Digital,  “It smartly combines two of the most compelling elements of social media: visual content and sharing who you are. It‘s like an interactive, shareable scrapbook.”

A new ComScore report shows in the past year Twitter has grown 59% percent, LinkedIn 55%, and Tumblr a whopping 172%.   

Andrew Lipson, one of the report’s co-authors, explains why. 

“There’s more and more people who want to share around interests, not just the close social relationships.”

Instead of seeking out people by interests, these social media sites go the other way and match your interests with people like you.  It’s an inherent human quality to be around people with similar tastes, who appreciate your Ryan Gosling memes or pictures of your meatball soufflé.   Pinterest, Tumblr, and to a lesser extent Twitter, help you discover those individuals and form relationships centered around that interest – creating a more valuable experience.  

Tying into what Gil said earlier, these relationships are formed in a succinct manner.  Even though it is such a simple movement like submitting photos or quick stories, it still is pushing content, which empowers the user.

In a brilliant article titled ‘Why the Facebook Like Button is so 2011,’ Forbes writer Victoria Barret explains why this is so.

“Pinterest’s secret weapon is undoing the weak, overused “like” button and its Web siblings (notably, the Twitter re-Tweet). Pinterest asks you to create something in your liking, not just mention it scatter-shot, or worse, meekly affirm it.”

Barret believes that this could change the way we think about sharing and she could be right given its meteoric rise.  Pinterest focuses on what you like, what you’re interested in and prompts you to start the conversation instead of joining in on others.