Pinning pains

I am not an avid user of Pinterest. I felt pressured to love the product, what’s not to love, cupcakes and puppies, and all things good! Don’t get me wrong, some of the top Pinterest genres resonate with me deeply, I am an active consumer of content related to health and fitness, cooking, and fashion. My lack of Pinterest usage also doesn't translate into my sentiments towards the viability of the product. I think Pinterest is, and will continue to be, hugely successful. Nevertheless, I simply have not been able to declare my undying love for the product, and here are the reasons why:

Product insufficiency

There is no easy and obvious way to provide feedback to tailor your homepage to your liking. There are many friends that I don’t mind following on Pinterest, but sometimes their pins are to my dislike, which is a huge turn off as a user. For example, I don’t mind follow this particular friend, but I do not want to see pins related to tattoos. I can click on the pin and unfollow the board entirely (thanks to this article for providing some insight with regards to cleaning up your homepage). But what if I like a board, but just don’t like some pins on it? What if I hadn’t discovered the workaround of unfollowing the board? Why not put a feedback loop right there on the pin? Thumbs up and thumbs down paradigms are well established, Pinterest could take advantage of that in order to provide the user a more pleasant and tailored experience. Perhaps Pinterest has some business reason for not allowing pin dislikes (I have a few hunches on this, I think the main reason is because a “dislike” on a pin is harsh criticism on what is otherwise seen as a benevolent creative outlet, crushing creative confidence might drastically alter the free flow of pinning), but at the same time, learning about your users is probably the most important thing a product can do. Additionally, the Pinterest experience is not limited to an individual’s home feed. Being able to provide feedback on other pages, such as the Popular page, allows a user a more relevant experience, especially since it’s impossible to see everything. Why not see what you care most about? So Pinterest, please oh please, let me do two things: 1) dislike certain pins (learn from this and don’t show me related pins!), and 2) let me give you a list of negative categories, i.e., topics I don’t want to see, even if it’s from people I follow.

Oral tradition dynamics

Quickly dwindling are the days of calling your mom, grandma, aunt, etc. to ask for a recipe or household idea. My friends instead jump onto Pinterest. I personally find great value in giving my mom a quick ring to ask her for a recipe idea. I’ll even ask her for full menu suggestions if I’m having friends over for a dinner party or an evening of appetizers. How is Pinterest changing this inter-generational dynamic? To be fair, I could point fingers at the Internet as a whole, but I’m faulting Pinterest as the primary culprit since it has taken curation of these topics to a whole different level.

Creative pressure

How many times have I heard “ah, I couldn’t get it to look exactly like how it was on Pinterest”. Media already places enough pressure on women to achieve flawlessness, Pinterest is just another platform for inadequacy, a place where weddings, birthdays, honeymoons, outfits, nails, and household decorations are just not good enough. Those of us in our twenties and beyond have at least had a stab at pure, unadulterated, creativity. But what about the younger girls? They grow up with a sense of Pinterest perfection. When do they get to make their creative discoveries independent of a curated board?

Girls girls girls

Now I appreciate a product such as Pinterest which originated and continues to be a female dominated application. How often do we see products dedicated to someone other than the twenty-something white male? But at the same time, it’s frustrating that the most prominent technological product associated with females is one so stereotypically female! Women care about more than beauty, fashion, and cooking.

Pinterest has stated an interest in getting a larger male demographic interested in the product and certainly some topics appear more directed at them. I have seen product interest in the gay community, but have only ever heard heterosexual men claim a lack of understanding toward or dislike for the product.  

Pinterest has stated that 2014 will mark the year when they start generating revenue through advertising, an endeavor that will no doubt be successful due to the fact that advertisers want to be discovered and people on Pinterest want to discover, leading to a match made in heaven. Pinterest advertising can perhaps fill a happy medium between Google search and Facebook as people are not exactly going to Pinterest with the intent of purchasing (Google search), but are not completely closed off to a purchase (Facebook).

The challenge will come because of Pinterest’s highly aspirational tendencies, it’s zero-commitment to create beautiful boards full of expensive things, purchasing them might be out of the question for many people. How Pinterest translates these aspirations into value for advertisers will be an interesting exercise and I look forward to seeing the ad types, who knows, maybe there’ll be a Pinterest board about.