I love Pinterest. I really do. I’m on there drooling over every amazing DIY pin and tons of other items that appeal to everything that I like.
I have to take issue with something though. Pinterest is being seen as a platform that allows us to be privvy to people’s genuine likes and interests, a window into their inner-most working… something that might be considered a holy grail if we want to get all exaggerative and big-picturesue… and I really beg to differ. Not because it doesn’t have the potential to be that, but because I think we’re all barking up the wrong tree in terms of what Pinterest is actually giving us and what people are capable of sharing.
There was a post that I read the other day on Search Engine Land talking about entity search being controlled by social. In there was an interesting piece about what Pinterest shares with marketers and brands over other social networks. I agree with the majority of what was said there, but I also have to disagree on the basic premise of why Pinterest is being stated as one who provides a decent look into personas in the the market. Pinterest has been rolling around in my head for a while now, so I’m curious to get your thoughts on how you feel about the below.
How true are these personas that marketers and brands are planning on taking into consideration as a potential demographic? Is Pinterest creating a generation of lying consumers who share “interests” that are completely disconnected from their offline interests because it’s easy to “pin it and forget it?”
Or is Pinterest creating all new interests that are actually translating into offline activities?
There are many types of ways that Pinterest users choose to portray themselves, and the boards and pins they follow and share are a direct result of that. Let’s take a peek at some different ways that Pinterest users are utilizing the platform, which is very different from how they utilize platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Users essentially share boards and pins that:
- Represent who they are- This is generally a fairly accurate representation of that user’s likes and interests. There’s a high correlation of who their boards and pins suggest they are as compared to real life.
- Represent who they want others to think they are- These are pinners who sculpt their online identities (as they would any other network) to present a certain persona for how they want to be perceived.
- Represent who they think others think they are- Pinners who want to share minor interests of theirs that their friends and connections also show an interest in. They sculpt their identities to cater to the needs of their network.
- Share realistic wants and needs- For example, pinners who are engaged and creating wedding boards, ones who are new home owners that are sharing and constructing DIY pins to reference in their adventures. Pinners who are creating realistic boards that could potentially become purchases and projects.
- Share unrealistic wants and needs- For example (and there are tons of users that do this) singles creating wedding boards, users with no intention of purchasing a home creating boards for DIY projects they find interesting, etc.
- Represent motivation and that extra push- Pinners who create boards and share pins with motivational quotes during tough times, motivational quotes about working out; pins that solidify what they’re aiming for and create a venue for accountability. Meaning, once you’re pinning it, you’ll start to believe that you need to “practice what you preach.”
All of these are great. The question is, how do we distinguish what kind of online profile someone is creating when we’re gaining access to users we can’t otherwise engage with on other networks?
The trickiest part of marketing is factoring in human inconsistencies and free will . No matter how good we are at marketing, there’s always one essential piece missing to the picture that we’ll never be able to replace. We underestimate people’s natural tendencies to embellish, be curious, share things that only require a click and have a low propensity for change.
So how accurate can we be if we’re supplementing information about our target markets from Pinterest? If I’m a brand that created a wedding board, and start gaining followers to it, am I going to be able to cross reference those that are single with those that are engaged with their likes across other networks?
And with that, can we draw a strong psychographic profile of that person based on trusting the remaining boards and pins in their profiles? When you’re relying on a lie (the wedding board when that person isn’t even dating someone) can you trust the remainder of the market information you’re grabbing as a result?
We need to think more carefully before we start tying interests to a specific user when Pinterest is creating more of a “scheming” vs. “doing” environment- meaning, it’s so easy to create these interests and like certain trends, but are we more likely to “do” any of these things? Or is the producer part of us losing out to the passive consumer part of us? How many people are spending hours pinning, and taking away from actually doing?
Is Pinterest creating a new type of “passive consumer?” And with that, how are we going to leverage these passive consumers?
What makes it even worse is that users on Pinterest will find value and follow boards from a brand they wouldn’t normally follow on Facebook. This is a catch 22. The brand is exposed to a new demographic, but they aren’t able to cross reference their pins and boards with their interests and persona on other (private) profiles that they might have gained by asking them to opt in via applications or promotional materials. The profile has loose ends.
I pin a lot of healthy looking recipes. Half the time I don’t even click through to what the actual blog post is. It looks delicious. I share it. I probably won’t cook it, and if I do, I most likely won’t share how delicious it was on Pinterest- I would share it on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, etc.
I’m potentially misleading marketers into thinking 1) I fit a new profile of someone who is very conscientious of what they eat and 2) I’m interested in seeing more of the same from them. So where does this leave me as a consumer? Am I worthy of being marketed to? Can I be trusted? Am I weakly expressing a strong interest of mine, or strongly expressing a weak interest? How are these signals being perceived by brands and marketers?
Which leads us to another problem- because of the disintegration of information both on and off of Pinterest, we can’t currently track a user path from Pinterest to other sites. Meaning, I might click through to that healthy recipe you shared, only to completely expend the remaining time on that website in the chocolate cupcake section. We just don’t know yet.
Moreover, Pinterest is allowing you to act as a middle man unless you’re the creator. When you’re sharing recycled information from around the web, you are helping your brand and visibility but you’re also connecting others to a whole network of sites outside of Pinterest that they can easy go directly to and start pinning from themselves.
My fear is that we’re starting to rely too heavily on what users are sharing or engaging with on social networks, without remembering that people have a tendency to sculpt their online personas. Are pinners really true to what they’re pinning? Will the information you gather from them be something useful in the long run?
More importantly, will we be able to cut through the noise and extract the kind of information we need from them to make an informed marketing decision? What happens when we get to the point where we truly can’t trust how our potential consumers are portraying their interests?
When are we going to figure out how much noise and social information is creating a situation of diminishing and misinformed returns?
Just some random food for thought…
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