In the last month I’ve recently started using Pinterest in order to figure out what all the hype was about. I was skeptical at first, since the idea seems so painfully simple that it was unclear why I would be tempted to use it regularly.
I still don’t use it daily, but I do find myself logging in every few days (for context I log into facebook 2-3 times a week so this isn’t bad by my standards for a social networking service!). And as I use it more and more I’ve liked it more. Why? In its current (innocent) incarnation, Pinterest provides a fast visual way to browse through trends, products, art, and ideas. Our visual sense is so highly developed that this makes perfect sense, and I find browsing through Pinterest less taxing than using facebook, where there is a lot of text coming at me. Twitter is so full of text barrages that I still haven’t been able to bring myself to log on regularly.
Although Pinterest isn’t the only site that allows you to surf the web in this way, it is the hottest one at the moment. I’ve been mulling why Pinterest is at the right place at the right time, and I’ve come up with four theories.
1. Internet Connections are Fast Enough to Allow Image Heavy Sites to Exist
A site like Pinterest is only possible when a majority of people have broadband connections. I remember having to wait half an hour to download an mp3 file right before college (circa 2000) when my house only had dial up modem. No way would I have been able to use Pinterest. But today having to download a lot of images from sites isn’t a big deal, even for people living outside the traditional “wired” towns such as San Francisco or New York, which I think helped Pinterest gain a lot of traction in its first major market, the midwest (see point 4).
2. Mobile Phones Allow People to Easily Upload Visual Content Quickly
Social networks are more valuable when there are tons of engaged users who post a lot of content. Mobile phones have helped contribute to this. While I don’t actually see a lot of pictures posted on Pinterest from mobile phones, I would guess that a significant number of people surf and pin things on Pinterest while surfing around on their mobile phones. But I could be wrong on this.
3. Pinterest Integrates With Facebook
Again, by leveraging existing social networks Pinterest was able to gain traction a lot faster. By logging in Pinterest already connects you to your friends on facebook, so you’re not having to rebuild your existing social network from scratch.
4. Pinterest hit a “new demographic”–midwestern women
Pinterest hit an early adopter market of midwestern women. I would venture to guess that a lot of these might be young stay at home moms who have time to surf the net, but again it’s pure conjecture on my part.