Pinterest is different from platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Does Pinterest actually count as social media? Or is it something completely different?
Pinterest is a social media platform. While it’s quite different from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok, it still qualifies as social media and a social network.
In this post we’ll look at the definition of “social media” vs “social network”, and how that applies to Pinterest.
How does the Merriam Webster Dictionary define “social media”?
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary:
Forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos)Merriam Webster Entry
Let’s look at how effectively Pinterest meets each aspect of a social network mentioned in the quote.
Definition Part 1: “Users create online communities”
While Facebook and LinkedIn have the most involved communities, there are a variety of communities on Pinterest as well.
The first type of community is group boards. Group boards, sometimes also called collaborative boards let one Pinner create a board and invite other Pinners to contribute. Group boards can help people plan events, vacations, or a house remodel.
People in the board can react to various pins. They’re even brave enough to include a thumbsdown reaction! People can leave comments on Pins as well.
Another community centered around Pinterest is Tailwind Tribes. While Tailwind is technically a third party product, it’s extremely popular and filled with Pinterest communities.
There are group chat features and the communities are centered around specific interests and topics (crafts, marketing, recipes, etc)
Like other social networks, users can follow you and leave comments on your Pins.
While there are comments, follows, and reactions, it’s certainly not as central to the platform as Facebook. But Pinterest still has a wide variety of ways to build online communities. People can comment on pins and ask questions. They can follow their favorite Pinners.
Definition Part 2: “Share Information”
Pinterest is absolutely packed with information and rivals other social networks in this regard. Many Pinterest users are looking to find full articles and blog posts. Pinterest also allows long and information packed infographics.
Pinterest describes itself as a visual discovery engine that helps people discover the things that they’re passionate about online. Of the top 15 pins of all time, 11 were links to a website that was packed with instructions and information.
Definition Part 3: Share ideas
The first time you go to Pinterest.com, here’s the first message you see:
When you go to Pinterest.com/about, they have one main title:
The entire platform is built around finding ideas. It’s better than Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn for coming up with ideas and inspiration.
Definition Part 4: Share Personal Messages
There are a few ways to message people directly on Pinterest. You can leave comments on Pins from anyone on the platform.
You can send direct messages to anyone you are following (or anyone that follows you). Go to their profile and click the “message” button above their name. You can send personal messages right to users. While personal messages are more common on Facebook and Instagram, they are still a part of the experience on Pinterest.
Definition Part 5: Share other content (including videos)
Other content is vague, so let’s briefly discuss videos on Pinterest. A Pinterest study found that 67% of Pinners say that video inspires them to take action, vs 32% of users on other social platforms.
Pinterest has been adding a variety of video features including a featured video section for business accounts and a new uploader. Pinterest is a fantastic platform for videos.
What’s the difference between a social network and social media?
Let’s look at the way that Merriam Webster defines a SOCIAL NETWORK:
So, a social network is more centered around connected interpersonal relationships. A social network is primarily focused on creating and maintaining relationships while social media includes sharing ideas, videos, and content using communities. So, the two are similar, but not identical.
Is Pinterest a social network?
Unlike Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest is not structured PRIMARILY around maintaining interpersonal friendships. It does qualify as a social network because it’s an online site where people can follow friends, send personal messages, join group boards and tailwind tribes, and leave comments.
Building community isn’t the #1 goal or priority of Pinterest. You can network and build community on Pinterest. It’s not the main focus. But the tools that are built into Pinterest make it easy to follow your friends, leave comments, collaborate, and join new communities.
Does the CEO of Pinterest think Pinterest is a social network?
The CEO of Pinterest, stated:
Pinterest isn’t a social network. The hope is that you’ll get ideas for your real life, and you’ll close the app, get off your phone and try those ideasBen Silbermann
Pinterest has been trying to distance itself from other social networks and demonstrate that it has a unique mission and goal. They have proudly described themself as “the un-social network”. It’s part of their overall branding.
While I argue that Pinterest should still qualify as a social network, it comes down to one main distinction:
Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have a primary focus on building relationships, communities, and friendships.
Pinterest has a primary focus on discovering new ideas. It features many tools, features, and options centered around building community, connections, and collaboration. Group boards, tribes, following, and leaving comments are a very significant part of the platform.
How is Pinterest different from other social media?
- Facebook: “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
- Pinterest: “Our mission is to help empower people to discover things they love and inspire them to go do those things in real life.”
Pinterest is heavily focused on discovery. They want to help people find things to try and buy. Facebook is focused on building communities and personal relationships. People can share articles and blogs on Facebook but it isn’t the primary focus. People can build friendships, groups, and conversations, on Pinterest but it isn’t the main focus. Pinterest is the platform for discovering ideas.
The way that people find things is different on Pinterest as well. On Facebook, you’ll primarily see content from people you are friends with or follow. On Pinterest, you find pins that are popular whether you follow the creator or not.
Pinterest is not dramatically different than Instagram.
You can share images and videos, find pictures and videos you enjoy, send personal messages, leave comments, save/like posts, use hashtags, tag users. The group boards and tribes can actually include even MORE collaboration than on Instagram. It seems odd that Instagram would cleanly fall under “a social network” while Pinterest would not. Instagram also has more powerful search features than a website like Facebook. Even though it’s not a visual search platform like Pinterest, if you search “Outfit Inspiration” on both Pinterest and Instagram, the results will be similar.
Is Pinterest right for you?
For recipes, crafts, and parenting, Pinterest is THE place to be. Pinterest’s audience is primarily female. While 70% of the users on Pinterest are women, 93% of pins are created by women. The most active users on the platform are women. Pinterest is an amazing platform for bloggers. Since people go to Pinterest to discover new ideas, it’s a great way to promote informational blog posts. Pinterest also is great for promoting different products. You can place prices directly on pins and give people a link to buy.
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Conclusion: Pinterest is Definitely social media. It meets the criteria for a social network as well (though some don’t believe it’s a social network)
Pinterest is social media. It offers to ability to share ideas, information, build community, collaborate, and share videos. Is Pinterest a social network? That answer is less straightforward. Pinterest offers all of the tools to network, join communities, send messages, follow your friends, and build relationships. The CEO of Pinterest has stated he doesn’t believe Pinterest is social media, since their mission is helping people discover. Since the main intent isn’t to build connections and start conversations, some believe this doesn’t make it a social network. Pinterest is less similar to Facebook but it’s similar to Instagram in many ways.
I voiced my thoughts throughout the article, but what do YOU think?
- Is Pinterest social media?
- Is it a social network?
- Pinterest calls itself the “un-social network”. Is this accurate or just clever branding?
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