Should you focus more marketing on Pinterest?

New research underscores the assumption that women are most active on the fast-growing social network, but men actually have a higher average number of followers.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Is your marketing team paying enough attention to Pinterest? If you think it's mainly women who gather on the site, it might be time to recalibrate your thinking about the social network -- which reached 10 million followers quickly than any other big social community.

Pinterest is focused on collections of photographs and images, which members organize into boards and other collages. Its potential as a network for driving e-commerce sales or local visits to places such as restaurants has been explored in numerous articles, but there hasn't been all much statistical analysis about members' usage habits available for businesses to consider.

That just changed, in the form of new research by Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing and the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering (presented in a paper called "I Need to Try This). The researchers looked at the activity associated with close to 1 million pinners, and also considered in the context of other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.

As has been reported, women are using the site much more heavily than men -- more than 80 percent of the pinners that the researchers studied were women. Overall, their data suggests that female users tend to inspire more "repins" -- but male members usually have more followers, which suggests that they could individually far more influential than previously assumed.

"It would be interesting to do further analysis of the effects of gender on Pinterest interaction;  indeed we plan to do so," write the researchers in their paper. "This would strengthen the contrast to findings from male-dominated sites like Wikipedia. For example, we would like to know whether men and women connect more to other users of the same gender or another gender, whether women and men are more likely to repin pins from users of the same gender, whether men and women favor different vocabulary terms in their descriptions and comments, and whether men or women focus on different topics in their pins and comments." 

The researchers also make a point of differentiating Pinterest users from Twitter users, mainly because there is a lot of research already available surrounding the latter social network.

The data points to a dramatic difference in the way that people use the two. While Twitter activity is centered on consumption of news and information, Pinterest browsing suggests that consumption (of a product or service) is at the root of the visit. That finding is based on their frequent usage of certain verbs, including "want" or "need," according to the researchers.

"Words encapsulate the intent of people, revealing the motivations behind their actions," said Eric Gilbert, assistant professor at Georgia Tech, and one of the lead researchers. "You can use the word 'this' after all of these verbs, reflecting the 'things' at the core of Pinterest. Many press articles have focused on Pinterest's commercial potential, and here we see verbs illustrating that consumption truly lies at the heart of the site."

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