Pinterest is Harnessing Collective Intelligence

I love pinterest. I do. I’m like a newly converted zealot: checking for images I can post on my board, looking back over the images I’ve pinned and seeing if there are new inspirations I can find and include. My name is Amanda and I’m a pinaddict.

I used to keep inspirational images  through my bookmarks – using pinterest I could visually categorise and organise these images on a single page, a much better result achieved in minutes – I was immediately rewarded. The application very kindly suggested some expert pinsters I should follow and I was intuitively led along the social aspects of the platform: these expert pinsters modelling the social etiquette required by the platform.

Each time I pinned an image, other users would be re-pinning my images leading me to repin other images myself. The more each of the millions of users pins images onto their boards the richer the images database becomes and building a collective categorisation and structure of individual images from across the web.

Users build valuable intelligence explicitly through suggesting categorisation of image collections and implicitly through how they group images, what images they like and which other groups they follow. When I land on the pinterest site I see a very different view of latest images (from users I haven’t explicitly followed) than I see when I login with my account. When I login with my account I see images that clearly reference my own boards, perhaps images of actors from the glory days of Edith Head’s costume designing, reflecting my many images of her designs. Evidence that pinterest is building a deeper taxonomy of images than the explicit user categorisation.

Something that pinterest does particularly well is that it extends the network effect to other platforms such as blogs. Each image is linked to its source, leading interested users to look further into the source, for example, for the recipe for a delicious looking dessert, or for more images from the same photographer.

There is a clear value to advertisers who are happy to exploit a more passive way to advertise. Retail products with images that appeal may be linked back to the shops online presence or linked through attribution in the comment, depending on the source of the image. It will be interesting to see which advertisers are successful navigating this sales channel, I suspect it won’t be those with explicit sales pitches, rather it will be those that successfully create attractive images and those that engage with the community through creating their own boards, liking, pinning and repinning other users’ images. Unlike other social media applications in their infancy, like facebook and twitter, it is easy to see a path from advertisers making money to the platform returning value to its investors. Whether this is a path that will be followed will be interesting to watch.

Pinterest is a relative youngster on the social media scene and it has been very effective in engaging with its community to improve the application: one case in point being Kirsten Kowalski who raised copyright issues and has since engaged with her as an individual and through her to the wider community to work out how to address these.