Monday, February 20, 2012

The Dude's Guide to Understanding Pinterest

A lot of GUYS are wondering what is Pinterest and why it's generating so much buzz. There is a lot of confusing information about Pinterest out there - and the opinions and conclusions are vastly different and highly subjective depending on the gender of the author.

In the course of writing this article it will be necessary to stereotype genders. My intention is not to offend anybody - but if I do, which I inevitably will, then I offer my apologies in advance.

First let me say, I'm a straight male age 35 - and seeing as how Pinterest's user demographic is 98% female, I'm not who they're aiming for.

But as part of my job as CEO of Zoovy - I needed to find out what Pinterest was all about. I wanted to know if/how it could be employed to generate more sales for our clients. As such I set aside some time to interview both new and established Pinterest users. I also setup my own account - and spent about 3 hours with it before I signed off in frustration never to use it again. I did however understand why it's so amazing, and why it will never ever ever ever be something that any male would ever use.

First, What is Pinterest - well it's a new type of service online, and our language hasn't evolved words to describe it yet. I'll compare it to Facebook/Myspace since there seems to be a lot of people saying Pinterest will take down Facebook (which it won't, they are in fact quite complementary).
Facebook can be described as a "Social App", and Pinterest could be described as an "Obsession App". That's because Pinterest is an internet application for sharing obsessions (not social data) with both close friends, celebrities and complete random strangers. Like anything web 5.0 it works on mobile phones, tablets and web-browsers and offers a unique approach to sharing photos, links and small blurbs of text with "followers", but also for tracking what everybody else is doing beyond the scope of friends, but still within an obsession/interest grouping.

So why is PInterest so popular among females? Well first, you need a quick lesson on brain chemistry. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that makes people feel happy. Okay, now that we've covered that ..let's proceed!

Women's gender roles are often defined by style/fashion, and/or body type. Many women enjoy shopping because while shopping their brains are flooded with dopamine during the search.
For guys, we tend to experience minimal dopamine production, and instead get a dopamine reward by finishing shopping, especially if we can get it done quick.
Most scientists agree this difference in brain chemistry stems from the historical hunter/gatherer roles of men & women.

That's because women whose brains produced a steady flow of dopamine during gathering would persevere, and be more picky and meticulous, and find more berries -- which made them better gatherers. Men on the other hand, to be successful hunters - evolved brains which rewarded making fast decisions to kill prey before it scurried away. Remember: A choosey hunter is usually a hungry hunter.

But I think it's key to take a moment to acknowledge this difference in brain chemistry in order to fully appreciate why women love Pinterest, and why guys absolutely hate it.
Because Pinterest is the ultimate browsing experience. There is no end to Pinterest. Pinterest has everything on the whole Internet, neatly organized, into clean soft little containers with round edges, and its selection is continually expanding faster than any human can digest it.
Women get on this thing and there is no end to the dopamine -- their neuroreceptors are just bombarded with more and more and they go into a pseudo-catatonic and highly suggestible state.

Guys on the other hand .. well lets just say with Pinterest -- there is no boss to slay at the end, in fact there isn't an end. It's a perpetual browsing experience, so for us there is no "happy ending". For guys once the dopamine from the curiosity/initial fascination wears off you'll be left in a state of perpetual frustration using Pinterest. Instead a Pinterest for guys would probably be called "Pornterest" (and yes, it's already registered - I checked) because hot female bodies are about the only thing I can think of that I could spend more than 15 minutes browsing. Now before you jump ahead remember - everything on Pinterest is public, and anybody can find/follow anybody. It's not at all suitable for looking at "art" because when you're wife/girlfriend learns about your Pinterest folder called "Hot Racks" expect to be in for a rough night. Even worse - if she follows you, then your "Hot Racks" pics will appear on her feed automatically, and therefore her friends, sisters, and her mothers feed automatically as well -- so LFMF (Learn From My Fail). When she learns of what you did - she will be absolutely mortified, and you will inevitably end up buying flowers at Trader Joes on your way home from work.
So what does that mean: Well it means Pinterest creates a casual visual browsing experience for whatever obsession you might have. It is a totally new way of indexing the internet that is basically useless to guys, and highly addictive to females. You're probably wondering "How addictive is it really?" Well from what I've seen Pinterest is roughly as addictive to women age 23-45 as XBox Halo 3 is for guys age 18-35. Yes, it's *that* addictive, just below crack cocaine or meth. But remember, women's brains work differently - they are getting a steady flow of dopamine while they're using it. So women don't need to sit down for a 12 hour frag fest until they beat the level to get satisfaction, they can do it in 15 or 20 minute increments. That is why Pinterest needs Facebook, because women tend to need to know what their peers are doing -- and so they *need* Facebook. And then like a little parasite that attaches itself to the brain stem - and it gets into their heads, and influences their daily interaction. Women are completely unaware of the very real control it has over them - so maybe the P standards for Parasite.

Now as a guy, having a Pinterest Zombie is great - let me tell you why:
First - Pinterest tastes AMAZING -- no kidding, the recipes on it are amazing. Since my girlfriend found out about it I've probably gained 15 lbs. with all the crazy amazing food! (REMEMBER TO COMPLIMENT HER) .. plus new exciting recipes each night with lots of exotic spices. So instead of spending $100 on dinner she'd rather stay home, cook a big meal for me and drink some wine. Not only does this save serious dinero, I'm told there is nothing a woman finds more attractive than a guy doing the dishes.

Second - Pinterest will save you $$$. Women for some reason think that they're going to spend a ton of $$$ on "craftycrap" the minute they get on the site. Let them keep thinking that, agree with them, tell them it's okay. But it's not true, in their dopamine flooded states they can't do simple math (hint: that's why you shouldn't ever let a woman go into a store with your credit card -- again LFMF!!!). But the good news - based on my research - the wife/gf's net spending on craftycrap actually drops dramatically. Also their need to be fulfilled by shopping is more or less satiated, so they don't go to the actual store as much and at this moment Pinterest doesn't have buy buttons, it's kind of hard to purchase stuff. This is a great way to keep her out of the shoe store and get your closet back. Crafts cost less per hour to create than finding/buying finished products in a store, there is also less incentive to "buy before quantities run out" since things like paint, glass, rocks, foam, cake-molds, etc. are considered readily available vs. a finished product which might be seasonal or limited in time. Ultimately she's too tired from browsing Pinterest to want to go shopping -- the thought of going to the department store under the florescent lights will turn her stomach. Sorry Steve Madden and Jimmy Chu, she's found herself a new dealer who can give her the fix she needs. So guys - trust me, just buy her a tablet, put it in a comfy place and then ask her if she could use Pinterest to find an amazing sandwich recipe. (Trust me!!)

Third - Your wife/gf will likely be spending hours on this Pinterest. Take advantage of it, especially the first week while she's effectively a Pinterest Zombie -- because you'll be able to FINALLY get some guilt-free, quality gaming time in. Just make sure that you aren't in the same room, or within earshot or she'll want to show you all the things she's discovered as she's discovering them.
If all else fails make up an excuse to get out of the house -- tell her you need to go to the hardware store to buy a new sharp glass cutter for the "wine bottle into a flower pot project" she just showed you-- then go grab a beer and darts at your neighborhood pub.

Final thoughts:
Pinterest will likely have a huge impact on Facebooks average session time, and level of activity, and how female users spend their time online. I'd hate to count the value of how many farmville crops will unfortunately be lost due to neglect. It definitely won't help Facebook's advertising revenue simply because it cuts significantly into her time available to stalk old classmates and ex-boyfriends. It should also reduce the obnoxious chit-chat about those topics as well.

If you plan to date girls < 23:
From what I've seen - Pinterest does not seem to interest hot girls younger than 23. I think they are more concerned about maintaining their own ranking within social hierarchy of their peer groups. Simply put social (facebook, google+, four square, twitter) is probably where they'll be. Though I do expect there to be a large number of lonely teenage and tween girls using Pinterest to post pictures of their cats, and their favorite scenes from the latest steaming pile of twilight movie.
Popular girls who can find dates on Friday night won't be using Pinterest. PInterest won't be the new app for young hipsters. It's not social, and once it makes it's way more into our zeitgeist it's more likely it would suffer from a perception among young people that only lonely people use it. If you're going to try and hit on an 18 year, don't casually ask her if she uses Pinterest - it will probably be an insult in the near future if it isn't already.

Side Note: At the OnlineMarketingSummit tradeshow last week I learned it's possible pass off formulas of based on completely unrelated observations as scientifically accurate co-efficients. As such I am going to suggest that is possible to compute a "teenagers loneliness co-efficient" using a formula of hours spent doing: "PINTEREST + TWILIGHT / (TWITTER+ FACEBOOK + G + 4SQ + FRIENDS)+1 ". Values greater than 1 would most likely be considered unpopular. .. haha, I should sell that one to the guys at Klout.

What is the max age for Pinterest?
Well, there is no per-defined max age -- however Pinterest for whatever reason doesn't seem to appeal as well to women 55+, not sure why at this point. I suspect it has something to do with loss of ocular perception reduces the output of dopamine, or possibly the user interface is just too confusing for my mom to use. This is sort of a mixed blessing in my book -- it's great news because it means at a certain age women's urge to acquire crapknacks for the home is diminished. On the other hand it's a bummer, because my mother already guilt trips me that I don't call her enough -- she needs a hobby. But have no fear guys, I'm already working on a business plan for Kniterest.com -- how about this for a tag line: "Nothing but Knit"


-Brian

1 comment:

Josh Franklin said...

I started using Pinterest actively a couple days ago...to plan the one part of my wedding that is my choice: what I'll be wearing. I think Pinterest would be of more use if I could organize private boards for gift ideas and other such things.