The Pin Problem – Pinterest Guided Search

Like everything in social media, the landscape evolves quickly and different “experts” have different points of view on whether each change is good or bad. Here’s our take:

Autumn on the Offense

As the fastest growing social network ever (it passed 10 million users in only 9 months), Pinterest continues to attract marketers for companies of all sizes. Pinteresters don’t seem to mind! With more and more tips for marketers on how to optimize pins, better search algorithms and the new Guided Search, is Pinterest in danger of becoming less of a social network and too much of a market place?

One side of this argument answers, “No! Jeez, just whatever! Pinterest has always been about shopping.” And by “shopping” we don’t just mean buying, but rather, browsing – for URLs to bookmark, inspiration for dinner, kids crafts with free printables, or relaxing while window shopping for fashion and home decor. Since we hardly ever use Pinterest to actually connect with other people in conversation, there’s no fear.

Brooks on the Flip Side!

I worry about the lack of organic copy. If Pinterest’s new Guided Search allows for Pins (images) to be optimized through the image meta-data, the only people interested in optimizing, much less capable of doing it, are marketers and companies. I include serious Pinners, the ones that want to be found, as marketers since their goal, like a company, is to have their contributions to the social network be repinned. But, pretty soon the Pinning Mom that takes photos of her #pinterestfails or #pinterestideas will start to fall to the wayside because they are less likely to optimize their photos and Guided Search won’t pick up their pins. Pretty soon (and very quickly), I see corporate, optimized pins as the ONLY content on Pinterest being shared!

I liken this to newspapers publishing press releases verbatim. See, as a PR writer, I carefully craft every word in a press release, then submit it to the publication. When it gets to the reporter, it says EXACTLY what I want it to say. So you’d think that when a publication prints my press release exactly how I want it, that’d be perfect, right? Sure, until the reader starts picking up on the fact that 75% of the content in the publication is reprinted from press releases (knowing now that the reporter hasn’t bothered to balance the story with opposing points of view), they start to lose trust in the publication…thus losing trust in me! They stop reading the paper. Then I have no reporters to pitch my great stories to.

I see Pinterest evolving the same way. If the Pinners are only finding images that have been meta-optimized, then they are only ever going to see corporate messaging, eliminating the organic Pinning Mom!

Kayla McGough, B&C SM Expert, Retorts

Pinterest is nothing short of a “social discovery platform.” When Pinterest first began, their thoughts on Pinners wanting to follow their circle of friends was a good way of getting the party started, but as we have evolved with the platform, I believe we’ve all realized that we don’t really care what Neighbor Nancy wants for dinner, wants her wedding to look like, or has planned for her dream home. We get to hear all of those things on the plethora of other social sites. Pinterest is about creating our own inspiration– and we want to be inspired by the best.

Guided Search provides that open-ended discovery I’ve desired without the fuss of using a bland search engine. Inspiration comes from fresh ideas and unfamiliar territory. With the majority of my “following” list all being connected, we all share the same pins so my Home Feed is often stale with reshared content. Guided Search simply offers the option of being inspired by industry leaders and the most popular Pinners from around the world. In my opinion, Pinterest has begun to bridge the gap between individual Pinners and the rest of this global, social market place. Those who prefer the “Pinning Mom” from down the street can always stick to their Home Feed.


Special Thanks to Kayla McGough for her contribution to this post. Kayla is a Social Media Marketing expert working with Barker & Christol partner Bell Media.