Pinterest’s Uber Growth, Theories, & Digital Self-Actualization

Pinterest is the hot new “it” in social media. Everyone’s talking/posting about it…with reason.

This morning the smart & wonderful Sarah Evans (@prsarahevans) tweeted:

If you click through to the article by Janet Aronica you’ll see that Pinterest was the 5th largest referrer in Dec ‘11 and Jan ‘12 plus it grew faster than Facebook in Jan. Wow! 

Ian Schafer (@ianschafer) of Deep Focus quickly responded back to Sarah tweeting:

Ian’s theory:

Pinterest is half-shopping.

It’s the next best thing to accumulating items, but without the cost associated with actually buying them. It’s a locker where you store the things you want, the things you find interesting, the things you want people to know you’ve found — each of which is a major psychological driver in the process of retail therapy, without the cash (or credit) expenditure.

It’s why some people tweet photos of their sneakers. Why some people snap pictures of their food. Acquiring what we want or desire is an achievement, and displaying that achievement is a trophy that sets us apart from others. We’ve become accustomed to this. Now you can do it without even buying it. It’s not the real thing, but it may be the next best thing. Especially in trying economic times. Our bank accounts may change, but our behaviors find a way to adapt.

My sister told me about Pinterest last summer when I asked her if she knew about Tumblr. I had her show me how she was using it and I thought, “Huh? It’s looks like the archive view of Tumblr.” I was being the smarty pants older brother but I did come to like the photo interface of her feed but it seemed to me that Pinterest was just a collection of photos - like a digital scrapbook of stuff…that “women” are interested in.  

Fast forward to Super Bowl Sunday and I had a similar experience as Ian except “the women” in my family were THREE generations and they were looking at stuff on my Mom’s iPad (the kids were playing games on their Apple handhelds and phones and never watched the game…uh NFL are you listening?).  

Half-shopping. I think Ian’s onto something. There really isn’t any difference between retail therapy shopping at a mall and retail therapy online. Notice I didn’t say buying…I said shopping. And that’s the big difference. People, and lots of women, like to shop. 

I remember my Mom, Tias, and Abuelita religiously shopping at malls every Monday when I was little. It was their weekly “thing” like Sunday Mass.  They rarely purchased anything. They’d try on dresses and shoes. Money was tight and they were always looking for a sale. Sometimes they’d put something on layaway but that was rare.

So in a way my mom, wife, sister, and niece were replicating the shopping activity from years ago as they huddled around the iPad. I can see why retailers are hot for those eyeballs. Pin stuff on “virtual layaway” while they’re half shopping on Pinterest, share it with the world…and it’s yours virtually. 

My friend Doug (@tourpro) responded to my Sarah Evans retweet and we had the following exchange:

Self-Actualization. Digital Self-Actualization. Maslow. Marketing-bait. Whoa.

Then again, is there really anything wrong with “digital self-actualization” whether it’s via gaming, blogging, or collecting? It’s still self-actualization and rewarding regardless of where it happens. While activities like gaming or being in front of a computer/phone/tablet can be isolating, they’re massive enhanced when the “social” from social media is baked in.  

And then for Pinterest, there’s the retail holy grail of commerce conversion. That’s a big time "to be continued." Stay Tuned.