Why is Pinterest Powered by Women?

Photo By KEXINO from Flickr with CC license http://kexino.com/ 

When it comes to statistics about women users of the social network Pinterest I have seen numbers ranging from 50-97%. But the most recent numbers are interesting because they have some context. According to comScore (via PC World), “68 percent of Pinterest users are women, and that these women drive 85 percent of the traffic on the site.” For one thing, women are the power users of this network, driving its success and popularity. These numbers may also shed some light on why more women are using the site. The numbers suggest that men are not necessarily deterred by the site, but something about the network encourages more female participation or less male participation.

Regardless of why this is happening, the phenomenon of Pinterest is of interest to marketers. With most free services online we pay in some way. According to Forbes, marketers have a clear view of people’s interest on the site. Brands have also been finding ways to use the service to promote and engage with consumers – in many cases, women.

There has also been much talk about Pinterest as a resource for teachers. In my own experience, it seems that this applies mostly to elementary school teachers who are looking for project ideas for their students or clever DIY ideas for things around their classroom. This may go without saying, but elementary school teachers are predominantly women. As a high school teacher, I have a very active professional network online through blogs, nings, and Twitter. I have yet to add Pinterest to my network of resources, but I know there are some high school and middle school teachers who have.

Technically, anything can be pinned to a board on Pinterest. It is not as if only wedding dresses, crafts, and recipes can be pinned (these are some of the more popular categories). For example, there is “The Board of Man,” which contains pins that are particularly masculine (via NPR). (Side note: just for the record, as a male, I am also very interested in cooking and DIY projects, but maybe that’s just me). Leaving the anomalies aside, could it be that since women populated Pinterest first, that more things of interest to women began to dominate the site, which in turn prevented more men from joining? As Pinterest’s popularity was exploding 6-8 months ago, media reports of Pinterest as the woman’s social network were widespread. Was this another deterrent for new male users who did not want to associate with this girly site? While Pinterest might be known for its ease of repinning items within the network, its rise in popularity has brought with it the “pin” button on most websites and mobile reader apps. This makes it just as easy to pin a new article as it is to tweet about it. This means that men (or women) joining the site are not limited to what has already been pinned.

Could there be a more psychological explanation?

Even without science, and just from our daily life experience, we understand that the brains of men and women operate differently. It doesn’t matter which is better. In fact, it would be reductive to claim one gender psychologically superior, because they are both complex in different ways. Could something about the layout and functionality of Pinterest be more attractive to the female brain? I do not have an answer to this, but we can look at this infographic (via Huffington Post) for the beginnings of some clues. This analysis considered all things social, but I consider Pinterest a social bookmarking service, so I will compare it to another service in that category. According to the graphic, Pinterest has the largest proportion of female users. Let’s compare it to del.icio.us, another popular social bookmarker, which has the scale tipped the other way, with 64 percent male users. Clearly social bookmarking is loved by both genders. So, why the different proportions?

The thing that really sets Pinterest apart, is its clean, visual interface. It begs the question, is there something about the visual layout that not only attracts women, but allows them to really benefit from the site. Is there something about the text based world of del.icio.us, diigo, and others that allow men to thrive in their world of social bookmarking? Or is all of this hype for nothing? Is it just a coincidence, the way the cards fell with Pinterest? Is there something real here, or are we just creating a narrative to sell papers and drive traffic to our blogs and news sites?

I will continue to use diigo for bookmarking, and I don’t have plans to join Pinterest anytime soon. I’m just not sure why.

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