Pinterest: Is it Social or is it Search?

Alexis Reza | June 10, 2015

“Social media” has become an all-encompassing term that marketers sometimes throw around to mean anything digital. But Pinterest has publicly rejected “social network” to describe itself, instead identifying as a “discovery site.”

While the purpose of a social network is to connect and share with friends, Pinterest has shifted its experience to focus on what the individual user wants, which includes superior search tools and bookmarking.

Of course Pinterest does have social elements — you can follow other users, re-pin images and send private messages — but as with any brand, you need to find your niche and stick with it.

When Pinterest introduced Guided Search a year ago, the comparisons to Google were immediate — but Pinterest helps users by suggesting relevant descriptors for each search query to easily narrow down exactly the right niche content. With Google, you need to know descriptors beforehand, but Pinterest serves them up at the point of action.

Pinterest says its other major individual function is still pinning, but instead of pinning to boards to get more engagement, the purpose is to save pins for yourself for later. Social sharing in a traditional sense is to show others and then forget about it; Pinterest creates visual, niche bookmark folders.

Pinterest isn’t the first social network to evolve, but this is a great case study about putting the user first — finding a void in the market and pivoting if necessary.