What, if anything, is Pinterest good for?

Image for post
Image for post

I’m fascinated by Pinterest but I don’t really get it. Or maybe, as I suspect, there isn’t really anything to get. When I Google to try to find out how to use it effectively, I get a deluge of hits from marketing gurus about how it’s great for “driving traffic” and getting millions of page views. This is garbage. If I know one thing about Pinterest, it’s that it’s not as good at attracting visitors to your site as the marketers would like you to believe. Those page views? I’ve seen suggestions that they’re mainly just requests for the image you pinned. I don’t think this is true, but it’s hard to find out for sure. Either way, the marketers who dominate the search results are trying to con you, or themselves — or both. At most, all these “views” accomplish is to make your “brand” a tiny bit more familiar to somebody. The infinitesimal gain is clearly not worth the effort of finding or creating and pinning those images.

But if you ignore the search results urging you to use Pinterest as a marketing tool, what’s left? Is there anything else you can use Pinterest for? At this point, I’ve deactivated my Pinterest account twice and I’m now giving it a third try. I originally signed up for a business account but (for reasons which I can’t quite remember) I concluded that that had been a mistake and I now have a regular personal account. Among other things, that means that I don’t see any analytics (or to use an arguably more accurate term, vanity metrics). I currently have only 7 followers! (Still, a growth rate of 600% over the two months or so since I originally drafted this post.) That compares with 4,900 on Mix (an increase of just 20% over the same two-month period). Mix reminds me of Pinterest in some ways, though the aim on Mix is to “curate content” for other users to discover, whereas that on Pinterest is … well, that’s what I’m trying to find out). I think I need to stop thinking of Pinterest as a way to attract potential readers and instead try to see it as an organizing and search tool.

The problem with using Pinterest for search is that it matches things on the basis of their visual properties, not their semantic ones, so that it once suggested a pin about eye makeup for my Short Stories board! In spite of what its CEO says, I haven’t found Pinterest very useful as a visual search engine (or at least, if it has led me to useful finds, I haven’t noticed that it was Pinterest that did the trick).

As I tick off the things I don’t find Pinterest useful for, it’s becoming clearer to me why I continue to want to use it. Books. Book covers have the right proportions to make ideal pins. That’s why I’ve got several boards on the subject of books: books whose covers I like, books I think I might want to read, books I’ve reviewed and so on. It’s nice to get that clarified.

Update 24 August 2019: I’ve come to the conclusion that Pinterest’s fascination for me has more to do with the site’s (and the app’s) visual layout than with anything of which I (as somebody lacking a visual sense) would have been cognitively aware: Pinterest “breaks” the grid.

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