Academic Study Probes Pinterest Purchasing Phenomenon

By Cameron Scott 

pinterest, social media, social networks, facebook, twitterIn what appears to be the first academic study [pdf] devoted to Pinterest usage, scholars Eric Gilbert and Loren Terveen conclude that Pinterest’s image-based platform taps in to consumer demand.

The site has earned a reputation for driving more traffic, and more sales conversions, than other social networks.

Four verbs that appeared repeatedly in user content differentiated Pinterest activity from activity on Twitter, the study found: use, look, want and need.

“Those four verbs uniquely describe Pinterest and are particularly interesting. Words encapsulate the intent of people, revealing the motivations behind their actions. You can use the word ‘this’ after all of these verbs, reflecting the ‘things’ at the core of Pinterest. Many press articles have focused on Pinterest’s commercial potential, and here we see verbs illustrating that consumption truly lies at the heart of the site,” said Gilbert, who leads the Comp.Social Lab at Georgia Tech.

The study didn’t address why Pinterest has skews more markedly toward female users than other social networks, but it did find that women generate more repins on the site while men accumulate more followers.

The male users identified in the sample, which focused on recent pins, were largely European, while the female users were mainly American. Among Pinterest’s U.S. users, four-fifths are female, but in the U.K. fewer than half are.