Why Pinterest isn't a Social Network

Why Pinterest Isn’t a Social Network – And That’s OK

Why Pinterest isn't a Social Network http://scalablesocialmedia.com/2015/01/pinterest-social-search/ via @scalablesocialEven though Pinterest gets lumped in with Facebook, Twitter, and especially Instagram as a “social network,” it’s much like a search engine than a social media platform.

Sure, it has some social components like tagging and messaging, but by design, it is a discovery platform. Guided search, interests, related (or “picked for you”) pins, promoted pins – they’re all designed to help you discover something new.

That said, using the social elements of Pinterest can help you and your business stand out, so give them a try!

Pinterest’s Social Elements – It LOOKS Social!


You can (sometimes – it’s buggy) tag someone in a pin to give credit to the author of a post you’re pinning, to be chatty, or just to draw someone’s attention to a pin (“Hey, @Tinausernamehere, you need to check out these running tights!”). This is a feature that isn’t often used, so if you’re trying to get someone’s attention on Pinterest – give it a try! Just type “@” and start typing their username and you’ll be able to choose the user from a list (usually).


I would argue that this isn’t so much social as it is incidental. On Twitter, Facebook or Google+ we often repost an update because we think our followers will enjoy it. On Pinterest, the average Pinterest is repinning for their own benefit. While this will increase exposure for the pin, the intent is different, and therefore less social than practical. Something like 80% of all pins are repins, so repinning someone’s pins is not the best way to tell them you love their content – the repin notifications get lost in the stream…


For some reason, maybe because you have to open a pin in order to be the first to comment, commenting just doesn’t happen very often on Pinterest. I see the occasional “Thanks for pinning!” comment, but more often when a pin is crazy popular, the spammers will start commenting on them. Annoying. Delete. Comment meaningfully if you want to make a connection.


This is a great addition to social on Pinterest, but it’s rarely used. I suspect people just aren’t in a chatty frame of mind most of the time they’re pinning. It is a fantastic way to stand out as an individual or a brand, however. Give it a try! You can message pinners who are following at least one of your boards.

Group Boards

Group boards are the Google+ communities of Pinterest. Some are good, but many spammy and they often fizzle out. They provide a wonderful means for collaborating on a project, or just for a group of like-minded people to share some of their favorite content. Private group boards can be exceptionally social, providing a feeling of exclusivity and community – but they don’t do anything to directly grow your Pinterest account. And that’s OK.

What Pinterest Wants Us to Do – Discover & Buy

As a marketer, I long for a way to create a list or circle of certain pinners whose content I always want to see. Alas, there is not.  I’m guessing the omission is by design. If I can just look at material from a limited list of pinners, I might not discover something new – and that is what Pinterest is all about. Instead, I have a short mental list of favorites I check in with on a regular basis (this means you, Jeff, Peg, and Vincent!). These are people whose links I never need to double check – and they share great stuff. Yay!

Last year, Pinterest also clamped down on “Pin it to win it” contests, making it nearly impossible to run a beneficial contest on Pinterest. I believe this is by design as well. It looks like Pinterest would rather we find content from all sorts of sources rather than develop a loyalty to one individual or brand. As a marketer, I protest! As a user, I get it. In a way, it levels the playing field a little more. Well, it did until smart feed came along. Read more about smart feed here.

Why Pinterest Strikes a Nice Balance Between Search, Discovery, and Social

If we REALLY want to be social on Pinterest, we can be. If we want to search for something specific, we can – and smart feed makes it really easy to filter more and more tightly. In fact, Pinterest has replaced Google as my go-to search engine for most personal searches. I would much rather look for “shin splint remedies” on Pinterest. Why? Because I like pictures 🙂 In the process I might discover a new blog to follow, some new gear to buy, or new pinners to follow or invite to my group board. My specific search often turns into a wonderland of discovery.

This balance works well for consumers AND marketers, making Pinterest a destination rather than a tool. The more time people spend on Pinterest, the better for businesses in the long run, and Pinterest seems committed to the kind of user experience that will guarantee that. Even promoted pins don’t seem to bother people too much  – AND they work great for getting affordable exposure to your content.

So, as much as Pinterest may not fit the mold of “social,” and as much as I still wish we had lists, overall, the direction they’re taking seems good for all of us. What do you think? Tell me, won’t you?


Article Name
Why Pinterest Isn’t a Social Network – And That’s OK
Pinterest gets lumped in with other "social networks," but look closely at the way it’s designed and the way people use it and it’s clear – Pinterest is a completely different place. PS – you can use this to your advantage.

About the Author Alisa Meredith (311 Posts)

As co-owner and chief inbound marketing consultant at Scalable Social Media, Alisa Meredith spends a lot of time keeping up with online marketing trends for the benefit of our customers. Computers have been a passion of hers since her first T1-99, so inbound and social media marketing is a natural fit.


  1. Vijee Djega

    Hi Alisa,
    Nice article, interesting input. I’ve been using pinterest for a while now, and I agree with you. Just recently, quite by accident I discovered that it is a handy search engine, esp. if one is clear and concise in what one is searching for.

    • Alisa Meredith

      Thanks for your comment, Vijee! It is, and Pinterest makes it better all the time. Happy pinning!

  2. Great post! People definitely find things to buy or make on Pinterest. It could be really social if we make it social. I don’t really use it for my search engine though. I’m still a google girl. Thanks for writing!

    • Alisa Meredith

      That’s true – the ability is right there, Anna! Yeah, I still use Google for a lot of things, it just depends on what I’m looking for. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I never found pinterest to be a social networks.
    No one was their to hangout and have fun.
    Most of people there are to find images related to Information .
    And this thing made it different from everything else.

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