The biggest news story in past months has been the explosion of Pinterest into the social media world. As the media continued to provide commentary and analysis on Pinterest’s fast growth, this image-driven social channel continued to expand in ways users—and media—hadn’t expected.
CNN Fortune reported March 22: “In March the site registered 17.8 million users, according to Comscore, a 52% jump in just one month — and it isn’t even open to everyone (would-be “pinners” must still request an invitation to join).”
Pinterest provides the service and location for the aggregation of images and videos onto digital “pinboards” categorized by the account holder. Users can pin images and videos from any online source, follow other users’ boards, repin pins from other user’s boards, search for terms used in pins, and comment on or like users’ pins.
Replace each italicized word with the Twitter equivalent—pin=tweet, boards=handle, repin=retween, comment on=reply/mention, like=favorite.
Many articles have referenced the two social media channels in the same breath—and how could they not, when Comscore reported Twitter the #2 and Pinterest the #3 most-used social network in the world? But what many analysts fail to opine about are the distinct similarities between Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
At its core, Tumblr is a microblogging tool that publishes long and short text, images, video, and audio files. But although each user’s site functions technically as a blog, the reality is that most Tumblr accounts read as continuously updated collections of multimedia, typically centered around two to four categories that interest the user.
Blog posts can be re-blogged by clicking one button, just as pins can be repinned and tweets can be retweeted. Posts can be commented on by other Tumblr users, just as with Pinterest and Twitter. Posts can be liked by other Tumblr users by clicking one button, just as with Pinterest and Twitter. Posts can be tagged, like pins and tweets, and the tags are searchable on the site.
Here’s what happened:
Twitter saw Tumblr and said, “This is a great idea for text…but it needs focus.” Tweets were created, giving users 140 characters to say everything they needed to say, but each tweet was given the function options offered on Tumblr—retweeting/reblogging, hashtagging/tagging, replying/commenting, and following. Over time, Twitter began allowing images, video, audio, and everything Tumblr had always allowed (minus long text, of course). Twitter saw the Tumblr short text publishing model and said, “Me, too.”
Pinterest saw Tumblr and said, “This is a great idea for images…but it needs focus.” Boards were created, giving users the opportunity to add any image seen online to a digital space categorized by the other images in that space. Each image had a caption (tag), each image could be repinned (reblogged) by other users, each image could be commented on by other users, and each board or pinner could be followed by other users. Pinterest saw the Tumblr image publishing model and said, “Me, too.”
Twitter and Pinterest, touted for being innovators in the social networking age, are really just the simple children of Tumblr. Any success to be had comes from the hard work (and great genes) of Tumblr, the digital daddy of Pinterest and Twitter.