Content, Diversity and Gender on Pinterest

The Institute of Software Research Speaker Series hosted a presentation called  “Analysis of Social Curation on Pinterest: Content, Diversity and Gender”  with  Professor Loren Terveen from the University of Minnesota on Fri., April 11.

This presentation explained the curious attraction the social media website Pinterest has on people and the statistics on the gender disparity of online users within the Pinterest community.

Professor Terveen, a member of the GroupLens Research in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota,  began his research work during the summer of 2012 and has since worked with colleagues Eric Gilbert, Steven Chang, Vikas Kumar and Saeideh Bakhshi.

“The metaphor of Pinterest is that it’s a pin board where you can collect resources, web pages,” Professor Terveen said.

The main goal, which he elaborated upon with a Pinterest quote, is “to connect everyone in the world through the things they find interesting.”

According to the lecture, this social media site is shown to be part of the growing social media trend. Statistics have shown that Pinterest is the “fastest social media website to reach 10 million users” and that it is grew 4000 percent in 2011 alone. As of present, the site has around 50 million users.

While this site is considered another form of social media, Professor Terveen explained that the big difference between Pinterest compared to other social media sites is that, “[Pinterest] is creating collections, curating collections of things you’re interested in.” He emphasized that the site is not a social networking site, unlike Facebook and Twitter.

Professor Terveen stated that demographics showed that “a heavy proportion of the population of Pinterest is female.”

He introduced his research topics by asking, “What attracts attention? What gets your pins re-pinned? [that is reposted] What kind of behavior, what kinds of characteristics of users leads to getting followed a lot?”

According to prior research, the three factors relating to this attraction toward Pinterest were: similarity of interests, specialization and gender. With regards to interests, users online with similar interests can create boards and follow other users as well. These interests can range from sports and cars to DIY jewelry and recipes. Every and any interest seems to be a possible choice for boards.

Even more fascinating is that everything in the social media world seems to be connected to one another. “An interesting thing we can do is once they link to Twitter, we can go see what did they tweet? What did they say on Twitter?”

Professor Terveen and his team collected texts, repinning data, social network relationships, categories of pins, co-occurance and information of users’ gender. He explained that he managed to get the information by writing crawlers to “crawl the website and get the data” since there is no application program interface (API), a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications, for Pinterest.

In this research, Pinterest was also compared to Twitter, “because compared to Pinterest, we know so much about it and the data’s readily available.” He wanted to see if Pinterest and Twitter users differed systematically in what they talked about.”

According to the research, distinctive words used on Pinterest were: DIY, heart, recipe and old. For Twitter, the opposite was happening. Words such as: new, see, now and tonight were popular among users. With these two opposites in mind, Professor Terveen explained, “These statistical content analysis shows that these consumption-oriented and aspiration orientated words distinguish Pinterest from Twitter.”

Topics on Pinterest were also explored to see if gender was a factor in interests amongst users. 46.4 thousand users were used in this part of the research, with females being 30 thousand while males only accounted for 2.2 thousand within the online community. Overall, around 3 million pins were used.

According to the research, the most popular topics are food and drink, DIY and crafts, home décor, and women’s fashion. However, stereotypical gender interests were not necessarily the most popular for the users. The categories for design, art and photography were more popular for men than for women.

These findings made Terveen and his team question, “Why are there so many more women than men on Pinterest?”  Professor Terveen showed different websites, such as BuzzFeed and Gizmodo, to explain that articles online state that more women are attracted to what it has to offer. Another claim made in the article shown during the event titled, “A Social Network of One’s Own” by Amanda Marcotte which states that Pinterest is more women-orientated and based. She states that tech guru Deanna Zandt said, “There’s also a glaring lack of misogynist content, which signals to other women exploring the space that it’s cool for them to be there.”

Professor Terveen explored the world of Pinterest and explained that better personalization is key to obtaining more users, both male and female “Having the right amount of diversity is helpful in general. I also think the emphasizing of categories is helpful to people,” he stated.

“The final thing that I would recommend is really quick personalization of content.”