Great American author and personal hero, Mark Twain, once said: “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”
This is the sentiment at the heart of the new messaging feature being offered by social media phenomena, Pinterest. Yet why would an image-based site that defines itself as a “visual discovery tool” invest time in an instant messaging feature, something that all the other big social media players (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) already have? The answer, according to Pinterest, is quite simple. In the words of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood: “All the better to interact with you, my dear.”
Last year, the company introduced the ability to send pins to other users via their internal network. While direct messaging through social media platforms is nothing new, this simple adjustment to the interface ended up being the beginning of big things that would come to shape the face of Pinterest’s future. Fast forward to now, and according to the company’s co-founder, Evan Sharp, more than two million pins are sent every day. The product’s designer, Tom Watson, sees Pinterest messages as merely completing this idea. Previously, the only way to respond to a pin sent to you would be to email the sender back. Not an impossible task, but far from streamlined in its ability to approach any kind of real collaborative efforts.
However, Pinterest is based around its capacity for people to collect ideas surrounding their projects and interests. Watson sees implementation of this new feature as an opportunity to bolster the element that makes Pinterest unique and in such a way that might just put the competition to shame. “It’s not meant to take over the entire Pinterest experience,” Watson stated. The central function of the platform as a digital pin board will remain intact. The private messaging feature is a way to fuel action beyond interaction through the site.
Instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel, Pinterest personnel instead opted to give the admittedly solidly-designed wheels a new set of tires. It’s not that they were necessarily looking to be innovative or cutting-edge as much as they aimed to be exceptional when it came to their product’s existing functionality. Instead of rushing to make something mediocre, the media outlet made calculated changes in hopes of enhancing their preexisting appeal.
The revolutionary thing about social media lies in its capacity for reciprocal interaction; the lifeblood of social media as a movement is meaningful collaboration. This messaging product, called “Conversations,” simply aims to adhere to the principle that social media involves socializing. According to Watson, “It’s more of a conversation around an object than just a quick hello.” Evan Sharp went on to say, “This is not about chatting with friends. It’s more about planning projects in your life.” The design of the feature reflects its purported intentions while being just plain impressive at the same time.
Not only can you send messages back and forth, but you can send actual pins back and forth as well. Even more impressive is the fact that the app (available now on Android, iOS, and the web) retains all of its functionality in respect to pinning options. Anything that you are able to do on the Pinterest website you are also able to do inside of the messenger. Compare this to other internal messaging products such as those used by Facebook and Twitter and there’s no question whose is the more sophisticated and intuitive tool.
Plus, Pinterest is no small enterprise to be sneezed at. USA Today recently reported that, “Pinterest is now more popular than Twitter with more than a fifth of American adults using the service, according to the Pew Research Center.” Additionally, this effort to respect the privacy of their users could be hugely advantageous when it comes to future growth of the platform’s popularity. Part of being a part of a legitimate social community involves knowing when (and how) to be discreet. In short, the evolution of Pinterest is one to be admired; it just isn’t for little girls anymore.