If you’re an avid Pinterest user (or pinner, as the site prefers) you may have noticed a change to the search results you get on the site. Specifically, if you’re a man your search results just got a lot, well, manlier.
That’s because Pinterest now changes which search results you see depending on whether you’re registered as a male or female. The change was first picked up by the Wall Street Journal, and since confirmed by Pinterest. Search results for thousands of terms are customized based on gender, sometimes looking almost completely different for men and women.
This is a marketing move on Pinterest’s part, and only the latest in a series of efforts to attract more male users. Out of nearly 73 million pinners, over 70 percent are estimated to be women, and being outnumbered can turn off male users. Pinterest can’t change that overnight, but it can modulate its most visible effect: search results. After all, if searches bring back results that are skewed heavily toward women, men may not find the site useful or interesting. But if they get their own pool of male-oriented results, they may not even notice the gender imbalance.
Who Determines What Men and Women Like?
If you know much about gender roles, all this may be raising a huge red flag for you. Who gets to choose which results men see, and which results women see? What images count as manly or womanly? The idea of serving the genders different results sounds recursive, as if men can only handle race cars and footballs while women get flowers and dresses.
But Pinterest seems to have gotten around that. No one, in fact, chooses which results are for men and which ones are for women… except the users themselves. Men’s search results are drawn from images pinned by other men, and women’s results come from other women. So it’s a self-reinforcing system; whatever a gender likes to pin is exactly what that gender is shown.
That’s far from perfect, but it does take out the arbitrary nature of gendering search results—and it will be useful to many users, whether looking for outfit ideas or hoping to get fitness tips. Users can also opt out (by simply not selecting a gender on their profile) or peek across the aisle (search “guides” allow you to see the other gender’s results).
The Trans Factor
While the new search results will likely be better for most men and women, they’ll also be a whole lot worse for one group of users: transgender individuals. People who identify as transgender often resent being forced to choose “male” or “female,” and some of them don’t identify with either one.
It’s fair to say that transgender users make up a very small percentage of Pinterest’s user community. But out of 70 million users, that could still be hundreds of thousands of people. And unlike almost any other business, Pinterest is in a position to serve trans users without alienating anyone else. It would be as simple as adding an “other” option under gender, and then populating those users’ search results with pins posted by “other” users. It’s exactly the same algorithm as what Pinterest already uses, and users who identify as male or female wouldn’t see any change.
From a marketing perspective, this would be an easy, low risk way for Pinterest to win major points with an underserved community—and possibly become a major platform for that community.
In the meanwhile, brands that aim at men or women specifically (or have product options for each) will find that they have more reach on Pinterest, but only if they can get users of the appropriate gender to pin their content in the first place. Doing that requires great content and a great social media strategy, two things EverSpark specializes in. Contact us for a free consultation today.
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