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Opinion Editorials

Anatomy of Pinterest’s poor communication, hatred of men

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Pinterest hates men

For months, AGBeat has led the conversation about Pinterest, introducing the visual bookmarking site to you last fall, showing you tips and tricks and how to use it for business, but one question plagues the skyrocketing social network – is there a place for men on Pinterest? Our knee-jerk reaction is annoyance that of course men are welcomed, in fact, 30 percent of AGBeat’s Pinterest followers are male, and 35 percent of my personal Pinterest account followers are men, and I would add that the men in our networks are extremely active, moreso than most of the women. So why the idea that Pinterest is a lady site?

First, the site is pink and red and the font is a charcoal grey instead of black. Very feminine. Second, even after achieving 10 million monthly users, the about page still reads, “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.” Seriously, Pinterest? Why not just place a sign like the one designed above that shows hot chicks that says “no boys allowed” on the landing page!?

What is most bothersome is not that Pinterest continues to push toward a niche, there is nothing wrong with targeting a demographic, but for tech bloggers to perpetuate that it is a lady site, as is often done with a condescending tone, as in “oh look at the cute housewives with tiny brains pinning pictures of fancy things they’ll never have.” Yes, that is an exaggeration, but it is very similar to what has come up in personal conversations. The assertion by bloggers is almost that the male users, especially creatives, are feminine and belong in the ladies’ restroom. Intolerable.

Meanwhile, brands are quietly taking the site by storm and not exactly in a stupid housewife way, but in ways that crowdsource products and projects, research and connect with consumers, and brand content and ideas. While the site may believe itself to be feminine, one in three of our connections would argue otherwise.

Pinterest has some real problems

Pinterest has a real problem, and not because of their less-than-upfront revenue stream of swapping out your links with their own affiliate links. The real problem is that the team is not out front in any way. The team has no meaningful social media outreach, nor a meaningful press outreach, and as users reach out to ask questions or make suggestions, they remain quiet – look at how many stories have been written by us and other news outlets that cite Pinterest had no comment or failed to respond to any email contacts. This is a communications problem with Pinterest that could easily be solved, even if to simply assuage fans and keep them on board – remember, as anything find success, it immediately finds its haters because people like to have discovered tools yet abandon them when they go mainstream.

Pinterest should hate men

Marketing Manager Eugene Hsu, who formerly worked at the Cheezburger Network and Challenge Games (Zynga) wrote a blog today entitled “Pinterest hates men” and points out some unseen potholes that lie ahead for Pinterest. “If Pinterest does not hate men, it should. Pinterest doesn’t need to kick out the men, but they need to keep the site “pretty” and “clean” to ensure they don’t lose their strongest demographic and their future to monetize off of that audience.”

Hsu also noted, “As the popularity on Pinterest grows, more men will sign-up for this site, and that will change content from women-only into more PG-rated tumblr content. Likely teenage boys will finally hit the site realizing that all the women have gone to Pinterest, and then there will be some serious issues with signal to noise ratios and NSFW content. Pinterest better have some better segmentation and filter mechanisms in-place soon so they can maintain their core audience.”

The takeaway

Yes, Pinterest was originally targeting women, but their user culture has determined that it is far more useful than for just pinning wedding dresses. Pinterest has a communications problem in that they have no strategy and I would question if they even have a communications staff. They are quiet and many find that to be off-putting and indicative of deceptiveness. They are ignoring their user growth and continuing to cater to women which is fine, it is there prerogative as a private company, but their growth we are all praising is limited if user behavior is ignored.

Will these problems kill Pinterest? No. Will we leave Pinterest because they are silent, poor communicators that appear to value their own methods over what their users are asking for? No. Will men eventually flock to Pinterest despite the pink background and bloggers implying it’s a site for housewives? Yes. We look forward to the growth of Pinterest, we use it every day, and we really enjoy it professionally and personally, but the long term growth is limited by the Wizard of Oz curtain the company has put themselves behind, especially when it comes to male users.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. andrea

    February 9, 2012 at 9:05 am

    You are spot on with this, Lani. Pinterest totally went after the easy demographic – the one they knew would latch on quickly and help make the site grow to over 11+ million users. The question: was this the smart choice? Is it easier/better to grow your product staying focused on what you know (think) your target audience is? I say heck yeah! Do one thing right and then expand..after all, you can't be all things to all people.

    I also think you are right about the lack of a communications team. I imagine Pinterest was started by a couple of dudes who are total techies – not savvy communicators. I bet they are doing some quick hiring, though.

    Thanks for staying on top of Pinterest trends and news. You know my love of the site and I hope they don't get to big for their britches.

  2. herman chan

    February 10, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    lani
    u nailed the pin on the head, so to speak!

    curious, why this has not been a highly commented/forwarded story? do u think ppl suspect pinterest is the quora of 2012?

  3. Dawn-Hamilton Color Lab

    February 24, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Being a woman, and finding Pinterest first personally, then using it professionally. I LIKE how it's being launched. I'm not a techie, but think about it.

    I loved being on Facebook in 1997 before all the apps, games, and "noise", I love being on Pinterest because it's still clean, personal and actually useful. It's word of mouth, it's invitation only, people want what they can't actually access easily, it's marketing genius. Makes those who get an "invitation" feel special and those that don't want to join.

    So let it sit back and grow in popularity. Who knows what's going on behind the scenes. Right now it's driving traffic and those with creative minds can come up with how to use it commercially. The public and SM wonks don't have to take control of it yet.

  4. vinnie mirchandani

    February 29, 2012 at 10:08 am

    just what we need – a gender war over photos. Clint Eastwood is about to commit suicide off the bridge in Madison County:)

  5. Liz

    March 8, 2012 at 7:10 am

    The issue doesn’t seem to be that Pinterest hates men; the issue, based on this article, seems to be that the tech community hates women, what with their inferior interests and inclinations.

    I mean, “housewives?” Really? You couldn’t pick a more derogatory term to try and describe the user base?

    The site is used by design bloggers, art directors, style leaders, graphic professionals, interior designers, party and wedding planners–not all of whom are women, by the way. They are simply sparking to the notion of visual curation, as opposed to the text-heavy diggs and stumbles of the world.

    How threatening it must be that something huge happening in the technology space right now that doesn’t feel manly.

  6. Elle

    March 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    When I read this article, I could not see anything but RED, er should I say pink? How infuriating. @Liz, your comment is wonderfully thought out and well-written. I think even us “stupid housewives” can understand it. Never mind the fact, I have a college degree, I work outside the home (another bad thing, I know), mother of two…oh no…GIRLS!
    Let’s go back to cave times, shall we?

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Opinion Editorials

5 ways to grow your entrepreneur business without shaming others

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) We all need support as business owners. Let’s talk ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur that do not include shaming your competition.

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Entrepreneur women all talking around a meeting table.

The year 2020 has forced everyone to re-assess their priorities and given us the most uncertain set of circumstances we have lived through. For businesses and entrepreneurs, they were faced with having to confront new business scenarios quickly. Maybe your entrepreneur business was set to thrive as behaviors changed (maybe you already offered contactless products and services). Or, you were forced to add virtual components or find new revenue streams – immediately. This has been tough.

Every single person is having a hard time with the adjustments and most likely at different stages than others. We’re at the 6-month mark, and each of our timelines are going to look different. Our emotions have greeted us differently too, whether we have felt relief, grief, excitement, fear, hope, determination, or just plain exhaustion.

Now that we are participating in life a bit more virtually than in 2019, this is a good time to re-visit the pros and cons of the influence of technology and marketing outreach online. It’s also a great time to throw old entrepreneur rules out the window and create a better sense of community where you can.

Here’s an alluring article, “Now Is Not the Time for ‘Mom Shaming’”, that gives an example from about a decade ago of how the popularity of mommy bloggers grew by women sharing their parenting “hacks”, tips, or even recipes and crafting ideas via online posts and blogs. As the blog entries grew, so did other moms comparing themselves and/or feeling inadequate. Some of the responses were natural and some may have been coming from a place of defensiveness. Moms are not alone in looking for resources, articles, materials, and friends to tell us we’re doing ok. We just need to be told “You are doing fine.”

Luckily, some moms in Connecticut decided to declare an end to “Mom Wars” and created a photo shoot that shared examples of how each mom had a right to their choices in parenting. It seemed to reinforce the message of, “You are doing fine.” I don’t know about you, but my recent google searches of “Is it ok to have my 3-year old go to bed with the iPad” are pretty much destined to get me in trouble with her pediatrician. I’m hoping that during a global pandemic, “I am doing fine.”

Comparing this scenario to the entrepreneur world, often times your business is your baby. You have worn many hats to keep it alive. You have built the concept and ideas, nurtured the products and services with sweat, tears, and maybe some laughs. You have spent countless hours researching, experimenting, and trying processes and marketing tactics that work for you. You have been asked to “pivot” this year like so many others (sick of that word? Me too).

Here are some ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur (or at least, ideas worth considering if you haven’t already):

  1. It’s about the questions you ask yourself. How does your product or service help or serve others (vs. solely asking how do I get more customers?) This may lead to new ideas or income streams.
  2. Consider a collaboration or a partnership – even if they seem like the competition. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
  3. Stop inadvertently shaming the competition by critiquing what they do. It’s really obvious on your Instagram. Try changing the narrative to how you help others.
  4. Revisit the poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and re-visit it often. “And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
  5. Join a community, celebrate others’ success, and try to share some positivity without being asked to do so. Ideas include: Likes/endorsements, recommendations on LinkedIn for your vendor contacts, positive Google or Yelp reviews for fellow small business owners.

It seems like we really could use more kindness and empathy right now. So what if we look for the help and support of others in our entrepreneurial universe versus comparing and defending our different way of doing things?

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Opinion Editorials

Can we combat grind culture and injustice with a nap?

(OPINION EDITORIALS) A global pandemic and a climate of racial injustice may require fresh thinking and a new approach from what grind culture has taught us.

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Sleeping cat with plant, fighting grind culture.

Information is delivered to us at warp speed with access to television, radio, and the internet (and more specifically, social media). We are inundated with messages. Oftentimes they’re personalized by something that a friend or family shared. Other times we manage them for work, school, or just keeping up with news. Many entrepreneurs already wear many hats and burn the midnight oil.

During this global pandemic, COVID-19, we have also seen a rise in awareness and attention to social injustice and systemic racism. This is not a new concept, as we all know. But it did feel like the attention was advanced exponentially by the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020. Many people and entrepreneurs felt called to action (or at least experienced self-reflection). And yet they were working at all hours to evolve their businesses to survive. All of this happening simultaneously may have felt like a struggle while they tried to figure out exactly they can do.

There are some incredible thought leaders – and with limited time, it can be as simple as checking them out on Instagram. These public figures give ideas around what to be aware of and how to make sure you are leveling up your awareness.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Center for Antiracist Research – he has been studying anti-racism and has several books and interviews that help give language to what has been happening in our country for centuries. His content also delves into why and how white people have believed they are more than people of color. Here is a great interview he did with Brené Brown on her Unlocking Us podcast.

Tamika Mallory – American activist and one of the leading organizers of the 2017 Women’s March. She has been fighting for justice to be brought upon the officers that killed Breonna Taylor on March 13. These are among other efforts around the country to push back on gun control, feminist issues, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Brené Brown – research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She has been listening and engaging on how racism and our shame intersect. She also speaks about how people can reflect on themselves and where they can take action to better our society. She has some antiracism resources on her website.

With all of this information and the change in our daily routines and work habits (or business adjustments), what is a fresh approach or possibly a new angle that you haven’t been able to consider?

There is one social channel against grind culture that may not be as well-known. At an initial glance, you may even perceive this place as a spoof Twitter and Instagram that is just telling you to take a nap. But hold on, it’s actually much smarter than that. The description says “We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations. We install Nap Experiences. Founding in 2016.”

It might be a great time for you to check out The Nap Ministry, inspired by Tricia Hersey. White people are called to action, and people of color are expressly told to give time to taking care of themselves. Ultimately, it goes both ways – everyone needs the time to recharge and recuperate. But people of color especially are being told to value their rest more than the grind culture. Yes, you’re being told you need to manage your mental health and include self-care in your schedule.

Through The Nap Ministry, Tricia “examines rest as a form of resistance by curating safe spaces for the community to rest via Collective Napping Experiences, immersive workshops, and performance art installations.”

“In this incredibly rich offering, we speak with Tricia on the myths of grind culture, rest as resistance, and reclaiming our imaginative power through sleep. Capitalism and white supremacy have tricked us into believing that our self-worth is tied to our productivity. Tricia shares with us the revolutionary power of rest.” They have even explored embracing sleep as a political act.

Let this allow you to take a deep breath and sigh – it is a must that you take care of yourself to take care of your business as well as your customers and your community. And yes, keep your drive and desire to “get to work”. But not at your expense for the old grind culture narrative.

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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