Philip Ellis
News & Views
Pinterest ditches likes and ‘social network’ label

Image discovery site Pinterest is downplaying comparisons with other visual platforms and distancing itself from dominant player Facebook, even going so far as to eschew the title “social network” entirely.

Considering Facebook’s size and ever-growing monopoly of the social sphere, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if Pinterest were to sell and join the fold of Facebook-owned apps including Instagram and WhatsApp.

Instead, Pinterest is doing its utmost to carve out a unique identity in an ecosystem populated with copycat networks. The company has officially announced it intends to remove the “Like” button from its app, claiming that it is superfluous to the user experience, and that the “Save” button is more valuable to its proposition.

“While other companies want you to live in a virtual world, Pinterest encourages people to live in the real world,” says a spokesperson for the company. “We like to say, be yourself and not your selfie. There are many services out there with the mission of helping you connect and share with friends; we’re the one app exclusively in the visual discovery business.”

This recent repositioning of the platform has commentators speculating that an IPO is on the cards. Pinterest’s revenues are derived entirely from advertisers, with $500 million in projected earnings this year. It currently has 150 million monthly users, a respectable enough figure to advertisers, but small fry compared to Snapchat, which boasts the same figure per day. And then there’s Google, with its 75 per cent share of the search advertising market in the United States.

CEO Ben Silbermann acknowledges that growing Pinterest’s user base hinges not in advertising, but in improving the experience — and doing so more quickly than behemoths like Facebook and Google. “The number one challenge is getting people to understand that Pinterest isn’t a social network,” he says.

In order to achieve that goal, Pinterest is launching its first major advertising campaign in the United States this summer, across billboards, print and digital. Silbermann wants users to think of Pinterest not as a social network, but more as a “visual search engine,” a way of finding inspiration. “The hope is that you’ll get ideas for your real life, and you’ll close the app, get off your phone and try those ideas,” he says.

Ultimately, the choice of words is irrelevant. What will matter is making Pinterest different enough from other more established networks that people won’t mind adding one more to their ever-growing list of social accounts.

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