Pinterest’s Product Problem: Where Are The Men?

by drjim on December 14, 2015

Pininterest is quite popular, just not with men

Pininterest is quite popular, just not with men
Image Credit: Mark Morgan

In the world of social media, few firms have become quite as large as quickly as Pinterest has – clearly they have a very good product development definition. This social networking site allows visitors to “pin” images that they find on the Internet on their page and then share these pins with others. As a product manager, if we found ourselves in charge of a product like Pinterest, I’m pretty sure that we’d be feeling quite proud of ourselves and what our product manager resume looked like. However, even in the world of Pinterest there is trouble brewing. It turns out that the majority of their users are women – men just don’t seem to pin. What can be done to fix this problem?

The Problem With Men

Let’s face it: Pinterest is pretty much like an online version of scrapbooking. You know, scrapbooking is when women get together and put all of the photos that they’ve taken of their children, family, dogs, etc. into big binders decorated with lots of memorabilia and flourishes. Generally speaking, guys don’t participate in this kind of activity. Pinterest’s statistics appear to reflect this: last month 71% of the visitors to Pinterest were women. Clearly there is an imbalance here.

Pinterest is doing very, very well. Stats show that 42% of online U.S. women visit the site. However, Those same stats are showing that just 13% of U.S. men are visiting the site. The reasons for such a low male rate of visitors is somewhat complex. The product managers at Pinterest want the site to become a go-to destination for people who want to find things. Their tag line is “We want to do for discovery what Google did for search.”

When the Pinterest product managers talk with men about the site, what they discover is that there is a perception that the site is designed for women. The initial success of the site was based on women visiting it and that caused even more women to come to it. When men visit the site they have difficulty finding the things that they are interested in. Additionally, when they search the site, they are presented with a lot of “women friendly” results that they may not be interested in.

How To Get Men To Pin

Success is a wonderful thing, but it’s not going to do you a lot of good if you are not able to attract half of the planet’s population to visit your site. Clearly the Pinterest product managers have their work cut out for them. One of the first things that they are going to have to do is to make it easier for their male visitors to actually find the things on the site that interest them.

The product managers don’t have to worry about some of Pinterest’s most popular topics: cooking, gardening, and travel – these are gender neutral. Instead, what they need to focus their time and energy on is to change what results are presented to a user when they perform a search. An example would be to present more pizzas and tacos when a male user is searching for “recipe ideas”. Additionally, if a user goes looking for costume ideas, the site needs to take their gender into account before presenting its results.

To really get the site to take off with men, not only is Pinterest going to have to get men to visit the site, but they are also going to have to convince them to use it and to “pin” images. This means that the Pinterest product managers are going to have to spend some time promoting the areas of their site that might have the greatest appeal to men: geek, motorcycles, and men’s fashion. Having more of this content will serve to remove some of the social stigma that men may feel when they visit the site.

What All Of This Means For You

The good news here is that the Pinterest product managers have read their product manager job description and are aware that they have a problem on their hands. As the service expands into new countries, they are dealing with this issue and the result is that they have much more balanced usage between the genders in their new markets. However, they are still going to have to work out how to solve their U.S. issue.

When men visit the Pinterest site as it stands today, they have difficulty finding what they want. With the perception of Pinterest as being for women, these issues are combining to minimize the number of men who are visiting the site. To fix this problem, the Pinterest product managers have to change the search results that are presented to male visitors. They also have to work to enhance the portions of the site that are likely to appeal to men.

The good news is that Pinterest is very successful. This gives their product managers a great deal of runway with which to work in order to attract more male visitors in the U.S. They need to take steps to make their site more “gender aware” and improve the experience of males who visit the site. Additionally, they need to create more male-friendly content.

All of these things can be done. The Pinterest product managers just need to take the time to do all of the things that they have to do. When they are able to look at their usage stats and discover that they have a 50 / 50 gender split between their visitors, they’ll know that they have accomplished their job!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What can Pininterest do to get men to start to “pin” pictures on its site?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Ok, so this article is fairly personal. I’ve been trying to get the attention of a very large customer for the better part of a year now and I’ve been met with failure at just about every turn. I’ve tried very, very hard and at times it has seemed like success was just within my grasp only to have it snatched away over and over again. If I wasn’t a product manager I might have given up by now. However, I AM a product manager and so this means that I know that I have to just keep trying over and over again. I just might have found my way to turn this failure into a success and that has me very happy. Would you like to hear my story?

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