Most people probably think about Pinterest more as a social media site/app than a search engine, but search is increasingly the direction it is moving in, which not only makes sense for its loyal user base, but also as a monetization strategy as it gets going with its Promoted Pins ad product.
Pinterest, lets you connect with friends, and that's what keeps it in the realm of social media, but as co-founder Evan Sharp explains, it's more about you than it is about your friends. It's about finding stuff for life - discovery - and bookmarking that stuff for future reference and/or showing off your interests. Finding often means searching, which is why Pinterest has launched things like Guided Search and its enhanced recipe search functionality. Last month, it also upgraded its Place Search feature to make it faster and smarter.
The Atlantic has an extensive interview with Sharp, who discusses how he views Pinterest versus how he viewed it back when it started (hint: it's much more about search and discovery), among other things. Here are a couple snippets of what he had to say about search:
Guided Search just says, when you search, what are the other things that people add to this search to help you understand the other possibilities. I only point this out, not to market it, but to highlight that the way we think of search is fundamentally different. It’s not just here is my query; it’s a process, a journey. You’re having a kid. You’re getting married. I don’t know what to do, I’ve never had a kid. Type in parenting, and you start to learn, what’s the language of this? On search engines, in general, the relationship to language is very different. You start with the words and you say I want to find these words. When you’re discovering something, we’re helping you figure out the language. If you are interested in discovering something new, you might not know what to type in. Here, the language is the end state...We’ve solved all sorts of discovery problems that people hadn’t even thought about, all kinds of information database problems that have never been thought about.
...when people think of search they think of words, but there is all sorts of cool computer science you can build with just media, just the images, or just the user graph. And the combination of all that is going to be very interesting. The words are just one signal. They’re super important and we’ve got better words than anybody, but there is all kinds of stuff people don’t even think about because their tools are constrained by language....Search for most people is web navigation. It stitches together the human information on web pages. It’s also a tool for answering questions. We weave them together, but you could decompose those in an interesting way if you were interested in solving search as a problem.
A few months ago, Pinterest raised a new $200 million round of funding. Making Pinterest better for search and discovery is to be the primary focus of how to use that money.
CEO Ben Silbermann said at the time, "Pinterest has a vision of solving discovery and helping everyone find things they’ll love. This new investment gives us additional resources to realize our vision."
Last week, the company announced its acquisition of Icebergs, a service that lets users organize and share content for creative projects. They're shutting the product down, but that gives you an idea of what the deal means for Pinterest.
Icebergs' team said in a blog post:
We are thrilled to be joining forces with the talented Pinterest team in San Francisco. Pinterest is a visual discovery tool people use to discover, save, and act upon the things they love, which makes it a perfect home for our experience in product and design, and in building Icebergs.
On Pinterest, there are tens of millions of people using the site to discover more than 30 billion Pins every day, and we can’t wait to use what we learned building Icebergs to help make their experience even better.
As Pinterest continues to focus on search and discovery, it's also enabling businesses to get in the action in more ways than one. In addition to the aforementioned Promoted Pins (the do-it-yourself version is on the way), it recently partnered with Shopify to automatically enable rich pins for merchants.
Pinterest also just happens to be the second leading source of social media referrals to websites (behind Facebook).
Image via Pinterest