Should Pinterest Try to Get More Male Users?

In social media, as in so many things, the conventional wisdom is “bigger is better”; Facebook is the best social network because it is the biggest, and smaller networks risk being dismissed as “also-rans.” This consensus is based in part on the perception that scale is a prerequisite to effectively monetizing social networks, since revenue per user tends to be low (especially with business models relying on display advertising).

But is bigger always better, in the social media universe?  Are there any circumstances where the counter-cliché “small is beautiful” may apply?

This question was prompted by some new data from Pew showing that Pinterest still skews very much towards a female user base: 19% of female Internet users are on Pinterest, versus just 5% of male Internet users. Since the total numbers of male and female Internet users are roughly equal, that means Pinterest’s membership is still basically three-quarters female.

The Pinterest phenomenon has, of course, attracted a lot of attention in the press, and one of the recurring themes has been its “need” for more male users. A lot of observers seem to take it for granted that this would be a good thing, since it would help make the network bigger and therefore more attractive to advertisers, and so more valuable overall.

I’m not sure I agree, however. Who says social networks can’t cater to the two genders? The idea has already gained ground with male-focused counterparts (e.g. Gentlemint, Manterest), and it makes a lot of sense: first of all, men and women do indeed have different (some might say divergent) interests, which have long been targeted by gender-specific media including TV shows, magazines, books, movies, and radio. Second, both genders still clearly seek out and enjoy “homosocial” settings, where they are relatively removed from the other gender, at least on occasion -- and this is especially true, it seems to me, when it comes to relaxation and recreation, including hobbies and enthusiast activities.

In this analysis, Facebook represents society at large, with even representation of men and women and an overall tone and atmosphere that doesn’t favor either gender. Pinterest and its manly counterparts represent a second wave of more gender-specific social media that will be overlaid on top of Facebook, coexisting and serving different purposes.

What do you, dear readers, think?  Should Pinterest try to get more men on board, or should it aim to retain its female-dominant milieu?

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3 comments about "Should Pinterest Try to Get More Male Users?".
  1. Steven Threndyle from media tent , September 13, 2012 at 5:43 p.m.
    Funny, just today this friend of mine who works as a comedian here in Vancouver and I were discussing Pinterest, after I came across this awesome collection. Men need to be told how Pinterest works. It's sort of like the 'SFW' posters you have in your man cave - (after all, do you know any guys who scrapbook?). Here's a great example: http://pinterest.com/doanepaper/action-now-magazine/
  2. Drew Neisser from Renegade , September 13, 2012 at 5:55 p.m.
    Hey Erik--Pinterest wants to keep growing so inevitably they'll want men to join in droves. That said, what seems like a good business decision could prove to be their undoing as they dilute they're brand and the passion of their fan-base. Why not just be the best scrap-booking site for women and develop a separate brand for men (or buy Mantarest with their +$125mm war chest)? Aren't we supposed to be in the era of best of breed niche brands?
  3. Laura R from Self , September 14, 2012 at 8:23 p.m.
    Pinterest is rougly 90% female and rightly so. The premise of Pinterest is browsing pictures, liking them and then sharing them out to a group of friends. The experience of Pinterest is essentially the same as walking around a mall looking at things with friends. AKA: window shopping. Pinterest mainly consists of images of pretty homes, clothing, party decorations, hair styles, food and other traditionally female items and experiences. Of course, men do enjoy looking at things, but not the same things that women enjoy and not nearly as many things as women are currently pinning on Pinterest. If you stop on over at Gentlemint, Manterest or any of the other male counterparts, you will see that the majority of images pinned are automobiles, gadgets and scantily clad women. Not to be sexist, but this is exactly what most people would expect. If I, a woman logged into Pinterest and saw hair styles and cupcakes thrown in with muscle cars and Scar Jo, I wouldn't spend as much time browsing. At the same time, very few men want to look at 10 ways to style the perfect pony. All in all, I think it's great that Pinterest is skewed towards females. After all, tech discussion boards are skewed towards men.