I feel like the prettiest belle at the ball. Of all the users, in all the social networks, in all the Internet, Pinterest chose me to test their new feature. Me! They must have finally noticed my contribution to their success, how else could I explain the invitation? I don’t always pin summer dresses and $5,000 DIY projects, but when I do, I pin for hours, days even, determined to flood my followers’ feeds. I’ll pin the same motivational quote as many as a dozen times, so long as it’s in separate fonts. I’ll pin every Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt and skinny jeans I lack the muscles to fill, so long as I keep telling myself it’ll happen. Discretion is for the weak-hearted; what I care about is volume. These boards aren’t pinning to themselves, am I right?
I’ll admit I was surprised myself when I saw the email. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching a decade of bull markets, bubbles and recessions, it’s that if a billion-dollar IPO in waiting asks you to do something, you better have a damn good reason to say no. So, with my thumb and forefinger flexed and ready, I proceeded like Charlie Bucket into the crafts-stricken Pinterest factory.
Community Questions are an effort by Pinterest to insert more of the social into their social network. Unlike Twitter and the ilk, which suffer from an unrelenting stream of obsequious banter, interrupted only by bouts of racist banter, Pinterest is shockingly quiet. The site can feel, for better or for worse, like 70 million old maids fawning over the latest Sears catalogue in pathological privacy. This was partly by design; I mean, who wants to be the next Twitter? Twitter doesn’t even want to be Twitter. But it’s also partly by mistake, and Community Questions seems like an obvious way to fill the conversational gap.
For anyone not elite enough to be selected, like my colleague Rhea Thomas, pins will display like thus:
But for me, they display differently.
Specifically, Pinterest will now allow me to ask questions about a pin. Who receives those questions is still unknown, but more on that later. Here’s a question I threw out there concerning pallet furniture:
The first response was generic, but the second was very specific, which is how Pinterest ultimately hopes users will deliver for them. In this particular example, Home Depot was not the originator of the Pin, but they benefited from having their name dropped, and might potentially have a sale on their hands. Imagine if the Home Depot had a Pinterest account with this Community Questions privilege. They could crawl Pinterest ad infinitum, seeking questions that their business alone is the answer for. It’s not inconceivable to see Pinterest eventually expanding upon this feature, introducing search capabilities and analytics for businesses.
The marketer in me is thrilled by this development. But the privacy dove is concerned. Home Depot is fine, but what if the NSA had this privilege? Clutch the pearls!
Presently this feature is only available online and on iPhones, but with plans to roll out to the masses after some fine-tuning and user-feedback.
There were only 7 questions in the survey, two of which seemed deliberately bent on toying with the whole cryptic nature of the experiment:
“If you answer a question using Community Questions, who do you think can see your answer? (Check all that apply)”
“If you ask a question using Community Questions, who do you think can see your question? (Check all that apply)”
Since Other was an option, I took the liberty of filling in my own choices for question no. 2:
- God (he can see everything)
- Kim Jong-un (ditto)
- The NSA (I’m detecting a pattern here)
- Chuck Norris (because how can he not?)
- Betty White (fingers crossed) and
- George W. Bush (because ‘Murica, that’s why)
All told, the experience was nothing like Charlie Bucket’s, but I am grateful for the generosity of Pinterest. Hopefully, now that I’ve leaked their secrets, they won’t boot me from the site. Because without my boards, where on Earth will I have to save these images of American flag popcorn, Batman money clips or DIY tassel totes?