Preface: I took “Facebook vs. Pinterest” very literally for the sake of this post. I didn’t have to, I could have approached it a different way, but I chose to approach it this way. It’s really about Facebook’s longevity as a social network. Something to keep in mind while you read.
You’ve probably seen the headline ‘Is Pinterest the New Facebook?’ somewhere on the Internet by now. Right off the bat my reaction to this headline is mostly laughter (laughing on the inside), although I understand why some people might ask that question. Pinterest has become the hottest destination on the Web over the last few months, but that doesn’t make it the new Facebook. There’s obviously an amazing team over at Pinterest that has held its ground for years trying to make things work, and clearly they’ve pulled it off. But what Pinterest has pulled off is an incredibly engaging and social discovery experience; it’s new but at the same time it’s not. Yes, Facebook is also both engaging and social, but it goes deeper: it’s a social network that focuses more on connecting than discovery (of course Zuck and his team are working on improving the latter, but that’s a topic for another blog post). The two (connecting and discovery) obviously intersect because they are both social actions. Using the Web to discover all kinds of content and answers to our questions is fun, useful, and a great way to kill time, but discovery means so much less if we’re unable to share what we find.
Facebook allows us to connect with the rest of the Web and the world in a deep and meaningful way (friends, Likes, status updates, photos, videos, profile information, Groups, Pages, Messaging, etc.). Facebook has become our “home” online. We see connection happening on Pinterest, but it’s really just surface-level. We repin and Like and follow other people’s boards or other users, actions that are particular to discovery and content, and this is why Pinterest exploded. Discovery and design are both things Pinterest does very well. It’s a social network for expressing yourself. But Facebook, on the other hand, does not revolve around discovery – it revolves around information and building connections. If your wallet was a portfolio of the social networks you use, Facebook is your driver’s license: the single piece of identity that allows you to do anything you need to do and go wherever you need to go.
At the end of the day, what makes a social network “stick” are its users (or uses). Why do users come back? Why are users spending X amount of time on the site? How does the site support a users’ habits/likes/interests? Facebook has been around and it knows its users. Zuck and his team are constantly learning how to make Facebook feel more comfortable, more natural, somewhere users can retire to at the end of their day. Facebook also made a huge splash in what I like to refer to as the “digital memories” space with Timeline. The Facebook experience is no longer a series of login/logouts, but one that continues to live on and archive itself even when you’re not online. This is what I like to call a “deep network experience” (I actually made that up just now, but it sounds cool, right?).
Pinterest very recently launched a redesign of user profiles to make them “more beautiful” and “different in kind than the profile [users] have on Facebook” (Pinterest CEO, Ben Silbermann, speaking at SXSW 2012). I’m a huge fan of the redesign. I think the profiles look great, and I think this – Pinterest’s strength in design – will be how Silbermann and his team get people using (and sharing) the site more often. But what people are sharing are discoveries, not memories. I think this is important to note. You might forget about that awesome pair of shoes you found on Pinterest last week, but you won’t forget about the time you stayed out until 5am on a work night with your best friends and watched the sunrise over the beach (especially when there are pictures, status updates, and check-ins to help you remember).
Pinterest is the new Facebook? I don’t think so. When the sun rises over that beach at 5am and a new day begins, it feels good. You know who you are, you know where you are, and you want to tell the world. Facebook is where your friends will hear about it, not Pinterest. And it’s experiences like this – being able to share and connect with an already established, deep network – that will make it very hard for any social network to be the new Facebook.