Gender and Pinterest: female is more repins and less followers?

Somehow it has become a common belief that Pinterest is a social media platform that is more appealing to women than to men. And this has in theory important implications for maketers, also based on some beliefs about women’s differences in consumer behaviour.

However, it is difficult to find any built-in feature that targets women in the site. Pinterest is defined in its Web site as:

a tool for collecting and organising the things that inspire you.

That sounds really neutral, and there is nothing in the site that suggest explicitly some kind of gender orientation. Actually, declaring your gender is optional when registering in the site. In any case, this belief has lead to a number of theories or hypotheses to explain the fact that Pinterest is more for women.

I have tried first to find data on the gender demographics of Pinterest. One common source is a 2012 study cited in PCMag, TechCrunch and Forbes among other pages that refer to a study by AppData. Concretely,  the study reported that about 97% of people who like Pinterest’s Facebook page are women. Well, this is not really demographic data but can be considered an indicator.

If you browse the Web, you will find pages saying 80% are female at Pinterest, … or 68%,  or 70%. But you can also find pages that say that the UK is apparently an exception with males dominating. In spite of these estimations being questionable by themselves, it is also important to consider that many pages report more female users in social networks in general.

In summary, following a healthy skeptical attitude, we can say there is a common belief of Pinterest being dominated by women users and some scattered estimations that this phenomenon is more acute than in other social networks. A good start for further research, but no more for now.

The problem comes with the interpretation you can find in the Web of the reasons why Pinterest supposedly wins with women. They are in many cases harebrained ideas and in some cases near bizarre, that’s why I prefer not analyzing them here.

Is there any hope to get data on gender and Pinterest nowadays? Yes, at least some initial insights. Gilbert et al. SIGCHI 2013 paper titled “I Need to Try This!”: A Statistical Overview of Pinterest” is the first attempt I have come through that seriously attempts to study gender in Pinterest. Their dataset was gathered June 2012 via scraping “popular pins“, then hacking the URLs. Not really random, but a good start, total 2.9M pins, and near 1M pinners. And it confirms somewhat the belief of women dominance, with about 80% female pinners in the sample.

The authors describe the main findings in this concise but insightful way:

being female means more repins, but fewer followers, and […] four verbs set Pinterest apart from Twitter: use, look, want and need.

Number of repins was found correlated to being female, however with a smaller effect than pin’s likes and pin’s comments. But surprisingly, men attract more followers. So, female entails more repins and fewer followers? Definitely sounds counter-intuitive, but represents a great startpoint for further research, as one can hardly conjecture why this is happening by figuring out what people think different related to gender when repinning and following.

The differences in the verbs that make a difference Pinterest versus Twitter are also hard to interpret from a market perspective: use, look, want and need seem to distinguish Pinterest. The authors comment on this:

Many popular press articles have focused on Pinterest’s commercial potential, and here we see verbs illustrating that consumption truly lies at the heart of the site.

Well, just an interpretation but again interesting enough to follow up!