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Pinterest – A Not So Secret Argument

Posted on Monday, November 12th, 2012 by and Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, News, Social Media

At the end of last week, Pinterest released a new feature called ‘Secret Boards’- their first major new feature since the fast-growing website started in 2010.

The boards can only be seen by those that are invited to contribute by their creators and none of the images, comments or likes will appear in users’ regular homepage feeds, any of the category pages or in search results. Each user can only have up to three secret boards at the moment and they will appear (only for the user) at the bottom of the profile/boards page. You can create a secret board by going to the bottom of your profile and selecting ‘Create a Secret Board’ or by using the ‘Add+’ dropdown on the toolbar and switching the board’s secret status to ‘On’. The function is also fully available on all mobile platforms.

But what does this new function mean for users? We take two different looks…

Against – Louise

So, Pinterest’s ‘Secret Boards’ – what are they all about? A way to make Pinterest users feel their content is better protected and won’t show up in external search engine results as it did so easily before? Maybe, but as I found out researching this article, Pinterest already has a function to stop this happening if you take issue with it – simply go to your profile settings and switch a button from on to off. Wow. Simple. Yet, I didn’t know about it. I’m not the most prolific of Pinterest users, but maybe this means most people don’t know about it either, and these elusive secret boards are an easier way of communicating safety to Pinterest’s 20 million or so users?

It may be Pinterest’s way of fitting in with its bigger and bossier brothers – Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has protected tweets, Facebook has a multitude of privacy settings (after wading into the hot water privacy pond on many occasions) so now Pinterest has secret boards. But I’m still struggling to see why a user would want to use one – for me personally, I can’t think of anything I’d want to pin but keep secret and separate from the rest of my pinned content.

I do not think I will ever be looking at a secret board my parents have created on planning a new baby, unlike ‘Ben & the Pinterest Team’ suggest in their email announcing secret boards to me. I’m also not one of those girls who needs a secret wedding dream board to pin ideas for my hypothetical wedding, to avoid publicly appearing desperate. This may be because my parents aren’t on Pinterest, but it’s also because, in the UK at least, I don’t see Pinterest as a way to connect and interact with family or friends.

Although Pinterest has exploded in terms of user numbers globally, the figures in the UK are still slightly lagging behind the big guys from across the pond. According to an infographic by Visual.ly (admittedly created 8 months ago, but I gather the picture is still the same) the British Pinterest user number stands at 200,000 compared to the US’s 12 million. This explains why I can’t see Pinterest users in the UK deciding to create a secret board to, for example, organise a surprise party – not enough people are on the social network yet and using a private Facebook group or messaging service is so easily and readily available that there’s not enough incentive to switch. I did also consider that a secret board might be where you’d want to pin everyone’s pictures from a personal party or occasion, after the event, but again – why not use Facebook for this?

What about brands? Why would they want to make their pins secret? That’s an even harder question to answer. The only thought I’ve had is that it may be a way of creating competitions or exclusive content for customers – perhaps a retail brand could only release their new collection to their most dedicated customers who can see their secret boards? Or a select few are chosen to contribute pins to a secret board as the next step of a competition?

Well, at the moment I’m not convinced of Pinterest’s new secret venture, but there are 20 million people out there who can prove me wrong


Pro – Firdaus

Pinterest’s new secret boards feature opens up a whole new way of using the visually attractive content-pinning site. Not only does it give users the chance to make their pins private and less accessible to strangers who might stumble across them elsewhere on the web, it also gives friends and family a place to share their pins exclusively with each other.

Pinterest has always been user friendly and they couldn’t have made this new function easier to use. You can quickly add a secret board (at the moment limited to three per user) from your profile or from the ‘Add+’ menu, and it’s simple to switch the secret functionality off if you want (although this is irreversible at present). They have certainly done their best to make sure users are exposed to this new feature too – not only did they notify me via a demo on start-up of my mobile app, but they sent an email to every Pinterest user as well. Pinterest has faith that this will be a universally embraced feature – and apparently there is a solid basis for believing this – it was their ‘most requested feature’ according to their blog.

This feature has been launched just in time for the holiday season; with the Pinterest team suggesting a secret board as a great place to collate secret gift ideas. But I think this is a feature that would be valued by a range of users even after the holiday season is over. There are numerous possibilities and creative uses – from personal photo albums, to secret event planning or just slightly embarrassing obsessions!

What’s more, secret boards are a great opportunity for brands on Pinterest. Commercial brands can offer premium users access to new releases or products and give them that extra feeling of exclusivity. They are also a great place for brands to actually collect their own pins for inspiration for new products, designs and ideas – internal design, development or content teams that work with visual ideas available on the web can collaborate with each other without leaking their ideas with others. They can even allow brands to keep a tab on the competition and to share their findings internally among employees.

Secret boards also provide the opportunity for targeted crowd sourcing or targeted engagement from a niche audience. The difficulty of crowd sourcing on the social web, for whatever reason; whether it’s crowd sourcing of ideas or getting feedback from users, is that you cannot control the participation (anyone following or liking you can contribute). With the new secret boards you can give access to your target audience, with pin point precision, and get them to contribute to your product development or idea generation process.

Pinterest’s new secret boards are a fantastic addition to the already ridiculously popular pinning site and I’m looking forward to seeing who uses them to their best potential first – if they let me in on the secret, that is!

Well now that you have heard both sides, how do you feel about Pinterest’s new secret boards?

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