Male users of Pinterest pin more content about photography, art, design, and home decor than sports, technology and cars, says a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Georgia Tech.
The study revealed that while women and men differed in the types of content they collected and the degree to which they specialized, surprisingly men were not particularly interested in stereotypically male topics.
The most popular topics on Pinterest tend to be of "traditional female" interest including food and drink, crafts, home decor, and women's fashion. While men devote more attention than women to sports, technology and cars, those topics are not even among the top 10 most popular categories for men. Instead, male Pinterest users pin more content about photography, art, design, and home decor.
The research gives new insight into the pinboard-style photo-sharing website used by more than 70 million people worldwide. The research study will be presented by the researchers at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing Feb. 15-19 in Baltimore, Maryland.
"Pinterest is often seen as a site for women. This representation is so popular that 'Pinterest-for-men' sites have been created," said Loren Terveen, a co-author of the study and a professor of computer science and engineering in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering. "This study shows that men who use Pinterest are also interested in some of these same topics."
The findings also showed that women, in general, concentrate their pinning activity on fewer categories. Their top five categories account for just over 56 percent of all their activity, while the top five categories for men account for just under 40 percent of their activity. Among both genders, sharing diverse types of content is correlated with a larger number of followers, but only up to a certain point. After that, more diversity of pins is not helpful.
"This research into Pinterest illustrates the current trends of how members use this social media site, but it doesn't examine either why users behave this way or whether they even are conscious of their decisions on the site," said Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor within the Georgia Tech College of Computing and co-author of the study. "Our research has only scratched the surface of what we can learn from social media activity. Additional work, particularly using qualitative methods, could explore the background behind some of our findings such as why male Pinterest users are not particularly interested in content we often associate with male interests."
The study examined 3.1 million pins for more than 46,365 Pinterest users from Nov. 26, 2012 to Jan. 15, 2013. Researchers were able to identify gender for about 32,000 of the users they studied.
Other interesting findings in the new study include:
About 10 percent of all pins from men, but only about 3 percent of pins from women, were categorized as "Design." For men, "Design" was the second most popular category, while for women, it was the ninth most popular category.
There are many categories that received differing degrees of interest from men and from women, including "Geek," "History," and "Sports" that were more popular among men, and "Kids," "Wedding," and "Holiday & Events" that were more popular among women.
Men's and women's pinning activity was significantly different for all categories except for "Humor," "Tattoos," "Animals," "Quotes," and "Gardening." "Food & Drink" is the most popular category for both women and men.
Pinning to "Food & Drink" and "Design" will attract the most followers, and more generally, pinning to popular categories attracts more followers.
Gender did not play a critical role in popularity on Pinterest. Diversity of pins, on the other hand, was about as important as pinning to the most popular categories.
Users with a larger number of pins do tend to have more diverse interests. However, there are specialists even among prolific pinners.
While men collectively have more diverse interests (than women collectively), each individual male user is more likely to specialize in specific categories than individual female users.
In summary, the research suggests that to attract many followers, Pinterest users should follow many other pinners, create many boards and pin a lot, post on popular topics, and not concentrate on too few topics.
The paper can be found online at: http://www-users.cs.umn.edu/~schang/papers/cscw14.pdf
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