ReadWritePredict is a look ahead at the technology trends and companies that will shape the coming year.
Like many people, I like to peruse Pinterest for inspiration. I enjoy the designer clothing, the exercise routines and motivational photos that people post and, let’s be completely honest, the food. The glorious, glorious piles of recipes and diabetes-inducing desserts of epic proportion that scroll on my screen like a Vegas slot machine, each pin promising the grand prize payout of a perfect life.
Now, just in time for my New Year’s resolutions, Pinterest has released the Pinterest 100, “what to eat, make and try in 2015!” Unlike Facebook and Twitter and the rest of the Internet’s obligatory year-end roundups of the top trends for the past year, Pinterest dabbles in prognostication.
From double-exposure photography reminiscent of Sears portraitures to DIY woodworking, Pinterest offers the top pins that promise to charm us in the coming year as thoroughly as a snowy pinecone candle holder made from the ever-utilitarian mason jar. But in a world where “Top Pinfluencers” who have their very own talent agencies get paid big money to push certain brands, I’m starting to question their “pinfluence” on my life.
Pinterest’s initial effort to spotlight its best pinners has taken on a life of its own, Bianca Bosker chronicles in The Most Pinteresting People In The World on Medium. Pinterest’s star system has created a stable of reluctant Internet celebrities who nonetheless make money off their pins without necessarily being upfront about it.
The Federal Trade Commissions requires that paid posts come with some sort of “sponsored” disclosure. Yet Pinterest’s own policies about such practices seem to be murky at best and not there at worst. As Bosker points out, Pinterest makes money off its own “Promoted Pins” dropped in users feeds, but doesn’t exactly permit its users to be so blatant. Bosker writes:
“For the time being, sussing out pinners’ financial arrangements is often guesswork at best.”
The Year Ahead, According To Pinterest
What does Pinterest say we’re in for in 2015? From the sample list that Pinterest posted to its blog, beards and lumbersexuals are definitely not going anyway any time soon. This is great news if you’re the Brawny Man of paper towel fame, but could be bad for others depending on their affinity for plaid.
No need to worry about red wine stains on the carpet or buying expensive hardwood flooring this coming year. Rug stenciling on particle board will be all the rage in 2015, providing you with custom made floor accents with none of the pesky warmth or sound proofing that traditional floors provide.
Hobbits of the world will rejoice when they see the pin for vertical gardening. While the pin isn’t so much a “how to” as it is a gallery of landscaped buildings and inspired ideas, it’s sure to bring a tear to the eye of anyone missing their abode in the Shire. For those without a green thumb though, you may want to skip this idea or suffer the consequences of living inside a dead plant husk.
Another project that won’t be fading into the ghost of hot trends past is juicing. Leaf.TV provides a juice recipe that they’re touting as a magical allergy reliever. While the spicy ginger and cayenne concoction may clear the sinuses, its one minute video doesn’t show you the 40 minutes it will take to prepare the ingredients or to clean all the pulp out of the juicer.
As any experienced lurker can see, the sample list itself still retains those same “build that,” “eat this,” “go there” vibe standard to the Pinterest experience, including lots and lots of repeats. Surely the entire Internet can’t be completely enamored with cauliflower pizza crusts?
For Pinterest’s 2015 predictions, the social network says it looked at trending pins, most influential pinners and tossed in some hand-picked pins from Pinterest’s own employees for good measure to determine what would be the next IT things in the coming year.
That doesn’t make Pinterest’s predictions any less accurate. But let’s pull back the curtain of holiday-inspired cake pops, designer clothes and eating disorder-engendering ab photographs for a moment and look at the raw underbelly of what Pinterest has become: one giant ball of strategically organized marketing orchestrated from the shadows out of sight of their target audiences.
Pay No Attention to the Pinners Behind the Curtain
On the outside, this idea sounds like it could just be some fly by night operation from a wood-paneled minivan siphoning wifi off the neighborhood Starbucks. Well, it’s not. If you’re exceptional at Pinterest, you might get tapped by a talent agency.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll join HelloSociety. Describing itself as a 400 Pinfluencer-strong network “of some of the most talented content creators on Pinterest – photographers, chefs, stylists, DIY mavens, and more,” HelloSociety is the largest Pinterest talent agency on the planet. As Recode reported earlier this year, HelloSociety’s average Pinner, “has about 1.8 million followers; top Pinners make about $250,000 a year. HelloSociety had $12.5 million in revenue last year and has 26 employees.”
That outfit has slowly and painstakingly selected the Olympic athletes of the Pinterest world to be marketers for brands in such a way that Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada would be envious.
These Pinterest Influencers, as they are called, are hired by companies to infiltrate not only the pins you’re seeing but the pins you’re repining. They’re shaping and molding the products you think you need, the products you actually buy and they’re making a metric butt-ton of money to do it. Feel like an idiot for going to college and getting a degree when you could just be rolling your face around on the Internet all day pinning things? I know I do.
Does the world need a talent scouting agency for the small, select group of Plitterati? And can a person even BE famous for something as innocuous as pinning bookmarks to a bulletin board on the Internet? HelloSociety and the companies that hire them would argue yes.
Others would argue that this creates a whole new level of Big Brother that not even George Orwell could have dreamt up. Regardless of what side of the line these subversive marketing strategies fall on, with fat paychecks and followers in the millions these Pinfluencers are doing something right.
Some of the Pinterest high earners interviewed The Most Pinteresting People In The World are making money as free agents, yet modest about their celebrity. And while Boske argues that these people aren’t famous, I disagree. One Pinfluencer, “hired to create for Disney,” received a free trip to Disneyland for her and her friends. So while these Pinfluencers might not be on the cover of people magazine, they’re still enjoying VIP treatment.
Since we can’t all join them in their exclusive club of pinflucency sway and build Scrooge McDuckesque money vaults, we may as well beat them by recognizing that while Pinterest is a wonderful resource, it’s also a giant commercial promoting specific ideas and products. When we peruse the list of 2015 predictions it will be important to remember that not all of the coolness has been created yet and not even Pinterest knows what great things the next 12 months have in store for us.
Pinterest pins: Lumbersexual from Alonso Sierra. Vertical garden from The Garden Glove. Cauliflower pizza crust by Tasty Kitchen. Double-exposure photography by Michael O’Neal. Pinterest profile by Justin Conklin.