The Secret History of Pinterest — REVEALED!

Do you feel like you woke up a week ago and Pinterest had taken over the world?  I read on Twitter (so it is true, of course) that Pinterest is now bigger than Google, will be running for President of the United States, and is recording an album of Justin Bieber cover songs.

The meteoric success of Pinterest has shocked everyone.

Except me.

I have it all figured out. You see, Pinterest makes perfect sense if you just look at the natural evolution of social media …


When blogging first caught on, people actually wrote things. There was a post, comments, debate, and dialogue. But then something happened. Blogging went mainstream and became so popular that soon there were thousands and thousands of blogs.  Even plumbing companies had blogs (a sub-genre known as clog blogs). What to do? Where to go? We needed something to help us consume more of these blogs quickly. So that led to …


Numbered lists! That’s the answer! Bite-sized morsels of information like “The 10 Worst Blogging Mistakes” and “The Five Biggest LinkedIn Tips!” Bloggers learned how to dumb-down the content by counting it down! Putting a number in a headline was the key to RT Nirvana. But the information density continued to get progressively worse as companies of all sizes got in on the content marketing game. Now what do we do to communicate to people who have less and less time to read our lists?  I know! We’ll make our blog posts into a picture called an infographic!  This led to a strategy where companies and bloggers could communicate with EVEN LESS CONTENT!


INFOGRAPHICS A-GO-GO:   2010 – 2011

A typical well-researched Infographic

Well if people won’t even read our listicles any more, let’s turn our content into a colorful illustration. It’s kind of like using cartoons to tell your stories. Let’s not make people read.  Let’s just SHOW them what they need to know. And if we don’t have the data, we’ll just make it up. Only 4.6 percent of social media users ever check a fact any way. And yes, I just made that up.  See how easy that was? But soon, the web was FLOODED with infographics. We needed another breakthrough — an innovation that would be even less challenging to over-taxed web users.  Let’s just cut out the information!  We’ll simply show people photographs of stuff!



Pretty pictures!  Woot!  And MORE pretty pictures! Let’s face it, that’s all we can really handle these days, right?  We’re just too busy to read, think, or process an idea.  Just show us a picture of a cute dog or a wedding dress dammit. Of course … It all makes perfect sense. Pinterest is truly a reflection of our society, and a natural evolution of a need to create and distribute information that takes less and less time and attention.

Where will this all lead?  In my mind it can only go to …



So we have moved down the line from meaningful, debate-worthy blog posts to pictures of crafts and puppies.  Where can we go from here? I think the painter Piet Mondrian had it right.  When he and other painters moved their craft into a new level of simplistic abstraction, all they had left was lines and primary colors.  So I predict that the next big thing will be a social platform I dub “Mondrian” (maybe I need to delete a vowel to be cool – Mndrian?) which will consist solely of colors, lines, and occasional grunts, which will replace the too-complicated “like” button.

So there you have it. The history of Pinterest and the future of social media in five paragraphs.  Hope it wasn’t too much to read?  😎

All posts

  • Let see,can they smack google? I doubt it could in next two years. It needs great effort of marketing strategy against google

  • I think the next step for Pinterest will be an automation feature that enables Pinterest to tell you what you like. I mean – why struggle with having to make choices about which pictures are worthy of pinning? Let Pinterest decide for you and then you can look at your boards and sigh with relief, knowing what an interesting and well-rounded person you are.  

    Who knows? This may be the next step in human evolution. Perhaps the dolphins really are the more intelligent species and language is just a kind of evolutionary speed bump. Perhaps Pinterest will pave the way for communication sans words. We will simply point and use emoticons to decide whether the person we’re conversing with is friend or foe. 

    I don’t know. The future is uncertain. Excuse me now. I have to go pin some pictures of baby animals in heart-melting poses, unattributed inspirational quotes, and chocolate … you can never pin too much chocolate. 


  • It’s a shame that the .an TLD is going away, because would be one kick ass domain name.

  • This post is genius! As a  former Art History major, the reference to Mondrian is dead on. He was reacting to the same principles that are happening right now with content. Of course people are reacting to puppies and handy-crafts…they are shiny objects that seem relevant. Let’s stop the insanity! LoL Awesome post!

  • Anonymous

    *triple snork*
    Actually, what’s next after Mndrian would be something I call nSo. nSo simplifies every social map, while maintaining connectivity to everything (and nothing, all at the same time!)

  • Your cynicism is showing, Mark! But I have to admit that I don’t have much interest in Pinterest. Then again, I’m not a big fan of doilies, place settings, and clothing, which seems to be most of what is up there.

    Your post does raise an important issue, though. I am seeing more and more infographics. Of course, they are really quite chocked full of text. They are just organized in a more attractive way, include more graphics and charts, and tend to summarize information. What they miss is the deducation and analysis. They are just facts. I like infographics and like that they are easier to scan and read. But they are only useful for a certain type of content.

    Unfortunately, I think people really do want to consume their information that way. They want to scan and get tidbits quickly. It’s a little worrisome.

  • Don’t you mean Pindrian? Oh no, you didn’t? My Bad. Maybe I’ll start a Mondrianesque platform called Stoplight Social Media where Green means good, Yellow means boring or statistical stuff, and Red can be controversial, nonsensical, or rubbish.

    Back to Pinterest, I think there is an overlooked aspect behind it’s success. The fact that it’s predominantly composed of women isn’t overlooked, but that being the driving force behind its success might be. Think about it.. If pinterest had a 95% male makeup, would its growth be so explosive? Would it be taking over the world? I don’t think so. Maybe this is furthering the argument that Women are better at putting the social in front of the media.

    I loved your history of #SM progression, that Guy Kawasaki infographic is priceless!

  • Great point Neicole, we’re in a society that feeds into the desire for instant gratification. No one(or far too few) are asking why or how, they just want to know the bottom line.

  • At the risk of much derision from the commentators…  I love Pinterest. I love blogs and blogging, I love words and wordsmiths. Pinterest is not taking the place of anything, it’s more or less organizing and acting as a holding place for the millions of word-bites out there. Even though it might be estrogen heavy at the present time, many thoughtful men are jumping on board, finding ways to promote their own agendas.

    Last time I checked Pinterest was a pagerank 6. All those links back to my blogs and websites… sounds pretty good to me.

  • Absenceofalternatives

    This is awesome! I agree: Pinterest requires no time investment and ROI seems high if measured by repins and followers.

    Great insight and biting comments. Love.

  • Absenceofalternatives

    I thought that’s what google + is for… lol

  • This is too funny Mark. And as usual it’s “hop on the bandwagon to shiny town.” It’s been fun reading the “marketers are ruining our corner of the Internet” posts from the pre-marketer boom on Pinterest.

    Reminds me when Twitter hit mainstream and someone asked me if I was upset that so many people were now on Twitter.

    Will we ever get away from these cycles? Many never will.

    Back on the hamster wheel I go!

  • Sounds like a full day to me Jamie. Whew. How do you keep up with that pace? : )

  • Clearly you are a visionary.

  • I think that is great. I’m not deriding anything. Just making an observation. That’s the great thing about the web. It can be anything you want it to be. Thanks for your comment Karen!

  • Thanks.

  • It’s a pattern because humans aree so predictable.  Escpcially capitalist humans : )  Thanks for the comment Robert.

  • My you are the eclectic one aren’t you!  Full of surprises. Thanks for stopping by today Kathi.

  • Thanks Tony.  I guess the guy version is something called Gentlemint. I haven’t tried it yet but it is apparently laden with testosterone.  Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • The implications of the information density in our world is vast. The post is humorous, but the issue is real. Thanks for sharing your persective with the community.

  • Rhondahurwitz

    Oh Mark, this is priceless!  I am laughing so hard.  You need a vacation.

    A friend of mine who founded and runs a $1MM+ firm captured the appeal of Pinterest for me.  After her first time on the site, she was smitten.  “It’s my happy place”, she said ….

    For her, it’s simply this:  all day she deals with employee issues, supply chain problems, customer service glitches,  her bank, her cash flow … then comes home to deal with husband and son.  After all that, at the end of her day, isn’t she entitled to pretty dresses and cute kittens?  

    That’s why the site is 80% female, and that’s why it doesn’t foretell the beginning of the end of human communication, as you predict.  

    Have some faith, my friend!

  • While I have to agree with the ultimate point of your post, I think I’ve found a fun way to incorporate Pinterest for business. If I’m wrong, feel free to burst my bubble. I work for a hotel at the Jersey Shore and love promoting all things Jersey Shore. While I don’t have a lot of pictures “pinned” yet, I think Pinterest, if I curate it well can be useful and fun for our guests. For example, I have a ton of food & beverage pictures in my iPhone – I started a local bar and restaurant board and posted the pictures with links back to their respective websites. I’m encouraging the staff to send me theirs. Come summer time when the hotel is brimming with leisure traffic (knowing not everyone wants to eat on site) we can direct them to our Pinterest board. A picture speaks a thousand words so to speak. 

  • Jan Finken

    If you think Pinterest is all about doilies, place settings and clothing you have not really experienced Pinterest. Pinterest is about being able to see – and not just see “girl stuff.”  Everything is out there — travel, hopes, dreams, adventures, interests, future, past, humor — it’s about life — all of it, and its laid out in a great format.  Like Facebook — its what you make of it.

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  • Infographics were, or will be, a short lived fad.  They harken back to the age of static web sites and one-way communication.  They are often visually attractive, but they don’t allow for sharing.

    Must everything be described as a death spiral of dumbing down?  It makes it difficultto imagine what must have happened to create the golden age of blogging back when we were in the previous dumbing down death spiral.

  • Certainly I was aiming at a humorous (but perhaps accurate!) view of the this evolution but I certainly don’t blame anybody for seeking their happy place.  I could use a little kitten power myself sometimes : )   Thanks Rhonda!

  • Absolutely.  Great idea!  Thanks for sharing this innovation Barb!

  • Absolutely agree. Thanks for this perspective Jan.

  • I don’t know. Just calling it as I see it.  I could be wrong and frequently am! : ) 

    I don’t think the “dumbing down” has anything to do with people per se. It’s information density. We’re all looking for a simpler way to plow through the social tsunami to find the signal.  Thanks David. Good to hear from you again!

  • Rosemary

    After reading your analysis, I’m going to totally pivot and start a Tolstoy-based social site where everyone shares their novels in progress.  I’m gonna be a bajillionaire!

  • Marieg

    HAHAHA Interest in Pinterest will wane. In the end, people yearn for something that will move them. Shared thought will never die. 

  • I first heard about Pinterest, ermm, yesterday. That was a long time ago in Twitter-time but I still had no idea what it was – until now.

    Thanks for this post Mark!

  • Mark,

    I laughed to tears – Love what you’ve done with Mndrian!

    Until this moment, I’ve been reading you occasionally and admiring from afar…

    But you’ve really hit it on the head. 

    I’m not your typical girlie girl.  While my friends have been Pinteresting their pinkies off, I’ve been wondering how they have time for all that.  I have stuff to do, and to sit in front of the computer collecting clippings for hours at a time just seems frivolous.

    My daughter graduates from high school in May, and I highly doubt that guests to her party would choose to thumb through Pinterest boards over traditional scrapbooks (that are not started or complete).  Or, maybe they would…

    Innovative and evolutionary to me, is the tool that scanned and uploaded all the school years’  pictures, certificates, and accomplishments – attractively – onto the pin boards.  In like….an hour.  Now, THAT would be Pinteresting!! 😀

    Thanks for the fun,


  • Mark, thank you for your spectacular perspective!  I have found Pinterest to be a great marketing tool. 

    Along with all of the “pretty pictures” on Pinterest there is a place to encourage followers to visit websites the pinned items are from => the soul of pinners. 

    For those of us who are fans of Mondrian see his “new level of simplistic abstraction…lines and primary colors” as => the soul of paintings. 

    I believe what makes Pinterest so pupular is the pinner is able to share her/his soul through “pretty pictures”

  • Christine

    Don’t have time to check out Pinterest yet. Too busy laughing at your blog posts (and discerning their profundity). Keep up the good fight!

  • Christine

    Love this: “…and language is just a kind of evolutionary speed bump.” May be forced to borrow (and attribute, of course!)

  • That would actually be pretty interesting. Call it DRAFT : ) 

  • Thanks so much for reading and commenting Keri. I’m not a girlie girl either so we at least that in common. : ) 

  • Rosemary

    Running off to the Shark Tank with my business plan now, lol. You can have royalties for the naming…

  • Love that perspective Dr. Rae.  My pins would probably be of cool aliens and craft beers. Not sure what that says about my soul.  Strange … yet effervescent?

  • Thanks Christine. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Thank you Mark.  I wonder what your “pins would probably be” when you lean-into your soul… among other things, “effervescent” for sure?  ~Rae

  • Pierre Weber

    Thanks for the post, I am laughing so much you made my day!!! Great analysis, love the Mondrian trend to come and above all great sense of humour! Can’t do anything but share this

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  • Alain-Marie Carron

    I have no opinion about Pinterest, I don’t use it yet (I’ve made myself a rule not to try more than one new social media per week). But your article is great, fun and witty. So right to the point. Thanks

  • Anonymous

    Crud, I just saw my shortened linky-thing was busted. The link should go here:
    Instead it went wandering off to some other part of the wikiverse. *sigh*

  • The Mondrian period is dead on… because deep down, you’re all a bunch of squares.

  • Awesome post, Mark! Your perspective is charming if not cynical! I see Pinterest as basically just a bookmarking site (think stumble upon) except that instead of text it’s image driven. I love that nice break from a text-heavy web. Maybe it’s the “chick” in me, but like those ancient print magazines are, it’s relaxing in a way nothing else on the web really can be. I think that it’s a nice alternative to text bookmarking sites, and a way better alternative to my life-long practice of clipping magazine articles for household projects (decorating, gardening, crafting), things to buy (products, clothes), and recipes. I do believe it’s stimulating the retail and travel sectors especially well and will continue to do so. These industries need it after all the misery they’ve faced in this economy, especially the mom & pop shops. And if it’s too chick heavy right now, it won’t be for long. 

  • Got my eyes on you now : ) 

  • But not that much of a visionary. : ) 

  • Thanks for that wonderful comment. Made me smile just reading it!

  • I’m leading the Mondrian Renaissance. You just watch Ike. I’ll bet you will start to see people wearing stuff that is blue or red or yellow. And if they do, you’ll know it was me. 

  • Really valuable perspective Michelle (one of my original blog readers by the way – Thank you!).

  • It’s the stop before the next really big thing… Video. 
    You have everything in that: text, graphs, pinstuff, words, cartoons, the lot…
    I thought the analysis was pretty darn good.
    People find what they need and take what they must from all of this stuff.
    Just happens so fast, that the next thing makes the last next thing look old; and its not it is matured!
    A post to look back on next year and see what really happened eh?

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  • Ah, who knows?  I entertain myself and hope that it entertains you too. : ) I think there is some truth to the article. Thanks Billy! 

  •  Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, as always, Mark and you are spot on for 95% or so.  I share your view on Listicles and Infographics, particularly.

    Like some others, including Barb Youchah I differ a tad on Pinterest.  I sarted using it very recently, primarily to promote some serviced apartments in central london.  Hotels and serviced apartments are a highly visual product – a picture speaks a great deal more than 1,000 words and has done so for a long time.

    Pinterest extends the capability for me to show that the apartments look like ‘this’, the area has ‘these facilities’ and here are some ‘things taking place in London’ around the time you might be here.  There’s more to come.

    I would also not overlook that Pinterest allows the uploader to comment on what they are posting, allows followers to comment on photos shared, allows ‘likes’ and the chance to re-pin what you like to your own boards – that’s not a million miles from the Facebook experience, which may be one reason why Mark Zuckerberg has apparently joined (I’m assuming it really is him) along with many other social media people (I’m carefully avoiding the word ‘guru’ !).

    I don’t think Pinterest will take over the world but I do think it is another social media element that some types of business would do well to consider as a way of showcasing their products.  Of course, the traditional users of Pinterest before the recent explosion in wider interest may well resent the takeover of their recipes, dresses, ideal holidays etc. hidey hole !

  • Superb comment Matthew. Exceptional case study and I’m so delighted you took the time to share it with the {grow} community!

  • I think there is truth here too. Life at the speed of social is faaaast!

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  • Christina

    Mark, you are undeniably the master of examining social
    trends in a way that captures our imagination, and provokes thought!  Question: In your opinion, could part of Pinterest’s
    appeal lie in our ability to legally snatch copyrighted material for use in our
    own creations?  

  • HAS ANYONE PINNED PINS YET? *pinception*

  • What does a copyright even mean any more?  Pinterest is the Wild West of copyright law : ) 

    Thanks for your very kind words!

  • Too funny. Pintastic.

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  • Loved, loved, loved the post, Mark – I need to remember to tell my husband about the “clog blogs”.

    Overall, I am so with you.

    I see so many bloggers jumping on the bandwagon just because Matt Cutts sent out a tweet that Pinterest was great – oh-oh, I’d better do it, must be good for SEO if Matt mentions it!

    No matter which blogging period we are in, we are still just sheep that can’t fathom to think for ourselves.

  • Too funny! This morning I found a website when I was “stumbling” that illustrates your Mondrian point beautifully. It’s called “Do As One” and features a breathing exercise with color dots that expand as you breathe in and contract as you breathe out. I liked it so much I added the iphone app too. The color is what captured my (p)interest.

  • Loved the post! That was hilarious. 

    Don’t forget about how the iPhone revolutionized the cell phone industry, providing more of a visual way of communicating. 

    We went from just reading ‘text’ off a tiny little screen, to this 3.5 inch or so High Res screen where we can “FaceTime” chat with our buddies rather than just call or text them. 

    Pinterest is riding along side of that idea, accommodating a visual way of both communicating, connecting, and expressing ourselves. 

  • Robert Stritzinger

    Touche Mark!
    I just heard about Pinterest last week, got invited by a friend, put up a few “boards”and started investigating this new social phenom.  One thing I found out is that Pinterest drives more traffic than Google!  That blew my mind and is something that should be of great interest to marketers……

  • Too many words.  Enjoyed colors.

  • LOL : )

  • Wow. impressive. Thanks for letting us know!

  • Would have been a great addition to the post! : )  Thanks Brandon!

  • I am simply ahead of my time. By about 90 seconds it seems. Thanks Cheryl!

  • Boy you are opening a can of worms there!  Don’t get me going on the social media sheep. Well, it is just a reflection of society at large I guess. So great to have you comment on here Ana. An honor! 

  • I can hardly think of a business that couldn’t successfully adopt this idea.

  • evolvearoundme

    Thank you! I had a great laugh while I was (gasp!) reading this!

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  • This has got me feeling rather sheepish. Or perhaps more like a lemming… moving towards the Mondrian cliff?

    Great post!

  • Wow This is my favourite post I have read in easily the last week and possibly the only RT i have done for a while too. Love your work, truly a wordsmith. I hope you have registered . I have actually had pinterest on my to-do list but honestly i just don’t get it but then I didnt get twitter until I followed enough good people either.
    For those that are saying pinterest would be great for any business how could a vacuum cleaner parts website use it well? I would truly love an answer on this

  • Hi Rick well here is my challenge, I run a vacuum cleaner parts, bags etc website how would you utilize pintest if you were me?

  • Anonymous

    Do you sell these parts through the website or just tell people about them?

  • Hi Rick, We definately sell the parts through

  • Anonymous

    Whoa… can’t help you.

  • LOL yea it’s not very exciting but after a little bit of looking around I am going to start by pinning up some vacuum related stuff that is actually truly interesting like vintage stuff of modded vacuums and see where it takes me.

  • Diane Harris

    Love this tongue-in-cheek slant on Pinterest. With the biting humor is some reality. Great job!

  • Diane Harris

    Can I quote you?

  • Diane Harris

    Stage beautiful rooms with your vacuums in the photo

  • b2bspecialist

    I think experimentation is important with social platforms like Pinterest, Klout and G+. This experimentation helps us find useful ways and use cases based on what we learn from others. The broader problem, I believe, is we are a distracted people with very little patience! I don’t know the stats but how many of us read on a regular basis?

    It’s important, in my view, to be open minded about new things like Pinterest and Klout and see how they can help us engage with people in order to build new relationships, strengthen existing ones, sell books (just started reading yours because Kent Huffman added you to his authors list on Twitter) and do business.

    Here’s my Pinterest experiment: I’d be interested in your feedback.

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  • Dude! How do I get on the Mndrian list? Do I need an invite?!?! WTF?!!?
    For those who wish to reverse direction and find a more intelligent use for social networking perhaps I can suggest you visit that new music service underdog fuhshniZZle at – At least you can post mindful content to your favorite primary colors….

  • Chuck Kent

    Mark, As one who (apparently like you) considers cynicism a form of recreation, humorous or not, I think it’s great that your cynicism is showing. When well-tempered by sincerity, cynicism helps burst the bubbles of self-importance that inevitably surround hugely popular, fast-growing trends such as everything you address above. One of my favorite boards in this regard, as I tiptoe into Pinterest myself, is Nick Allen’s clever/funny/awesome, which uses pins to pop the aforementioned bubbles:

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  • I think you took this post a LITTLE too

  • HiMyNameIsJohn

    Pinterest… Yawn. Overhyped and it’s not going to pick up any more traction. It’s gone nowhere in past 12 months. If I wanted a marketing team to pursue 10 hours working with Facebook or Pinterest for our brands, I’d pick FB every single time. Not disregarding totally, but it deserve minimal attention for what it’s worth, from an eCommerce perspective.

    Tell me I’m wrong in 12 months. I’ll eat my hat and then some.

    Nonetheless, enjoyable read!

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