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February 13, 2014

Study Reveals Surprising Ways In Which Men Use Pinterest

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Stereotypically masculine content such as sports and cars are less popular among male Pinterest users than the topics of art, photography and home décor, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Georgia Institute of Technology claim in a new study.

As part of their research, the authors looked at the habits of over 46,000 users of the image-intensive social network. They found that the most popular Pinterest topics tended to be of “traditional female” interest, including food and drink, arts and crafts, home décor and women’s fashion, the university said in a statement.

While there are differences in the type of content collected by men and women, as well as the degree to which they specialized, men were not especially interested in stereotypically male topics. While males pay more attention to sports, technology and cars than women, none of those topics were among their 10 most popular categories.

The study, which will be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing that kicks off this weekend in Baltimore, sheds new light on the photo-sharing habits of the 70-plus million Pinterest members worldwide.

“Pinterest is often seen as a site for women. This representation is so popular that 'Pinterest-for-men' sites have been created,” explained study co-author and University of Minnesota computer science and engineering professor Loren Terveen. “This study shows that men who use Pinterest are also interested in some of these same topics.”

Terveen’s and his fellow investigators looked at a total of 3.1 million pins from over 46,000 Pinterest users between November 26, 2012 and January 15, 2013. They were able to identify the gender of 32,000 of those users, and found a correlation between sharing more diverse types of content with a larger number of followers – but only to a point. Eventually, the increased diversity of images pinned is no longer helpful, they said.

The researchers found that generally speaking, women focus their pinning efforts on fewer categories than their male counterparts. The top five categories amongst females account for a little more than 56 percent of their total activity, while 40 percent of male activity focuses upon their five most frequently used pinning categories.

“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 study co-author Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor within the Georgia Tech College of Computing.

“Our research has only scratched the surface of what we can learn from social media activity,” he added. “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 also determined that approximately 10 percent of all pins by men were categorized as Design, making it the second most popular category for males. However, only three percent of pins by women fell in this category, making it just the ninth most popular Pinterest category amongst women.

The categories of Geek, History and Sports were more popular among men, while Kids, Wedding and Holiday & Events were more popular among women. Food & Drink was the top category for both men and women, though on the whole the two genders have significantly different pinning activities across most categories, they added.

“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,” the university added. “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.”