Pinterest Game Mechanics Rundown
Everyone is looking for the next big thing.
The only thing more important than what is the next big thing is why it is the next big thing. When we know why something works it is more possible to build our own next big thing or find it faster. The study of game mechanics is the study of why things work on the web.
Pinterest seems to be gaining steam faster than anything else. Lets break down the game mechanics of Pinterest to see why it works.
Pinterest is a collecting/matching game that caters to the nesting instinct. It manifests as a visual bookmarking tool.
Most of it's users are female as the nesting instinct is more developed in the females of most cultures.
3 level of action - A Like button gives them the lowest barrier to showing interest. A comment button gives them the next level up to showing interest via freeform text. The repin button gives them the strongest way to show interest by bookmarking the site
Visual- Pictures presented in a tight fitting lattice to allow players to scan quickly for anything that inspires their interest. As our attention spans have been reduced more and more by services like Twitter this quick scan system presents the lowest possible barrier to entry for most players. Additionally because females have developed this quick scan sense more so than males they take to it even faster.
Scarcity- The invite only status introduces the game element of scarcity and thus makes people curious and introduces increased desire. The fact that the prompt you get after pinning offers you the ability to share your action via twitter for only a moment before disappearing also makes use of scarcity to subtly make you crave seeing what you just missed and thus continue to pin more.
Matching- When Pinning you must decide on what board to pin to. This quick decision that must be made is light enough obstacle that it does not act as a barrier to adoption and meaningful enough that users enjoy the activity as a means self expression.
Productivity: Everyone enjoys showing off their collection or achievement. A collection of a beautiful inspiring things that one can look over or have friends look over engenders a strong sense of pride and accomplishment, this translates into a feeling of productivity for the player even more so than a level 50 farm in farmville.
On Action: When you pin an item you get an animated prompt that presents you with the game mechanic of deciding a place to pin it too. It also offers you the option of viewing it afterwards or broadcasting it via twitter. The fact that this prompt only lasts a second before automatically leaving introduces the game element of scarcity.
On Site: You news feed mentions the likes, comments and repins you get.
Off Site: Notifications are sent via email for each like, comment and repin.
Content Creators- Anyone that produces or curates visually interesting content on their blog can pin their photos to pinterest and open up a new market for eye balls.
Merchants- Retailers of visually appealing content gain the additional bonus of eyeballs being naturally converted into purchases as the audience of the service have an aggressive window shopping mindset.
Users- The game mechanics of the service are sufficient to addict to the act of pinning and the feedback is sufficient to retain their attention enough to pull them away from other ego feeds such as Facebook.
Pinterest- Pinterest has created a money link between the merchants and their audiences via the numerous affiliate programs in operation for web retailers. This allows them to earn a percentage off all clicks that convert to purchases.