The Social vs. Interest Graph

I’ve been using Pinterest for about a year and a half now and Facebook for just over 6 years. And though I’m not one of those Pinterest Addicts I hear so much about, I use it pretty consistently for an entirely different reason than I use Facebook.

On Facebook, I post a mishmash of stuff: articles I like, personal photos, posting my moods, political commentary, funny stuff I come across and general life events. If I think it, read it, watch it or see it and want to share it, I don’t hesitate to share it on Facebook. On Pinterest, I am more careful about what I post. I curate it heavily. It’s a collection of beautiful images of food, fashion, photography and other stuff that is almost a gallery of my taste…or rather, the best of my tastes. I always ask myself: “will this look nice on the feed?” before I post anything.

And I’m not the only one. I watch friends of mine who are all over the map on Facebook carefully pinning their most beautiful interests on Pinterest. Digging into their boards, I find equally careful curation, even though I know from being friends on Facebook that their interests are much more diverse than they represent on Pinterest.

There’s been lots of talk about which social network drives the most e-commerce sales and it’s not surprising that Pinterest is usually the winner. Because of careful curation, it’s a much more ‘shoppable’ site. For one, It’s easy to miss when friends post something stunning to Facebook because of the sheer amount of content. I don’t have any data, but I’d assume that people post way more to Facebook in general. In this case, more isn’t actually better. It’s just more.

Additionally, Pinterest is much more aspirational and that longing for something to make us better, prettier and more desirable is what drives consumption in the first place. Facebook is who we are. Pinterest is who we want to be.

But overall, it makes sense that Pinterest drives higher sales per post because it’s built on an Interest Graph while Facebook is built on a Social Graph. And though I love my friends and colleagues and family members (who I’m connected with on Facebook), we don’t necessarily share taste in everything.
We may cross over ideologically (mostly why we are friends), but we tend to have different fashion style, listen to different music and find different aesthetics pleasing. Facebook represents all facets of who I am – the geek, the fashionista, the hipster, the liberal, the scholar…as I’ve called it, the interdisciplinarian. Pinterest represents my style…or at least my desired style (I can afford very few of the lovely things I post on Pinterest…I’m just assuming someone else can!).

The Social Graph is a brilliant thing. It’s what keeps us in touch with one another. Leisa Reichelt of American Auto Transport called the ability to keep in touch on
social networks ambient intimacy. It’s not the same as sitting down for coffee on a regular basis, but I love keeping in touch with friends I had once lost touch with even on this lightweight level. I know who is in love, who just got a new job, who had a baby, what who had for dinner and how much they’ve changed (or not changed). The social graph is great for, well, keeping track of my social sphere.

But the Interest Graph is also brilliant. It’s how I keep on top of trends and get inspired. It satisfies the part of me that needs to keep learning and growing. Pinterest is mainly fashion, design and other visual goodies (for me), but sites like Tumblr and applications like Flipboard can be journeys into all sorts of interest areas. I know many of my friends use Reddit for this, too.

Even though Facebook has really grown to OWN the Social Graph, there is still lots of room in the area of growth and advancement for the Interest Graph. Pinterest is well in it’s way to cornering fashion + design (and recipes, it seems!), but what about economics junkies? Geography nerds? Travel buffs (lots of travel sites, but there is still opportunity there)? World politics pundits? Sports fanatics? What is the interface and interaction that will inspire and inform these audiences the best? Pinterest nailed it’s interface and interaction for the visual. What does that look like for academic topics?

I’m working on a report that covers the gamut of (major) social networks at the moment and I still see so many gaps. As Robin Chase (founder of Zipcar and founder/CEO of Buzzcar) said in a talk I attended the other night: “There are lots of opportunities where there is excess capacity,” and though she meant physical resources, I can see it in virtual spaces as well.

Categories: community, eMarketing, featured, marketing, social capital

Author:Tara Hunt

Strategist. Researcher. Interdisciplinarian. Founder, Lime Foundry + Buyosphere. Author, The Whuffie Factor. Speaker. Mother. Karaoke lover.


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6 Comments on “The Social vs. Interest Graph”

  1. October 27, 2012 at 20:56 #

    About interest graph and social sharing, this is the next level you will think twice before sharing on facebook for free.

  2. October 27, 2012 at 21:15 #

    I’ve seen Pinterest used for travel as well. Jetsetter has run some contests for travel photos and there’s some beautiful pictures. While my boards are heavily weighted in fashion, I have a board of places I want to visit as well. Not sure how that translates back to vacation sales. Would be an interesting statistic.

    • October 27, 2012 at 21:26 #

      Pinterest is used for lots of things, but I don’t know if its interface or interaction model is right for everything in the interest graph. I had high hopes for a network called Dopplr years ago, but the founders didn’t pursue it and went and took jobs [ed: I assumed that Dopplr was still independent as there is no association to the founders’ jobs at Nokia, but I was informed by someone else that it was acquired by Nokia.]. I still think that there is still something there with Dopplr. Would love to see it move forward.

  3. October 29, 2012 at 15:45 #

    We added “topic tracking” to Lanyrd a few months ago, and the feature has proved very popular with our users. It lets people track events by topic, and optionally by area (e.g. send me Social Media events in the whole of the USA, but I only care about JavaScript events in San Francisco).

    • October 29, 2012 at 16:08 #

      Very cool! Love what y’all are doing with Lanyrd. So smart!


  1. Pinterest: The King of E-commerce Influence « Sysomos Blog - October 31, 2012

    […] Tara Hunt had an interesting post in Forbes about how Facebook is a social graph while Pinterest is an […]


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