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TheStreet Open House

Why More Men Should Join Pinterest

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- In the less than two years since it launched, Pinterest has gone from being a little-known start-up site to one of the 10 most popular social networks in the world, even surpassing Google+ for total visits in December. Yet even as Pinterest's popularity skyrockets, it continues to have trouble appealing to one rather large demographic: men.

A recent report from Ignite Social Media finds that just 20% of Pinterest's users are men, confirming the assumptions that many have had about the site for months. Blogs such as Material Instinct have referred to the site as "catnip for women," while the tech site Gizmodo recently dubbed it "Tumblr for Ladiez." On the surface, it's not hard to see why.

Pinterest may be a social network site dominated by women, but there are plenty of incentives for men to join.

For those who haven't used Pinterest, it basically functions like Twitter or Tumblr but with an even greater emphasis on visual elements. Rather than simply linking to a particular Web site, members are prompted to "pin" their favorite photo from that page to a particular board (or category) along with a short description, which will then show up for users who follow them. In effect, each user acts as a curator assembling catalogs of their favorite online content, and more often than not, that content appears to focus on fashion, design, weddings, pets and food. You know, not "guy stuff."

To be sure, there's nothing wrong with a Web site focusing primarily on women, except that Pinterest strives to be gender neutral. In fact, the social network was founded by two men who frequently use the site to post about clever T-shirts, fighting robots and DIY projects they'd like to take on. What's more, there have already been multiple sites such as WhereIsTheCool and GentleMint that take Pinterest's format and specifically target men, showing there is nothing inherently feminine about Pinterest's model -- what matters is how the community uses it.

As someone who has been on Pinterest now for several months, I am here to say that there are at least four key reasons why anyone -- including men -- should give Pinterest a try.

Product discovery
Virtually all social networks can be used as product discovery tools for shoppers, but none hold a candle to Pinterest. The entire purpose of the site is to serve as a catalog for each user's interests, and more often than not those catalogs focus on items one wants to buy, use or make. If you're looking for suggestions on dress shoes to buy, movies to watch or food to serve at your Super Bowl party, chances are that plenty of boards are devoted entirely to each. All you have to do to find them is pick out the relevant category on Pinterest from the dozens that are listed and scroll through the results.

Filter, filter, filter
Anyone worried that they will be bombarded with too many posts about weddings after creating a Pinterest account should just take one look at the site's filtering system. While you certainly can choose to follow everything your friends and family post, Pinterest also offers an option to just follow certain boards. This way, if one of your friends has a board devoted to wedding dresses and another board devoted to funny posters, you can choose to follow just the latter. Imagine if Facebook and Twitter had a filtering system that good?

More engagement with strangers
One nice side effect of Pinterest's category search feature is that it's much easier for complete strangers to share and offer feedback on one another's posts. So for example, if you post a picture of a motorcycle to the site, other users searching through the "Cars & Motorcycles" category may come across it and "like" it, re-share it or comment on it. (In some ways, this is similar to Twitter's trending topics feature in that one can click on a link and see updates from others posting similar content.) In the process, you may just end up discovering and being discovered by users with similar tastes to you, making the social network that much more engaging.

Find out what she wants
Even though the site may be dominated by women's interests, think of it this way: It's essentially a guide telling men everywhere exactly what women want. All you have to do is create an account and you can keep track of the clothes, meals and events that the women in your life are interested in. (Of course, this can work both ways if more men join the site.) Granted, many of these may be dream purchases that are far too expensive to buy, but even just being able to show pictures of your special someone's clothing or jewelry to a salesperson could prove hugely helpful next time you need to go shopping for her.

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