Pinterest has taken the online world by storm, as you no doubt know by now. But Pinterest isn’t a singular phenomenon, it’s an indicator. Think of Pinterest as part of the next social groundswell, called “social discovery.”
Pinterest is what you’d call a social discovery platform or service. And it definitely won’t be the last, which means you’ll want to know more about social discovery and how it could benefit your online business.
Social Discovery Defined
Social discovery is a process by which people meet, connect with and engage with each other, usually over interests they have in common.
In other words, you hook up with total strangers because you like the same stuff.
Let’s use Pinterest as an example.
Real quick Pinterest vocabulary moment for those of you not using the service: a pin is a single post and a board is a collection of pins by subject, such as Impossible Realms or “Trailer” Trash, which are a couple of mine. Okay? Okay, back to the article.
Pinterests’ content is organized by subject, not by groups of people. Let’s say you like cupcakes (who doesn’t, right?). There are thousands of pins devoted to cupcakes. You can get your virtual fill of cupcake porn until you have virtual insulin shock. As you browse, you may like some of the pins so much that you decide to follow either the single boards or everything from another Pinterest user. Now you’re connected with a complete stranger over something you both have in common: an ungodly and probably extremely sinful love of cupcakes. You don’t know this person at all except that you know she likes cupcakes, too. But now you kind of have a relationship with her (albeit a very superficial one).
That, my friends, is social discovery.
By the way, Pinterest certainly wasn’t the first social discovery platform. Social discovery can be traced back to the early days of Delicious, Flickr and StumbleUpon (just to name a few). If you’ve seen or used any of those services, you’ve been using a social discovery platform all this time. And that’s not even to mention all the music social discovery sites out there where people connect with each other over their favorite music.
Social discovery grew as a category of social media but now it’s big enough to move out on its own and party like a frat boy.
Social Discovery vs Social Media
Another way to get your head around what social discovery is to highlight important differences between social discovery and social media. Let’s use Facebook as an example.
Facebook is about doing stuff with people you already know. You message them, you read their timeline posts, see their cat pictures, whatever. Your family is on Facebook. Your real life friends are on Facebook. The main point of Facebook is not becoming friends with complete strangers because you have interests in common (even though such a thing is possible on Facebook it’s not Facebook’s main mission).
Social Discovery Elements within Social Media
Social discovery is becoming an important feature of existing social media networks we’re already using, such as Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is pushing this pretty hard by suggesting other users for you to follow. Facebook shows you a few other Facebook users you can add as a friend based on friends you both have in common (note that’s not interests you have in common, though).
Social Discovery and Blog Comments
There is a type of social discovery on your blog right now in the form of your blog’s comments. When you see an insightful or otherwise impressive comment on a blog, you want to know about that person so you click on their link and go to their site. That is a social discovery element of blog comments. Some third party commenting systems and WordPress plugins enhance the social discovery aspect even further, such as Disqus, Livefyre, CommentLuv and Triberr.
Why Social Discovery Matters
If you have a hundred thousand Twitter followers but none of them read or retweet your tweets, it doesn’t matter that you have a hundred thousand followers. If you have a thousand followers to love you and hang on your every word and buy stuff from you whenever you post a link to a sales page, well… then you’re in business.
Social discovery is a way to get that “thousand people,” so to speak. To have quantity and quality in your personal social network, not just one or the other. And it’s something you can do even if you don’t have a website yet (that way, when your site is finally live you have all these people to share it with).
Let me put it this way: social discovery matters because as the old saying goes… it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
From Strangers to Friends
Here’s the action part, where you take these ideas and make them real.
Social Discovery Services:
The Scary Part: Making Contact
This is exactly the scary part you will balk at: you have to make contact with another human being. This is a piece of cake for any social media service which allows you to message other users or comment on their stuff. You simply send them a message or leave a comment on their stuff (I know, rocket surgery, right?). Just say hello and that you’re glad to find another person who likes toothpick and styrofoam peanut sculptures as much as you do.
If they reply, then keep the conversation going. Take it deeper and invite them to follow/friend you on other services. Trade email addresses and send them cool links.
Maybe (call me crazy here) even let them know you have a website and that you sell stuff.
That’s your assignment. Good luck!