Why Are Pinterest & Instagram So Popular?

And why should you care?

Niche social networks Pinterest and Instagram have captured and maintained the attention of the tech elite and the mainstream far past the honeymoon, probationary period. And the numbers are compelling. A recent report from Experian shows that in the past year, Pinterest’s share of the social media market rose more than 5,000 percent in North America. It is a top 20 social network in North America, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Instagram’s share of the social market increased more than 17,000 percent in North America during that same period.

Why? It would be easy to point to the fact that Pinterest is full of food, design and products, which appeal to the pleasure zone for sure, but that would discount Instagram’s broader subject matter. The common feature is the image-centric nature of the content. People  respond to gorgeous images and layout. Simple design that doesn’t get in the way of the eye-candy. This is what the online world wants to see  – something pretty.

Pictures, still or moving, are the best means of engagement in an otherwise still, online world. This explains why YouTube is so popular – we would prefer to “see” than “read.” Reading is work – it leaves much to the imagination. Seeing is a more immediately gratifying experience. The image conveys information that the written word cannot.

So, why should you the lawyer, or online professional, care? Do you want to attract attention? Do you want to hold someone’s interest? Are you trying to connect online? If you have and do, then you owe it to your content to bring it alive with design and color. Pay attention to your site layout, your blog theme and your presence on visual networks. Add images, and good ones, to your blog posts. Maybe use video to give your presence some animated personality. With some creativity, you can build a presence on sites like Pinterest and Instagram for your professional interests. Pinterest boards dedicated to law firm design or courtroom illustrations. Instagram accounts with portraits of coworkers or your “shot of the day.”

The nameplate sites like Zerply, About.me, Flavors.me, and others, also understand this. That is why their templated profiles look great – they spend time on that aspect of the design because it will encourage others to spend time on the profiles hosted on the site. Why are infographics so popular? They are far more fun to look at than an encyclopedia page full of text and tables.

I will readily admit that I tend to spend more time on a site that is easier to “see” – crowded, text-heavy pages tend to turn me off. There is a reason why people are spending time on this image-centric sites. It’s worth considering them and taking a cue from their design sense while setting up your content.

Granular Social Networking Stats

Maybe I should have said tabular, but still, this free report from Experian Simmons, entitled the 2010 Social Networking Report contains lots of data on recent increases in social media usage, confirming suspicions that social media networking is indeed on the steep rise. The entire report can be downloaded after filling out some basic information or you can view it online (link here). I thought it worthwhile to quote the follownig two paragraphs from the introduction to give a flavor for the findings:

The 2010 Social Networking Report provides the hard data behind this consumer revolution, including the fact that fully 66% of online Americans use social networking sites today, up from just 20% in 2007. Social networking is an increasingly addictive activity, with nearly half of those who access such sites (43%) reporting that they visit them multiple times per day. While users of social networking sites may have initially signed up to better keep in touch with friends, a growing number say they now use sites like Facebook to connect with family members. An astounding 70% of social networkers keep in touch with family via their various online networks, up from 61% a year ago.

Fully two-thirds of all online adults today have visited a social networking site in the last 30 days, up from 53% in 2008 and 20% in 2007. Social networks have most thoroughly penetrated the young adult market, as nearly 9-in-10 online 18-to 34-year-olds visit such sites today. But even older Americans are tapping into social networks, with 41% of online adults age 50 and older making monthly visits to sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.