This post is the first in a series that will explore social business though story telling. Stories allow readers to place themselves in the shoes of the protagonist and gain experience though empathy. Put down the report, set aside excel, and gather ’round the fire.
I’d like to introduce you to Adam. Adam is a creator. Adam uses photography to make relevant and thought-provoking observations about the world around him. I’d also like to introduce you to Brent. Brent is a curator. Brent spends hours combing the web for new content which he then feeds to his many Twitter followers.
One day, Brent comes across one of Adam’s photos, slaps a catchy headline on it and posts it to Twitter. Brent’s followers retweet the post to all of their followers, and Brent gets a handful of new followers. Brent’s followers click the post and go to Adam’s site, where they thumb through more photos, and a few of them even buy prints. This is a good relationship; Brent gets social credit in the form of followers and Adam gets social credit in the form of sales. Everyone wins.
I’d like to also introduce you to Caroline. Caroline is another curator and she uses Pinterest. Caroline also comes across Adam’s work and pins it to her board. Caroline’s followers scroll though her board, see the photo, a few pin it to their own walls, but almost no one clicks on the link. While Caroline and her followers are happy, Adam isn’t. Adam has no economic incentive to keep up production. Adam stops creating, and Caroline loses content. Everyone loses.
Brent and Caroline are the Goofus and Gallant of social media, cartoon characters of their real world counterparts. In the Twitter model creation is valued just as highly as curation, if not more so, and both parties have an incentive to continue.
In the Caroline model curation saps all the value from creation, and the creator loses all incentive to keep producing good work.
So what’s the difference here? Why does the first equation work and the second one doesn’t? The answer is that there’s a core difference between Twitter and Pinterest. Twitter encourages you to visit the artist’s website. You only have 140 characters, so if you want to share a picture you have to redirect to the artist’s website. (Yes, you could repost the source picture to Twitter directly, but the platform doesn’t make this behavior easy.)
Pinterest, on the other hand, republishes the actual picture. Visitors to your Pinterest page have much less incentive to click through to the underlying author’s website, because they already have what they’re looking for.
But Adam is “getting his work out there”—right? Yes. If Adam had to choose between getting his work shared on Pinterest vs. not getting it shared, he’d obviously prefer the former. But there used to be a value equation between the creators and the curators. And Pinterest, by not putting enough emphasis on attribution, is eroding that. It remains to be seen whether this will have lasting negative effects on the Adams of the world.