Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Foursquare, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Myspace – and the list goes on.
The number of social media sites today is truly incredible. In terms of sheer variety, any college student can find a social media platform to meet their specific needs, whether that is to gain inspiration for a wedding, make business connections or drive traffic to their blog.
In terms of visual micro-blogging or social bookmarking websites, Pinterest and Tumblr have taken center stage as image-driven organizational centers for billions of images, categorized and curated by each user to create their individual profile.
While Pinterest’s rapid rise to stardom has reached a plateau this month compared to December through February, the average Pinterest user spends 98 minutes per month on the site and Tumblr users spend an average of 2.5 hours per month ‘tumbling,’ according to Comscore.
Looking at the functions of each website, it’s easy to see that they have extremely similar uses as well as speak to an audience of users with comparable needs for their social media sites.
So as college students with limited time for site maintenance, which is worth the while?
When Bridget McQuillan, a graphic design major at Creighton University, discovered Pinterest, she immediately began using it more frequently than Tumblr for her photography and typography inspiration.
“While I still love to use Tumblr, I find myself using it more to look at pictures and quotes when I’m bored, while Pinterest is more of a tool I use frequently,” she said. “If I find anything interesting online, I go straight to my bookmarks and pin what I see to my ‘design inspiration’ board on Pinterest…it’s probably the best thing I’ve done all year.”
McQuillan is not alone in her preference for the easy organization found on Pinterest compared to the overwhelming amount of information and images on Tumblr.
Liz Welle, a public relations major at the University of Minnesota, no longer updates her Tumblr but continues to prefer using her Pinterest for personal use as well as to drive traffic to her blog.
“Pinterest and Tumblr are a great example of how visually oriented people are becoming,” Welle explains. “I’m a very visual person as well, so I was naturally drawn to Pinterest…I don’t use Tumblr anymore, but I follow roughly two hundred of them. It’s a great discovery tool.”
While Tumblr and Pinterest are similar, there are a few key differences that distinguish the websites: Pinterest is exclusively visual content such as pictures and printed posters that can be either uploaded by the user or re-pinned; the majority of users tend to utilize the latter.
Content published on Tumblr can vary from photographs to audio clips to quotes or even plain text and links. Essentially, Tumblr offers a larger variety of options to publish content whereas the appeal of Pinterest is in the organization.
Every Pinterest page is identical. Though users can create their own unique ‘boards’ to pin on the page, general layout will be the same for each user. Tumblr users have the option to create original themes, meaning each page is completely individualized.
For some students such as Parker Mullins, a business student at the University of Minnesota, neither site is worth the time it requires to maintain.
“The content on Pinterest and Tumblr just isn’t what I am looking for; so little of it is original and there is no dialogue to go along with it – no perspective, no opinion,” Mullins said. “People just re-pin or re-blog with very little thought as to why it matters…I stick mostly to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.”
Pinterest and Tumblr fulfill different needs; use of the sites will vary from user to user based on which one contains more qualities that the user is looking for in a social media site.
For students looking to create an easy-to-maintain blog, Tumblr will be the answer due to the abundance of medium options available on the site and the amount of text that can be published. Students focused on organizing concepts and ideas may prefer the stark organizational qualities of Pinterest to make access simple and fast whenever inspiration is in quick demand for a project, whether that is DIY, graphic design or photography.
The key to using either site is simple: using these new methods of self-expression in a creative and engaging way can provide a boost to a career, internship hunt or simply marketing oneself as a brand.
Explore the limits of what the site has to offer, understand how creating an online portfolio of who you believe yourself to be in media formats can be helpful, and interact with the site fully to make it worth your effort.
Whether or not you deem either site worthy of your time, understanding the future and importance of visual sharing communities on the Internet is vital to the growth of social media knowledge and use for any college student.
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