In an ongoing effort to make Pinterest the happiest social media site on the internet, the visual search platform is making its content more body-positive.
On Thursday, Pinterest announced the debut of its body-type technology, which internally shapes the platform’s algorithms to increase the representation of plus-size bodies within its women’s fashion- and wedding-related content. The body-type technology joins the pre-existing skin tone technology to represent more BIPOC plus-size people in search results, regardless of whether a Pinterest user has opted to search for BIPOC or plus-size people.
“We’re attempting to increase representation by building this proprietary, inclusive technology that powers recommendations and … to create a diverse experience on Pinterest,” said Annie Ta, head of inclusive products at Pinterest. “We’ve learned from our users that, if you identify as a plus-size woman, you don’t only want to see plus-size fashion. And you want to see that plus-size women can be fashionable when you’re looking [for it], but you don’t want to work extra hard to find it.”
Ultimately, the new technology widens the aperture of who can be seen on social media. Plus-size representation across society, from beauty and fashion advertising to the runways of NYFW, is decidedly lacking. This is despite the wide presence of plus-size people in the U.S., where approximately 68% of American women wear a size 14 or above, according to 2018 data from Plunkett Research.
Multiple parties have made strides to increase the visibility of plus-size people. In 2016, Refinery 29 collaborated with Getty Images to launch its “Project 67 Percent” to get imagery of a greater variety of body types into the media. Refinery 29 committed to featuring plus-size women in 67% of its images across its website and social media, representing the then-67% figure of plus-size Americans. In addition, Google offers marketers and advertisers best practices for body-positive representation. A 2022 Boston University study found that plus-size models have gained in popularity and positively impacted a body-inclusive model of beauty. Another 2022 study published in the journal “Body Image” showed that following social media pages which celebrate different body sizes, shapes, colors and abilities could improve young women’s body image in everyday life.
Ultimately, by improving the user experience, more people will engage with Pinterest and for longer, which makes the platform more attractive to advertisers. Pinterest confirmed that increasing inclusivity within its content leads to gains in user engagement. In its recent experiments, Pinterest found that shifts toward inspirational and inclusive content increase its relevance, engagement and user value.
According to the company’s latest earnings report, released Aug. 1, its second-quarter 2023 revenue grew 6% year-over-year to $708 million. And its global monthly active users increased 8% year-over-year to 465 million. Pinterest expects third-quarter revenue to grow in the high single-digit range year-over-year.
The origin of Pinterest’s focus on body-type technology came from user feedback, said Megan D’Alessio, manager of inclusion and diversity at Pinterest. Users cited that they frequently had to make several modifications to their search requests to generate relevant results — for example, searching “plus size fall fashion” before “curvy outfits for fall.” In fact, 52% of additional terms added to fashion searches related to plus size, she said.
To drive awareness and educate users on Pinterest’s inclusive products, on Thursday?, the platform is launching a social media campaign across Pinterest, TikTok and Instagram with model and body activist Tess Holliday and other Pinterest creators. It’s also introducing dedicated education on Pinterest.
“Pinterest is primarily a visual search tool, and because of that, we are uniquely positioned to impact representation,” said D’Alessio. “For a long time, [social media] has developed tools and technology without proactively considering the impact those decisions and experiences have, particularly on marginalized populations.”