‘Teen Pinterest’ We Heart It Gives Brands Some Love

In seventh grade, I wrote in Sharpie on my pencil pouch, my Converses, and my skin. I drew doodles and carefully-lettered phrases like, “Good girls are bad girls who don’t get caught.” I’d just gotten my first cell phone, and sharpies were the best way to release some of my angst. Plus, I thought my pencil pouch looked way cooler with a bit of permanent-marker rebellion.

I don’t know if girls are still drawing on things in class — probably — but many have also turned to photo-based social network We Heart It for self-expression and inspiration. It’s a sea of pastel images, GIFs from that one Miley Cyrus movie, and quotes like, “Treat me like a joke and I’ll leave you like it’s funny.”

Teenagers make up more than 50 percent of We Heart It’s 25 million monthly users. Predictably, they’re most engaged on mobile. According to We Heart It President Dave Williams, three quarters of the network’s activity occurs via smartphone. “It’s a very, very active and engaged audience,” he said.

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Since the site quietly launched in 2007, We Heart It has focused on audience and product. Its desktop site features a smattering of ads, but the iOS and Android apps are ad-free. Currently, the Pinterest-esque dashboard filled with Instagram-ish images continues to grow by more than one million new members per month.

We Heart It and Content Marketing

This December, We Heart It launched its first brand partnership program, granting certain brands more control over their We Heart It experience. Partnership benefits include a verified account, direct sharing to We Heart It, and the ability to increase traffic to partner sites via sponsored images.

Teen Vogue, one of We Heart It’s initial partners, has tracked the network since it emerged on the social scene, and the magazine reserved its handle a couple years ago. “We decided to activate this fall after meeting with members of the We Heart It team and gaining a better understanding of what kind of Teen Vogue content would resonate most with the platform’s users,” said Drew Elovitz, Teen Vogue’s social media manager. “Our strong visuals coupled with our social-savvy demo makes We Heart It a perfect fit, but we wanted to be sure to have an authentic, emotional connection with the audience here.”

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Brands that blend in with We Heart It’s image stream are the ones that do best, since users are already sharing branded pics, including 170,000 images tagged “Starbucks.” To be an oft-hearted brand, Williams advises managers to express the inspiration behind the brand rather than honing in on a product. “What is working for brands is what works for users,” he said. “It’s brands that come in and can connect to their users on a level of not just product spots but being able to display themselves in a way that’s authentic.”

Wattpad, another initial partner, integrates easily into We Heart It’s environment because both communities have young, highly engaged users. “There are a lot of parallels between how and who is using our platforms,” said Aron Levitz, Head of Business Development at Wattpad. “When you look at some of the top images that get shared on We Heart It, there are stories about that kind of image on our site.”

Additionally, many of the images Wattpad posts to We Heart It are user-created book covers. Wattpad users upload 40,000 story covers a day. Levitz added: “We get to use brilliant social networks like We Heart It to spread those user images.”

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It’s not any kind of ad package, but this move toward brand integration shows We Heart It shifting some of its focus to commercial outreach. Williams imagines the next step will look similar to Pinterest or Instagram’s native advertising model, though he hinted at some kind of expansion: “We’ve got creative ideas about how to activate our base.”

Given We Heart It’s primary demographic, I have serious hopes for baskets of golden retriever puppies and limitless green tea frappuccinos. More likely, we’ll get a sweet addition to the native content mix.

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Image by Nina Matthews
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