The Why and How of the PinPal Story

So – that PinPal site, huh? Matching singles on social media and putting them in a private Pinterest board to get their thing on – so crazy it could have been real!

But it wasn’t – it was our take on the annual April Fool’s parade, and sure had a lot of people talking about it. Especially the people person that was their founder, Jimmy Addison – man, that dude sure could spout off!

But there’s more to PinPal than just being an April Fool’s joke – we also wanted to show the frequent folly of social media and how the hype machine and a plausible idea can come together to make something seem real, so quickly. The How of PinPal

The initial idea came up in a chat between some of the punks, and it quickly became fleshed out into what would be the PinPal project. To ensure this would seem as plausible as possible, we needed to make it more than just a few tweets and an idea. Cue the PVSM creatives.

  • Creative punk Dennis Van Staalduinen came up with the PinPal basics: name, the URL and the concept of social media cross platforming for dating.
  • Once we had the domain, we quickly got the site hosting sorted out.
  • From the logo idea, the overall look and feel of the site design was easy.
  • We needed a figurehead, and we settled on Jimmy Addison – a young, cocky and somewhat belligerent founder who would get pissy at the slightest criticism.
  • We then crafted the backstory of the key players, and melded various LinkedIn bios to create each individual’s own history.
  • We worked out how PinPal would integrate with other sites, and played off the popularity of Pinterest.
  • We also played heavily on the division Klout has on social media users, made Joe Fernandez a mentor of Jimmy, and ruled you couldn’t get access to the beta unless you had a Klout score of 40 and above.
  • vWe then bought 4,000 Twitter followers for a measly $5 from Fiverr to add to Jimmy’s appeal.

With all these in place, it was time to build up a little buzz. We started feeding Twitter with some updates from Jimmy, and had him converse with people as well as question the wisdom of inviting Canadians to the beta, just to stoke up the flames a little bit more.

As the buzz built, we then released the “public website” on March 31. The site was a fully-fleshed out component, with user testimonials, pictures of beta users, a promotional video and more. This definitely helped build the belief that this may be a real company.

To add the final piece of the puzzle, we then produced a news release and distributed it through PitchEngine.

Of course, any new service in social media will always have its detractors, so Danny, Mark and Kami wrote a post questioning the sanity of a service like PinPal. And that’s when the fun began.

Jimmy was suddenly being questioned online, and began lashing out at critics and praising supporters in equal measure. Folks were asking if the company was real, was it April Fool, what were the privacy implications, and would Pinterest block PinPal’s API.

All good buzz, all good fun. And, like all good things, that fun eventually has to come to an end. Which brings us nicely to the Why of PinPal. The Why of PinPal

Sure – the overall game of PinPal and the surrounding buzz was meant as an April Fool’s joke. But, there was a more serious reason behind the prank, and that was to highlight how easily people will give up their privacy if something seems kosher.

To join the PinPal beta, for example, you would have had to given us access to your Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest accounts. Not only that, but we made it clear upfront that we’d be grabbing the information of your friends too, whether they were part of our service or not.

We’d then put these people on display to be picked up by their match (albeit in a private Pinterest board area), and connect them with messages to say they had matches.

Now, clearly this would never happen, as we never built a beta area. But… we got a large amount of people saying they were interested, and more than 400 tweets in less than 12 hours sharing our special message to get into the beta test. To us, that was scarier than the concept of PinPal itself.

But perhaps it shouldn’t be. We see stories everyday of how social media is forcing us to lose our identities in the name of privacy, or lack of. We see companies like Klout create bogus profiles from public Twitter feeds, and Google force its users to create a Google+ account whenever they use a new Google product.

We see Facebook continuously change its privacy settings, and the likes of Tweetdeck giving a single user access to other people’s data due to a flaw.

Essentially, we’re giving away our lives in the name of trying to fit in online. And we don’t need to.

Yes, social media is cool. Social media is changing the way we do things. But social media is also causing us to be lazy and give up our privacy in order to play online.

We need to pull that back. We need to be more careful of what we share, and who we share it with. And we need to ask ourselves if we really need to be on the next big thing, no matter how fun or cool it may be, when we’re already giving up so much elsewhere.

You have been warned.