Dramatic results follow Pinterest’s algorithm shift


A change in Pinterest’s system for counting followers has some pinners enjoying dramatic spikes in follower counts.

Pinterest has implemented a new system for assessing users’ follower counts.

On Wednesday, Pinterest Community Manager Enid Hwang explained the change on Pinterest’s Support page.

Hwang said that the old counting system sometimes failed to include pinners who followed just one of a user’s pinboards. Now, those pinners will be listed as followers on a user’s main profile.

“During our most rapid periods of growth, follower counts could be thrown off due to system-slowness or bugs which miscounted board-followers versus people who chose ‘Follow All’ on profiles,” she wrote.

The changes rolled out for users over a week-long period. Some pinners noticed the shift as early as May 25, while others (like the Daily Dot Pinterest account) did not see their follower numbers change until June.

“So I go to Pinterest this evening, and find my followers have gone from 163 to 208 and my following list has jumped from 109 to 428. Pinterest must be counting with new rules,” Catherine G. Bruhn commented on Facebook’s Pin Talk community six days before Hwang’s message.

The changes are most dramatic for Pinterest’s top 10 power users, each of whom experienced a dramatic rise or fall during the last week of May or the first week of June. Pinterest’s top user, CEO Ben Silbermann’s mother, Jane Wang, lost 36,842 followers. Meanwhile, Pinterest’s third most-popular user, Mike D, gained 33,599 followers when the change took effect.

Hwang said some users experienced an overall decrease in followers because Pinterest has been removing spammer accounts, which may have padded follower counts. (It’s no different than what Twitter has been doing for the last two years.)

“As you’ve probably noticed, our growth has also attracted attention from spammers, so any decrease in followers is partly tied to fake accounts we’ve been removing.”

Since most users are experiencing spikes rather than losses, Pinterest probably isn’t going to garner any ill will the way Klout did when its Oct. 2011 algorithm change lowered scores across the board.

Hwang wrote that the algorithm change is happening in advance of new features Pinterest will soon offer—including the much-requested ability to block other users.

“We also hope this system will lay the foundation for clicking on a specific followers list on a board and adding a blocking feature,” she wrote, “so we’re pretty excited that it’ll improve Pinterest in other ways too!”

Photo by Steve Jurvetson

Lauren Rae Orsini

Lauren Rae Orsini

Lauren Rae Orsini is a web culture reporter who specializes in anime and the business of fandom. Her work has been published by Forbes and Business Insider.