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Meet We Heart It, the teen social network that brands are watching

Caitlin McGarry | July 22, 2014
Social networks that appeal to women are written off as silly time-wasters (see: Pinterest), and ones that appeal to young girls are taken even less seriously. That's how 7-year-old We Heart It has flown under the radar for all this time, despite amassing millions of users and several high-profile advertisers.

The network's next step

We Heart It is still in the early days of its advertising experiment. Like other free networks, it's trying to place unobtrusive, native ads in its stream without upsetting users. Ads appear as images in the network's trending feed and look just like any other post. Instead of a user sharing an inspirational Nike slogan, Nike can advertise itself, and no one will really know the difference.

That's how We Heart It ads will differ from Pinterest's model, Williams said.

"TV advertising is designed around creating an emotional connection to a brand," he said. "Internet advertising has not really been brand-oriented as much, it's been about that click-through. We think that's a model that can work, but we're really about the idea. We're more focused on which brands resonate with [users], rather than which shoes they're going to buy right now. We're more like a glossy magazine than a catalog."

We Heart It is exploring ways to let you create your own mini magazines on the network with Collections, which are similar to Pinterest's themed boards, and plans to continue in that vein.

"Collections have become almost like playlists," Williams said. "I'm an amateur photographer, but I can certainly make a collection that resonates, in the same way that I can't create a top 40 song, but I can create a playlist that expresses who I am."

A safe space for teen girls to express themselves without hearing any negative feedback from their peers sounds like a relief for parents — even if the rest of the Internet is blissfully unaware that such a place exists.


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