Pinterest is now the third largest social network. It's ahead of both Linkedin and Google+, as measured by number of users, according to a new report from Experian. Its rapid success has led to a proliferation of clones. Will any of them come anywhere close to garnering the same attention? If they do, it won’t be because they just copycatted Pinterest, it will be because they understood and integrated the same formula for success. Let’s take a closer look at 6 key factors driving the success of one of today’s largest social networks:

1) Continuous Involvement – Most social networks have you create a profile and once you’re done filling out your basic sign-up data that’s literally the end of the engagement process. The signup process at Pinterest is just that and then the real fun begins.

2) Self Expression – On the surface Pinterest appears to be just about pining individual pictures to boards. However, this is one case where the sum is greater than the parts. Your complete collection of boards and pins can effectively highlight an individual’s tastes and style all in one web page. The information conveyed about your personality by your Pinterest profile is a leap ahead of the text based information that other social networks compile when it comes to actually capturing some essence of your character.  

3) Social Feedback Loop – Pinterest creates a positive feedback loop where if you post something great it can easily go viral. Short of going viral a few repins or likes can be satisfying and rewarding enough to keep most users going. Communication is kept to a minimum and as a result users feel safe that they can broadcast content without fear of criticism. If you’re the kind of person who feels uncomfortable posting updates to friends then Pinterest might work for you as it feels more like it’s about individual expression then social broadcasting.  

4) Passive Creation – People have a natural drive to towards creating and modifying their environments. The great thing about Pinterest is that it rewards us with the feeling of being creative but does not require us to actually do much work. Jon Crowley the Digital Strategist at Klick Health commented on Quora that “It’s successful because it feels like you're being creative, without the related effort.”

5) Visual Engagement - Image and video on other networks like Facebook have always shown higher degrees of interaction then text status updates. Pinterest picks up on this important fact and the platform is basically just the visual element.

6) Great for Marketing – Attracting people looking to promote themselves is always a great marketing strategy. Pinterest makes it easy for marketers to get attention by posting compelling content that ties back to the brand and can result in direct traffic. While we find some spam on Pinterest most marketers have great boards. In general, marketers can be valuable members in a community if there activities can be structured to create value for everyone and Pinterest has largely been successful on this front.