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Why We Heart It Could Be the Next Big Social Network: 25 million monthly active users, 80% of whom are under 24.

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Kurt Wagner explains:

For a taste of who uses the image-based social network We Heart It, look no further than Facebook.

A simple Graph Search query for "People who work at We Heart It" returns hundreds of results, many of them young females with titles like "Boss," "Heartbreaker," and even "Chief Executive Officer," all claiming to work at the 2-year-old startup.

SEE ALSO: 10 Hot Social Networks to Watch

This list is not the actual staff roster from the San Francisco-based social network. In fact, We Heart It has only 18 employees. Instead, these are the platform's loyal users, and the counterfeit job titles somewhat baffle, but ultimately please, the startup's actual CEO, Ranah Edelin.

"It's one of the proof points about how special this community and service really are," says Edelin. "We've never done anything to prompt or ask anybody to do that. They just are finding outlets to say that 'We Heart It is my favorite service.'"

If you aren't familiar with We Heart It, there's a relatively good reason. The company didn't share a single press release until last June, when it announced 20 million monthly active users and $8 million in funding. That monthly actives number is up to 25 million, and the Pinterest look-alike is adding well over one million new users each month.

We Heart It isn't simply collecting users, however. The social network is collecting the most coveted users available to social media platforms: the ever-important, mobile-savvy teenagers.

Roughly 80% of We Heart It's monthly users are under the age of 24, and the same percentage of the platform's activity comes from users on mobile devices. Pinterest's demographic is very much the opposite. Roughly 80% of Pinterest users are over the age of 24. (Pinterest has similar mobile usage — more than 75%, according to a spokesperson.)

If there's one thing I've learned about people under 24, it's that they have no money.

We Heart It thinks that having mostly users without money is a good thing:

And with teenagers reportedly leaving other larger social networks like Facebook behind, We Heart It hopes to be there to catch them.

"Because [Facebook] is so large, it cannot be cool to the younger demographic that thrives on finding places to call their own, that are cool" says Edelin. "[Places] that their mother, grandmother, uncle and everybody else aren't on. That's not Facebook's fault, that's just human nature."

This younger user base, and the types of content that come with it, are what separate We Heart It and Pinterest, two otherwise similar platforms, says Edelin.

We Heart It works and feels like a younger, artsier Pinterest, where images of beautiful celebrities and peaceful sunsets replace the wedding dresses and home cooked masterpieces synonymous with the more established network. Board member Alex Rosen of IDG Ventures describes the images as "positive and inspirational," and indeed many of the photos have text overlay containing motivational messages and quotes.

"This is very different from product-oriented, quasi-catalogue [images] that you get on Pinterest," he says.

The platforms do have a few other differences. Instead of a profile page and Pin Boards, We Heart It users have a "canvas" and "collections." We Heart It users can only "Heart" photos, which automatically adds the photo to their canvas. Comments are not allowed to ensure no bullying or negativity occurs, says Edelin. We Heart It users can tag photos; Pinterest users add descriptions only.

No commenting makes it similar to Tumblr, not Pinterest.

We Heart It's investors think it has a billion dollar opportunity:

We Heart It was incorporated in the United States in 2011, but the original site was built after a designer in Brazil started collecting images that inspired his work back in 2007. By the time the company officially formed, it was not alone in the realm of image-based social networks. Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram were all relevant, but that didn't dissuade Rosen from showing interest in We Heart It. In fact, it inspired him.

"Frankly, this entire market didn't exist eight years ago [or] 10 years ago," he says. "There are opportunities for half a dozen to a dozen billion dollar outcomes, and the fact that there were some already out there didn't discourage us, if anything it encouraged us."

We Heart It is in the process of making the next step in the company's expansion. It announced its first round of formal partnerships in December, and now has a half dozen partners including publications like Teen Vogue and Lucky. These relationships are not financially-driven, but they do demonstrate that We Heart It is commanding outside interest from other brands.

Brand relationships that make no money make me wonder if there really is a business there.

Visually it looks like Pinterest, very girly, but maybe guys pages would look different?  I don't see men being too attracted to it, but hey, the odds could be good ;)

You're right, it's almost all girls under 24. It coevolved with Pinterest and took the younger crowd.

It's possible Pinterest will buy them someday.

It would be like buying a duplicate, unless "we heart it" has a possibility of surpassing Pinterest in the future; which I don't think is possible, they would have to hold the interest of these 24 year and younger girls as they age, or constantly pull in new people, not easy.

It would be to combine the audiences, which might make sense since there is not much overlap.

Who I see purchasing it is a teen magazine, one like the ones who are already courting it, they can then turn it into their own App, while their subscribers think it's a separate entity.  They can use it for data, trends, and to promote themselves, and their partners products.

Or MTV. Or Facebook.

Alyson Shontell adds:

WeHeartIt is a Pinterest-like startup that only has 20 employees. More spectacularly, it has only raised $8 million to Pinterest's $338 million. That means any new WeHeartIt hire has the opportunity to get on board, experience serious traction, and snag valuable stock options.

Until last June, WeHeartIt was primarily bootstrapped by its Brazilian founder, Fabio Giolito. He created the Pinterest-like service in 2007 for himself. A designer, he wanted a way to collect inspiring images from across the web. His friends wanted to be able to use the tool too, so he set up user accounts.

Now WeHeartIt has grown into a cross between Pinterest, Twitter and popular secrets app, Whisper. People can share and collect photos online, like Pinterest. One-third of WeHeartIt's user activity is image searches.

But people often share images that reflect how they're feeling in that moment, like Whisper. Also like Whisper, people can write text overtop of images.

"If there's a song about an emotion, you can express that feeling through images too," says WeHeartIt CEO Ranah Edelin. 

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