After Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp launched Pinterest, the founders watched their site quickly become the social media sweetheart for mommy bloggers, brides-to-be, the arts and crafts community and home decorators. That is, the digital scrapbook site was primarily a bookmark for one particular demographic: women. And while that’s a coveted audience with notable spending power, the fast-growing social network still had yet to capitalize on the other half of the population.

Which has posed a problem for Pinterest—especially with the company looking to ramp up its revenue and eyeing the possibility of going public.

According to a recently released Social Media Traffic Report from Boston startup Shareaholic, Pinterest’s traffic—which has skyrocketed nearly 700 percent since December 2011—peaked in March 2014 and has since been in decline. Between September and December of last year, social referrals fell from 5.52 percent to 5.06 percent. There’s no doubt that Pinterest poses valuable opportunities for marketers and brands, especially now that the social network is beginning to monetize through native ads. But Shareaholic’s Danny Wong noted that in order for the platform to realize its full potential, the site must “quickly shed its isolating for-women-only image and develop more mass-market appeal.”

A gender-specific experience

Already, the site is making a concerted effort to do just that. The social network has modified the sign-up process so that the interests the site recommends users follow is generated based on whether they identified as male or female. Moreover, Pinterest has made some distinct improvements to its Guided Search feature that will personalize results to the user’s selected gender.

In a blog post about these developments, engineer Pei Yin explained that before, a Pinterest search for “watches” would have yielded mostly products for women. Now, a male user searching for these items will instead see timepieces that other guys have pinned. Even a search for workouts will reveal gender-specific pinned regimens and tips. And these customized results apply to thousands of search terms, including shoes, health and hair.

Pinterest says this feature, which is now available to all of its users, has already boosted engagement on the platform. According to Pew Research research released this month, while women continue to dominate the site, male usership of the site has jumped from just 8 percent to 13 percent since 2013.

Indeed, men are now Pinterest’s fastest-growing demographic. During an event at the San Francisco headquarters in November, Pinterest’s head of engineering Michael Lopp shared with attendees that the site has doubled the number of male active users in just the past year. Additionally, he revealed that men currently make up one-third of all new Pinterest sign-ups, and that the growth rate for men is now higher than for women. In fact, more U.S. men are now pinning than reading Sports Illustrated and GQ combined. Pinterest also has reported that its highest-growth categories from 2013 to 2014 were male-oriented; for example, pins for “geek” content increased 175 percent, “cars and motorcycles” jumped 134 percent and “men’s fashion” grew 122 percent.

More U.S. men are now pinning than reading Sports Illustrated and GQ combined.

New possibilities

Yin promised in his blog post that more search improvements are on the way for Pinterest. And the stakes are certainly high now that the site has rolled out advertisements and promoted pins, which are displayed to specific users based on their interests, location or searches. In order to fuel those monetization efforts, Pinterest acquired the team and technology of recommendation and commerce startup Kosei. Among Kosei’s artificially intelligent capabilities is drawing up graphs that offer insights into millions of relationships between products, as well as making highly personalized product recommendations. That will certainly come in handy as the site attempts to lure in more male users, and advertisers aim to better target them.

Last year, venture capitalists valued Pinterest at $5 billion—despite the fact that the social network has yet to prove it can credibly compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter for advertising dollars. But if its more-intelligent search capabilities continue to make the site more appealing to men, that valuation could end up looking right on the mark.

Image of man using Pinterest via Shutterstock