A look at Pinterest

Published on February 09, 2012 under Technology, Blogging, Marketing, Business, Social Media

Pinterest Logo

Despite that this site has existed for two years, a startup known as Pinterest has recently exploded into the spotlight of social media with what I like to call an "improved" or "different" way of looking at aggregated links.

I managed to get an invite to look at the site a week ago and initially had mixed reviews, but I do see great opportunities and uses for many out there. Originally I wanted to give this site a month before blogging, but too many are asking me what this site is all about and thus I offer this look.

What's the idea?

Imagine you set up a few bulletin boards in your home or office. You designate each board to go along with a set interest. So one board might be for trips you want to take, another for interesting news you want to read, and another for recipes people give you. As you get clippings and pictures from various sources, you pin them up on those bulletin boards. Others can come by and see your boards, thus taking interest in your interests.

Now imagine you get everyone in your workplace doing the same thing, and you can go from desk to desk looking at people's posted recipes or trip ideas. That's pretty much what Pinterest is. A place you go to pin up your interests for others to see, only you're doing it online as opposed to in person.

Looking at the site

Pinterest Main Page (looking at Women's Apparel)
Click to enlarge

When you arrive on the site, you're shown a layout that's a smattering of images. When you sign up, you're asked to provide a connection to your Facebook account simply so they can find your friends and connect you up. You can later disconnect from Facebook if you desire, but from this information you'll be shown loads of images ranging in subjects all over the place. Fashion, hair, technology, news, cars, sports, art, etc.

From there, you can look at pages of postings based on specific interests. For the shot above, I took a screen grab of "Women's Apparel" simply because of how many women are on Pinterest posting fashions they come across.

So imagine a girl looking for a cool outfit is on this page, now able to shop all over the world based on postings/recommendations of other members. Each posting is linked to a web page somewhere out there. It might be the catalog page of Bebe, or a page from TMZ, posted because the member liked the outfit or hair the celebrity wore.

You're also invited to pin your own links and things you find. You can set up those various boards as I mentioned in my bulletin board metaphor, and go from there. There's even plugins for various browsers and mobile to make it even easier for you to just impulsively pin what you find.

So you could be shopping the Dior website and just start posting outfits you like either for your own memory or to show others cool things you found. You could post your photography if you're a budding photographer and want exposure. You could post links of images involving a subject just to build as an "idea board". Had I been on Pinterest a month ago, I would have probably pinned up all those logo ideas I found that helped inspire me to design the logo for Illusion Bar • Grill • Café.

Fine-tuning your following habits

Following/Unfollowing boards on Pinterest

Now you don't have to be stuck following everything, and it's not just girly stuff. On day one I was hit with loads of imagery of hair, fashion, cute animals, and food. I wasn't very impressed until I saw I could go into the profiles of each member I followed and could turn on and off their separate boards individually. So I went into many of my female friends and turned off all the fashion, hair, and wedding junk. Thus now my home page is more refined to show me things like design, art, photography, news, food, etc.

You can also just follow interests in themselves, and you'll end up connected to total strangers who share similar interests, thus enhancing your time on Pinterest. I know some of you might seem reluctant to connect with strangers, but if you use Twitter, this is not uncommon. I know when I go on Twitter I mainly get links to design and technology articles and sites I want to see. With the right fine-tuning, you can turn your Pinterest account into an image-based version of Twitter.

Pros and cons

I think the biggest "pro" for Pinterest is that this site will pick up and appeal to many social media users who aren't avid posters. The people who more follow and read over posting. I also think many out there simply want to see and click. Not every posting's image makes sense to the subject, but it does allow one to casually surf and click.

The only "con" I see is that not everyone thinks of subjects in the same degree. So while you think of "design" as print media and advertisements, another might post hand-crafted cups and housewares. It can become a nuisance when you're wanting to get specific and things seem more generalized. Hopefully as this site grows, things will get more tagged and detailed to a point you can really fine-tune what you want to see.

Another is that we haven't seen yet the "stupidity" penetrate just yet. No mindless postings or stupid things that we usually try to hide or ignore on other social media. I also wonder what's going to happen when amateur marketers decide to start making boards of every popular interest and then start spamming them all. So you end up seeing flyers for a nightclub in "Men's Apparel" as well as "Home Decor". It happens with every social media site, and it will happen here.

LA's Sunset StripI'm also not sure how i feel about the layout. When I first looked at the site, LA's Sunset Strip came to my mind. That famous imagery of loads of signs and advertising so clustered together that the eye gets lost in it all. I know many design blogs and techies have praised this layout as "brilliant new thinking", but I still like to think of what happens when someone like my mom ends up on such a site, or those who are too impatient to sift through an overload of items.

Lastly, I don't like how often it takes too many clicks to get to see the final item. I'll often click on infographics to read them, but I'll first get the graphic shown in a lightbox in a size too small to read. I click again and end up on the website where that graphic hopefully is, then I have to click once more to finally see the graphic blown up. Even worse are when you end up at a site that really just links to another. So that delicious image of a brownie first opens up in the lightbox, then goes to this referral site, then finally you get to the page where the recipe is. Too many clicks, but I'm not sure if this is something Pinterest should address, or if users should be more wary of how they post.

The opportunities

From a business standpoint, I think anyone involved in any kind of B2C retail should get on Pinterest and post links to every item in their online catalogs. Make sure you have nice images of your products to show. Just from seeing how many women are on Pinterest posting fashions and hair, this is a solid opportunity for businesses. I even think those with brand names seen as "low end" might challenge some. So that really pretty top in the picture might lead someone to Kmart's website, when they thought it had to be some high-end designer.

I think photographers and artists should also get on. Art galleries as well. Post images of your work and use it to grab people's attention.

Thinking outside of self-promotion, using Pinterest as an idea board space is also useful. You can set boards to be private, so imagine agencies and creatives setting up private boards where everyone and toss up images and ideas related to a campaign, thus building their idea board. It's just a nice visual repository for what you want to save, rather than a folder on your desktop or email.

I know many guys might think this site is really for girls to go shopping in, but I disagree, and I think as this site evolves it will cater to anyone based on their personal interest. I'm still fine-tuning things for myself and being overly picky on what I post, but I see potential here. I don't know if it will "kill" anyone else out there like Facebook, Twitter, or Google Search, but I can see it as another palette for ideas, images, and thoughts to share.

Are you on Pinterest? What do you think?

Tags: pinterest, social media, blogging, images, interests

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