Why Pinning is Winning
Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
What do Sophia Loren, 46 freezer meals for $96, chalkboard contact paper, a Hamilton Piping Rock watch, a baby hedgehog, and $39 corduroy pants have in common? They're all some of the latest finds on Pinterest, the site behind the "pinning" craze stoking people's passions like few things I've encountered online.
Pinning is really simple. Through your browser, you bookmark or pin anything that interests or inspires you. In doing so, you pick a relevant image for the pin and then assign it to one of your pinboards. You can create an infinite number of pinboards around any topic you like. It starts getting really interesting once you find other people to follow (I'm hardly the best pinner on the planet, but you're welcome to follow me if you need to start somewhere; you're better off following Pinterest's tastemakers). Whenever you go to Pinterest, you can see the latest pins from people you follow, and you can like, comment on, or repin any of those pins. Better yet, you don't have to follow everything someone does; you can just pick one of their boards. You can also allow others to collaborate with you on pinboards.
Pinterest is so visual that you really need to see how it's being used. Here are 10 boards from people I follow, all of which collectively hint at what's possible:
1) Movement – dance and fabric (Katy Kelley)
2) Wedding (Heather McConnell)
3) Office furniture (Sara Holoubek)
4) Infographics (Ann Almariei)
5) Inspiration (Travis Pfeiffer)
6) Dresses we love (Nordstrom)
7) Foods that fuel (Ellen Kane)
8) My fantasy home (if only I wasn't renting) (Pamela Parker Caird, contributing to Sophie McNeill's pinboard)
9) I heart Dutch bikes (Annie Michaud)
10 Quote this (Karri Wells)
Here, you see a mix of practical and aspirational, personal and professional, memories and wishes. On Twitter, followers shared even more great suggestions, including boards from Jessica Smith and Kathy Sue Perdue. Nitjyout Saroan shared her own maps pinboard. Justin Thorp showed off the board his wife created for wedding plans.
Normally when I post a request for these kinds of links, I'm lucky to get a couple of good suggestions. When I asked about Pinterest, people started tracking me down via email just to share their favorites. My friend Saif Ajani connected me with his Pinterest-loving friend Roxanna Kassam, who raved about the pinboards by Kathy Hackman Hutchison. Heather Schoegler reached out to share her own projects, such as how she created a pinboard that led to a home project for restoring an antique fan, which she chronicled on her blog. She also noted the frequent Pinterest Challenge posts from the Young House Love bloggers; what happens on Pinterest does not stay on Pinterest.
Marketers are exploring Pinterest, too. Nordstrom was noted in the roundup above. Kate Spade graphic designer Katie Evans is pinning, as is "Project Runway" judge Nina Garcia (thanks, PR Couture, for some of the tips). Unlike many social services where marketers are practically forced to sit on the sidelines while people have fun, this is an area where brands can authentically have a voice and fuel the enthusiasm of Pinterest's users. Brands can also take Pinterest into new domains, from online ads to TV spots to stores, and Pinterest will undoubtedly even inspire new products.
In some ways, it's not unlike Tumblr, another phenomenon that has been around far longer but has skyrocketed in usage over the past year. It dovetails with other photo crazes like Instagram. The Web moved right from its hypertext phase into the YouTube video era while neglecting the power of still images as a crucial mode of self expression. Pinterest in turn also has a mobile app that allows people to pin images from their surroundings, making the service more personal and powerful.
When I solicited feedback on Pinterest, there were plenty of people who weren't into it. It's not for everyone, and maybe it's not for you. That's fine; to spark that kind of passion you almost need to be polarizing. When you see what people do with Pinterest, though, it's hard not to appreciate what's happening. In just moments of browsing the pinboards of some colleagues and clients, I got a sense of what drives them in ways I never before experienced.
There's an old proverb I once heard that said, in essence, that to understand someone, just see who his friends are. It should be updated. To understand someone, look at his or her pinboards. I can't do it justice with words. See for yourself.