Why You Don’t Love Pinterest (But You Should)

We’re overdosing on social networks and overwhelmed with an onslaught of new social bookmarking sites. As social media has become a core part of mainstream society, nearly everyone is using some component of social media as part of their lives — whether to communicate with friends, colleagues, or customers as part of social marketing. And when Yahoo! decided to shutter the popular social bookmarking site Delicious, AVOS brought it back to life — but with an entire new set of terms of services that drastically changed the way the site could be and was used.

The timing of Yahoo!’s sale of Delicious to AVOS (which closed in April 2011) was unfortunate, because it was around this time that the use of social media by almost was peaking. Facebook saw users increase from 350 million active users in December 2009 to 750 million active users in July 2011. This was paired with a shift in how content creators monetized their brand. Though bloggers in all forms have forever been able to monetize, the demographic of “mommy blogger” has forever known that sponsorships drive the success of not only a blog, but the prosperity of the family depending on that blog. Driving traffic to these blogs is particularly critical to maintain not only financial security, but a lifestyle — further realized earlier this year when almost all bloggers were hit with Google’s Panda Update.

PinterestBut it was also during this time that Pinterest was being developed by Ben Silbermann in 2009 when these other trends were making front page news on Techmeme and other tech blogs. While the typical early adopters who sign up for beta access to every new bleeding edge app didn’t even hear about — let alone have interest in — Pinterest until recently (if at all), the previously mentioned mommy blogger and DIY demographic picked it up immediately and loved it. In fact, mainstream awareness and adoption of Pinterest didn’t really take off until this past summer. According to Comscore, Pinterest grew from 40,000 to 3.2 million monthly unique visitors between October 2010 and October 2011. Still, this is one service that you may not have heard of yet, let alone love — but you should.

Pinterest is designed something like a collision between Delicious, StumbleUpon, and your own social networks. It works by allowing you to create a profile and within that profile create categories (which are “boards”) on which to “pin” (or bookmark) media. The media is indexed on your board with a thumbnail, which is any one of the images of your choice pulled from the page you are pinning, along with a blurb to help remind you and inform other users about the media. A back link to the source is automatically included. With a bookmarklet for most popular browsers, you can pin any media with one click. Although you can directly upload a picture, Pinterest is not designed to be an Instagram or Flickr and simply host photos, though sharing photos hosted elsewhere — especially pictures of inspiration or funny quotations sourced from another blog — seems to be encouraged.

As the early adopters have been the DIY and mommy blogger types, Pinterest has until now been primarily filled with links related to crafts, kids, food, and fitness. (There’s also a huge cult following on Pinterest for those planning weddings, too.) But Pinterest is also pre-filled with dozens of other categories ready to help inspire current and future users to bookmark other topics. Renovating your home? You can create boards dedicated to each room for the house. Having a baby? You can devote boards to each component of your new one — including clothing, food, lifestyle, decorating the nursery, etc. Losing weight? Users on a diet and fitness plan are leveraging Pinterest to create boards to bookmark (or “pin”) ideas for food, lifestyle, fitness plans, inspirational pictures, helpful books and blogs, and motivational outfits to wear when they hit the next weight goal.

Sure, the average Pinterest user could just bookmark these sites and use folders in their Web browser. Many Internet users have organized bookmarks on their browser by folders, subfolders, and even more subfolders. This is not a bad solution for those who want personal and private access to bookmarks, but they run the risk of losing these bookmarks should their computer crash. These bookmarks can also become cluttered, or no longer necessary as personal interests or the need for the bookmarks change. With Pinterest, users can easily delete pins or entire boards with one click.

The real reason you should love Pinterest is the ability to not only discover content across the Web that you are looking for, but also promote your own content. Pinterest requires an account to pin and share media (which utilizes your choice of Facebook Connect or Twitter oAuth), but anyone can browse listings and boards of pins by other users. Did you just get diagnosed with a gluten allergy? Anyone — even if not signed up as a user of Pinterest — can search for a term (such as “gluten free”) and see what people are sharing that is related to “gluten free.” Both lurkers and users alike can see search results for individual pins or entire boards dedicated to the topic, which can allow you to find a plethora of related content and their sources, such as blogs dedicated to the entire content. If you create content — or even sell products related to this topic — sharing it on Pinterest can allow other users (and lurkers) to discover your business or brand either by direct search, finding it on a related board created by another user, or simply when it is reshared by one of their friends.

At the rate of speed by which Pinterest is being adopted by mainstream social media users — not just geeky beta users who will drop the app in one week or devoted users of other social networks who will visit the service a few times and never return — brands should really consider the viral component of Pinterest as a way to create brand awareness and drive traffic back to their website, blog, or e-commerce storefront. Unlike networks such as Google+, Pinterest is not really a replacement for something else that already exist. Pinterest fills a void that the other 99% of Internet users (as opposed to the elite “experts” — you know who you are) can understand and actually want to use. Pinterest is designed for users to share media from other users while crediting the original source — once a webpage, blog post, or link from a store has been pinned, the original source cannot be removed as Pinterest users share the pin. Pinterest also allows users to collaborate on boards, so friends can collaborate on a board for apartment decoration ideas — or users can collaborate on a board dedicated to a business or brand that pulls in links from their blog, event pages, website, and other media. Jeanna Barret, a San Francisco based Social Media Manger, explains:

Love Pinterest

The iPhone app for Pinterest is notably buggy — in fact, when I was first introduced to Pinterest via a mobile invite I initially wrote Pinterest off for months because it lacks most of the key features. But on the Web, it works — and works well. Even as someone who writes about bleeding edge apps and new social networks every day, this is one service that I keep coming back to every day — even several times a day. And that’s saying a lot.

Right now, Pinterest is still in invite-only mode, but because I think everyone should love Pinterest as much as I do, I’m offering an invite to the first 25 LockerGnome readers who would like one. Just click here and you should have your invitation to Pinterest within the next 48 hours. (Note: You will need a Facebook or Twitter account to complete the sign-up process.)