Pinterest: The Definitive Guide - Part 1

A man in front of a room full of pictures.
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March 2, 2012
6 min read
Article Contents

If you're like many, you've heard the "Pinterest" word being thrown around a lot lately.  And if you are anything like us, you really didn’t know much about this social media site until quite recently.  Out of curiosity, we created our own accounts and started utilizing Pinterest to see what all the fuss is about – and we wanted to know if it really was useful for our clients and other small businesses. Here is our guide to Pinterest.

What is Pinterest?

On their website, Pinterest describes itself this way:

"Pinterest is a virtual pinboard.  Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests."

Let's say you hang up a large cork bulletin on your wall.  You label this board "My Vacations" and pin your favorite vacation photos to it.  Pleased with your board, you hang another.  This time the theme is dream homes (think 'vision' board).  You pin multiple photos to that board as well.  And so on and so forth.

When your friend comes over, you show her your wall of boards.   She's impressed and decides to create her own wall of bulletin boards with images.  Of course, there are a few images of yours that she likes and makes copies of those for her boards.

Now, whenever a friend or relative comes over, you're excited for them to see your boards.  Each board says a little bit about you and you're proud of the images you've collected.  Some boards only appeal to specific friends, but that's okay.  They are your boards and not like anyone else's.  Soon, your friends are starting their own board collections.

This is what is happening with Pinterest, except it's happening in cyberspace.  You can have as many boards as you like and give different themes.  And millions of people have the ability to see your images and 'repin' (share) them.  And you have that same ability as well.  You can follow specific boards and be followed too.

Pinterest is currently a very hot social media phenomenon.  And when we mean hot, we mean white hot.  Pinterest was the fastest independent website to hit 10 million monthly unique in the U.S. and it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

The History of Pinterest

Pinterest was founded by Evan Sharp, Ben Silberman, and Paul Sciarra.  Previously Sharp was on the design team of Facebook and Silberman was a product specialist at Google.  Sciarra worked in venture capital, so although they were relatively unknown before Pinterest, they had acquired quite a bit of knowledge.  Together they formed Cold Brew Laboratories and soon after, created Pinterest.  The three appear to be press-shy and the details surrounding how Pinterest was formed is somewhat lacking in content.

This much we know; the idea for Pinterest started because Sharp and Silberman were avid collectors.  They thought putting collections online would be cool.  Pinterest began development in late 2009, although the idea for it began as a private project of Silberman's in 2008 as he was leaving Google (just as the economy was nose diving).  The site launched in early 2010 as a closed beta site.  From there it became open beta by invitation only.  Now anyone can register on Pinterest after requesting an invitation.

The website's growth has been impressive.  Pinterest grew from 40,000 monthly unique visitors in October 2010 to 3.2 million a year later in October 2011.  In December 2011 Pinterest blasted into the top ten social networks.  The next month, Pinterest passed the 11million monthly unique user mark, crossing the ten million benchmark faster than any standalone site in history.  TechCrunch proclaimed the company the best new startup of 2011.

Now Pinterest is driving more referral traffic to retailers than LinkedIn, Youtube, and Google + combined.  The company recently received $27 million in venture financing and the website is rumored to be valued at $200 million.  Rumors have it that Google indirectly expressed interest in buying Pinterest for a bucket of cash (hundreds of millions of dollars) but the founders weren't interested in selling… at least not yet.

Even though three men created the company, Pinterest began by marketing to women.  Even now you’ll see lots of recipes, decorating tips, fashion photos, and wedding ideas.  However, men are beginning to realize that Pinterest isn't just for women.  There are lots of boards popping up that are dedicated to cars, sports, horror movies, and other subjects that men will find interesting.

Why Is Pinterest So Popular?

It's not like Pinterest is a new idea.  Other social sites such as Instragram, Tumblr, Path, and Flickr are filled with cool images too, but Pinterest has caught on like wildfire.  For one thing, it's easy to use.  Once invited, we were able to register quickly and began 'pinning' with ease.  The site didn't feel intimidating or overwhelming to use.

A lot of Pinterest's initial appeal happened organically.  This wasn't a site where the techies were the first ones in looking for the next best thing, like what happened with Google+.  It was the homemaker that began using the site.  They were sharing baking ideas and decorating tips, not looking for the next cool tech site.

Another reason why Pinterest is becoming so popular is that it isn’t focused on what party you went to last night or what you had for breakfast.  It’s less about boasting and not so ego-driven as Facebook or Twitter.  Instead, Pinterest is about what you like and aspire to be.  It’s more about saying “Look what I found” rather than “Look what I’m doing”.  It’s sharing in its purest form with viewers getting as much satisfaction from the process as the people posting the images.

How Do I Get Started with Pinterest?

(In case you only want to start a business profile, please read next week’s blog before setting up your account.)

It's pretty easy.  You can head over to Pinterest.com and click on the "Request an Invite" button.  However, we've been told it may take a few days to a few weeks to get your invite.  If you know someone who is already on Pinterest, we recommend that you ask them to invite you.  This will be a much faster way to get signed up.

If you need an invitation, please contact us, and Captivation Agency will be happy to send you one.

Once invited, you’ll need to create a login using your Facebook or Twitter account.  This is your personal preference but keep in mind, some workplaces block Facebook, so your Pinterest account might not be able to communicate with Facebook in some instances.

Next, you'll set up your profile page.  Like many social media profiles, it will show your display name (you choose), a profile picture, and a brief bio.  Your profile will also show the number of followers you have and how many you're personally following.

You'll notice Pinterest starts you out with five boards.  You can keep these boards, but you don't have to.  Just below each board is an edit bar.  When you click on 'edit' you can name or rename a board, write a description, choose a category for the board and decide whether you're the only one who can pin or if there are other contributors.  Once done, make sure you click on the 'Save Board Settings', otherwise, your changes will be lost.  You can add new boards at any time by clicking on the ‘Add’ button on the upper right-hand side and choosing 'Create a Board'.

Before you go crazy making lots of boards, you should spend some time looking around the site for ideas.  If you are logged in, click on the Pinterest logo located at the top center of the page.  This will take you to your Pinterest 'home' which is a lot like your Facebook and Twitter home page.  This is where you’ll see all of the recent 'pins' of the people you follow.  Likewise, your followers will also be able to see all of your pins as well.

If you see a pin of interest, you can 'Repin', 'Like', or 'Comment'.  Repinning will place the image on your desired board and be added to your collection.  If you want to go back to your boards just click on your profile name in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

The 'search' button on the upper left hand allows you to search for a description in 'Pins', 'Boards' or 'People'.  You are able to follow people or just specific boards that they have.  You can also 'pin' images and videos from other sites or from pictures on your own computer.

Spend just a few minutes on Pinterest and you'll discover just how easy the site is to use.

Now that you know what Pinterest is and how it works, it's time to discuss how using Pinterest can benefit your business.  Stay tuned next week for Part Two for tips and tricks on using Pinterest as a valuable marketing tool.

Please follow Captivation Agency on Pinterest!

Have you signed up on Pinterest yet?  Have you enjoyed the ease and simplicity that this social media site offers?  If you aren’t on Pinterest yet, are you planning to?  Let us know your thoughts.  We want to hear from you!

Written by Captivation

Founded in 2004, Captivation Agency is an award-winning creative storytelling collective located in Sarasota, Florida.

We work with brands, non-profits & agencies to elevate and deploy meaningful, engaging, client works in the form of video productions and pixel-perfect, user experience design.

We believe in hard work, exceptional customer service, and long-term relationships.

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