Your Pinterest cheat sheet

The image-sharing site has become the hot new social media tool. Here are the best ways to use it

Published February 21, 2012 1:00AM (EST)

From the author's <a href="">Should I Buy This?</a> board       (Jude Stewart)
From the author's Should I Buy This? board (Jude Stewart)

This article originally appeared on Imprint.

ImprintSocial media watchers are ablaze lately with the news: Pinterest appears to be THE next hot tool. While Slate’s Farhad Manjoo gave a not-meant-for-me review of the tool (his article title, “Cupcakes, Boots and Shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal,” says it all), Pinterest’s numbers are indeed exploding. The site hit 10 million monthly unique visitors faster than any site ever, and it’s responsible for more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined. Clearly those are stats worth paying attention to.

But who should be using Pinterest, and for what exactly? More crucially, how can Pinterest feed the ever-ravenous maw of color and design fandom, whether you lead an entourage for your own work or dig the design work of others? Your primer has arrived ...

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is basically online scrapbooking. It’s an invitation-only network, so to get started just ping someone who’s already on Pinterest (like me, joodstew), and they will invite you in.

Once you’re in, simply install a “Pin it!” bookmarklet in your favorite Web browser. From that point on, any time you see a gorgeous photo online, simply click “Pin it!” and a popup window will appear, allowing you to add that photo to one of several photo collections, or “boards,” you maintain on Pinterest.

If you happen to pin an image from a retail site with a price associated with it, your image will also appear in Pinterest’s Gifts section with price listed.

Pinterest operates on a follower-following basis, just like Facebook and Twitter. You can jump-start your Pinterest network by connecting your FB and Twitter user names. That will populate your Pinterest wall with your friends’ pinned images, and show your pins to people who follow you. From there, the acceleration effect kicks in: you can repin images you like, comment on them, or simply “like” them (which doesn’t commit them to any of your boards; it’s sort of a shopping-cart option for images you may or may want to keep permanently).

To stoke your madly pretty collecting urge further, download the Pinterest mobile app and pin during idle minutes via your iPhone or Android phone.

What benefits does Pinterest offer, and to whom?

Pinterest scratches the itch of anyone visually minded who wants to collect evocative images for various purposes and share them with like-minded folks. Put in plain English, here are some of Pinterest’s target audiences and motivations:

Brides gather hairstyle images, shop for flowers, dresses, for their big day -- everything they shop for. Brides get monster mileage out of Pinterest, and retailers have definitely noticed.

Moms gather DIY project ideas for kids, promising recipes to try later, clothes they’re shopping for, inspirational quotes of all kinds. This group also fuels a lot of retailer site traffic if they ultimately buy the stuff they’ve collected or shared via Pinterest.

From PoodlePoddle

Interior decorators share beautiful home designs, collect furniture and home-interior products they recommend, assemble and share color palettes for every room in the home. Here’s a one-stop place to stoke their clients with pricey, tantalizing ideas that will hopefully turn into paying projects.

Retailers can use Google Analytics and other site-traffic tools to see which sites are sending them the most traffic in any given month. If Product A is submitted by someone to Pinterest, it may well catch fire with the community, getting pinned and repinned. All those collective eyeballs can simply click back to the original retailer’s site to buy -- and many do.

From my Should I Buy This? board

Infographic-makers can submit their thought-provoking graphs to Pinterest and watch the referral traffic (hopefully) roll in. However, as the above indicates, Pinterest skews heavily toward affluent adult women -- pictures of killer crankshafts or infographics that don’t speak to this demographic may fizzle with this audience fast.

Why should designers and color fans care?

Pinterest sits at a crossroads right now. It captures the DIY-handmade aesthetic (and associated shopping urge) of Etsy. As its collected images diversify from the merely cutesy, it could become a super-charged version of Flickr.

From via Thao Huynh

Most crucially for designers, this is an images-driven social community. In other words, it’s built for your kind to positively dominate. While many of the good moms using Pinterest aren’t clued in to the latest design looks, they are a madly appreciative crowd -- if you offer up your gorgeous images, you will be met with copious applause. Anyone posting their portfolio to Behance or Core77 should double up with a little Pinterest test. After all, Pinterest users are well-educated, affluent females who likely wield serious hiring power in between Pinterest coffee breaks.

If you’re selling retail designed goods, pin your products so that site traffic flows back to your preferred retail site. That may be your Etsy storefront or a retail partner. But Pinterest users are definitely, permanently in a shopping mode -- and they like buying design-driven stuff.

Question Mark via Christi Harris

In addition to yours truly, here are a few Pinterest boards and people to get you started. (Note: You can follow everything a user pins, or just follow one or several of their boards.)

Amy Nalette / Color
Amanda Pearl Brotman / Color
Sight Unseen
Sha Hwang

Happy pinning to you!

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2012.

Salon is proud to feature content from Imprint, the fastest-growing design community on the web. Brought to you by Print magazine, America's oldest and most trusted design voice, Imprint features some of the biggest names in the industry covering visual culture from every angle. Imprint advances and expands the design conversation, providing fresh daily content to the community (and now to!), sparking conversation, competition, criticism, and passion among its members.

By Jude Stewart

MORE FROM Jude Stewart

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Design Imprint