If you haven’t heard all the news lately, Pinterest is the newest up and coming social media sensation that’s bringing in 10 million+ unique visitors a month. It’s where all the cool kids are hanging out and it has the potential to be as big as Facebook and Twitter in the coming months. Want to know how it all works and what all the fuss is about? Our ultimate Pinterest guide will help you get started on the site and understand all there is to know about Pinterest.
What is Pinterest?
In short, and as described on the website itself, Pinterest is a virtual pin-board where users can pin images and ideas they find around the web to share them with all of the people who follow them.
In years gone by, girls and geeks alike would cut out magazine clippings of things they found inspirational, quirky, or cute and pinned them to a bulletin board above their desk. Pinterest takes that concept and moves it to a virtual world that allows users to browse the web, find things they would like to keep a memory of or share with their friends, and pin them to a virtual pinboard instead of onto an old piece of cork board hanging above the desk.
The way Pinterest keeps things organized is through the use of individual pinboards; one for each idea or topic that a user is interested in. Sound confusing? Let’s give an example.
Let’s pretend I just signed up for Pinterest and I’m about to dive into using the functionality. From the get go Pinterest gives me the option to create as many virtual pinboards as I’d like to cover all of my areas of interest(Imagine having a cork board for every “genre” of idea you have). Let’s say that I’m really interested in cute puppies, woodworking, and fast workouts. I visit blogs about these topics every day and see many cool ideas about all of those different topics that I’d like to share with other people. The pinboards that I’m allowed to create on my account allow me to create one pinboard for each topic area that I’m interested in. That way, when I find things online that I’d like to “pin” to these pinboards, they’re not all being thrown onto a single board, but can be instead grouped into different categories depending on which category a particular pin fits into.
One of the biggest advantages I’ve found with Pinterst is using it as an extra bookmarks toolbar for myself. I’m an avid cook, so when I find recipes online that I’d like to try, instead of constantly adding them to my bookmarks bar, I instead can add them to a “Cool Recipes” pinterest board to come back to later on. Plus, I can easily share these recipes with the community as a I find them so that other people can try them out if they like the idea as well.
At the time of writing, Pinterest is currently invite only. On their homepage you will see a button that allows you to request an invitation. Pinterest cycles through this list on a regular basis and slowly invites all of the people to join the site. There isn’t any sort of user cap to the site at the moment, but because the website is still in beta testing, they don’t want a huge flood of visitors coming to the site and bogging down its functionality.
If you have a friend who is currently a member of Pinterest, you can ask them to invite you as well. Current users have unlimited invites, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get a friend to invite you if they’re already involved with the site.
Currently, Pinterest requires you to have either a Facebook or Twitter account to complete the signup process. I have no idea why they decided to make it require a Facebook or Twitter account to use the service, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled. If you don’t like the idea of having a Facebook or Twitter account tied to the service, there’s an easy workaround that many users are taking advantage of.
All you have to do is create a throwaway Twitter account for yourself. Make up all of the information to sign up for Twitter (or Facebook if you prefer) and use your newly created account to sign up for Pinterest. Once you’ve signed up, Pinterest allows you to sign in to your account via email instead of through Facebook and Twitter, essentially making your newly created Twitter account pointless. You can delete it at this point and change your Pinterest settings (in the drop down menu under your avatar in the upper right corner of the Pinterest homepage) to reflect your actual email address, a new password, and your actual name.
What is a “Pin?”
OK, so you’ve signed up for Pinterest and are trying to figure out how to get started. By default, Pinterest makes 5 virtual pinboards for you based on the most popular board types that get created every day. These boards are generally about home décor, food, cute animals, etc.
When you finish the signup process, Pinterest will give you a small button to add to your Bookmarks bar in Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome. This button will allow you to pin things that you want to the boards that you have on the site.
When you find something interesting on the web that has an image or a video attached to it, you simply click the “Pin It” bookmark button that you were given and a small popup window will appear. This window will ask you to describe the pin in 500 characters or less and will ask you to select an appropriate pinboard on your user profile for it to be pinned to. If you have found something that doesn’t quite fit into any of your existing pinboards, the option to create a whole new board will present itself.
Note: Keeping things organized on Pinterest isn’t just for your own sanity; it’s for everyone else’s well-being as well. We’ll get to followers in a few paragraphs, but for now just know that pinning everything to the same board won’t get you very far on the site. Having specific boards for each of your interests is the best way to keep things organized to find them later.
Pinterest does its best to keep things as simple as possible on the homepage. When you’ve signed in, you’ll see 5 different tabs at the top of the page.
Pinners You Follow
We’ll get to what followers and following is in a bit, but in case you haven’t figure it out yet, Pinterst allows you to follow other users’ boards that are relevant to your interests. If you come across a user who has a really cool “Exotic Cars” pin board that you’d like to keep up with so that you can see what new exotic cars and car related posts they come up with, you can follow their individual pinboard to keep up with later. All of the boards and people that you follow will appear in this tab of the homepage.
Just as the name implies, this tab will show you everything. Everything that people are currently pinning will show up in this feed in real time. It’s a bit daunting to keep up with, but if you’re new to Pinterest, you can probably get some cool ideas from this tab to see what other people are pinning and how other people are using the site. This is also a great place to find some people to follow as well. Find something interesting you like on this page and follow the links to follow the user’s board where a particular pin was posted.
Again, this one is obvious. While Pinterest is primarily an image board, users have started to post interesting videos and tutorials on the site as well.
Here, the pins that are getting the most attention in terms of “Repins,” “Likes,” and “Comments” are going to be featured. Think of this as the trending topic section on Twitter where the most talked about images are getting the most attention.
Finally, there’s a gifts tab. Since Pinterest is both a social media tool and somewhat of an advertising platform, people are welcome to post things that they have for sale on the site. If you’re looking for something small and quirky to give to someone else, you can browse by price or search the gifts category to find exactly what you’re looking for.
After a pin is pinned to a board on Pinterest, what happens to it? Each image that is pinned retains a hyperlink back to the original source to avoid copyright infringement by authors. Your pin will show up to both your followers and in any of the pertaining tabs listed above to be found by Pinterest users the world over. If they see something appear in the Pinterest feed that interests them, they can click on the image to be taken to the blog or website where it was originally posted to not only see what else the site has to offer, but to also simply see the original source of the image.
Following and Followers
As we discussed briefly, Pinterest works on a follower/following system that allows users to both follow other people’s posts and have their own posts followed. Because Pinterest is divided into individual boards, the goal is to encourage people to not simply follow other users, but to follow their individual boards instead.
Because users’ interests vary greatly, it wouldn’t make sense to make someone follow everything a particular user posts about. If you find another user who has a pinboard all about home décor ideas and they keep it up to date every few hours, you can choose to follow their home décor board and every time you log on to Pinterest, under the “Pinners You Follow” tab you will be presented all of the content that has recently been posted across all of the boards that you follow.
Following users is the best way to discover new content on Pinterest. Because it’s a social media platform, following other users enables you to discover new content that you may not have otherwise been able to find.
Repinning, Liking, and Commenting
As you browse through the Pinterest site itself, chances are you’re going to come across a picture or an idea that you’d like to save and come back to later. That’s the whole point of the site.
Just like on Facebook or Twitter where you can Share and Retweet, respectively, Pinterest gives you the option to “Repin” anything that you find interesting. If a user that you follow posts an inspirational quote in their “Inspirational Quotes” board and it shows up on your “Pinners You Follow” feed, you can hover your cursor over the image and click “Repin” at the top of the image or video. This will bring up the same pop up box that you’re familiar with when pinning something new to the site, and it will ask you to both describe the image and give a location for where you’d like to pin the image on your own boards. Once an image is re-pinned, it will then show up on your own board and will appear to all of the people who are currently following you or your particular board.
Liking and commenting work the same way you’d expect them to. If you don’t want to repin an image, you can simply show your appreciation for it by liking it or commeting on it. Whenever someone comments, repins, or likes a pin of yours, it will show up in your “update feed” on your profile.
When signed into Pinterest, you’ll see an icon in the top right of the window that will lead you back to your own Pinterest Dashboard. By clicking on the image you’ll be brought to a place where you can manage all of your Pinterest happenings.
In the center of the page you will see all of the boards that you currently have, as well as a preview of some of the images and pins you have inside each of them. In the left hand column of the page you will see your avatar, basic statistics about how many people you’re following/how many followers you have, and an update feed that keeps track of how people are interacting with your pins. It’s here that you will see when new people start following one of your boards, who’s commenting, liking, or repinning your content, and who you’re currently interacting with. It isn’t terribly informative, as you won’t be able to see too in-depth how each of your pins is doing, but it gives you a general idea of how “popular” you are with the site.
OK, now that you have the basics down, let’s dive into some tips and etiquette that’s generally appreciated on the site. The whole purpose of the site is to be spreading inspiration and cool ideas to people who may not necessarily have been able to find that same thing on their own.
If you’re just getting started with your boards, you may not want to make them too specific until you get a hang of things on the site, but once you’re comfortable navigating the site, it’s recommended that you make your boards as specific as possible. If you’re really in love with a particular restaurant in New York City, don’t just make a pin about the restaurant in a “Food” pinboard, instead consider making a board that’s dedicated to “New York City Restaurants.” This helps keep content more organized on the site and allows people to follow your very specific board as opposed to all of your general “food” interests.
One of the biggest nuisances of Pinterst is that people don’t often repin properly. As you’re probably aware, blogs keep running live feeds of their latest posts on their homepage. If you see an image or a post that you find interesting, instead of simply clicking “Pin It” while you’re on the homepage, instead navigate to the post itself and then click “Pin It.” Because Pinterest creates a hyperlink back to the image source, if the image is on the homepage of a website, it will redirect back to the homepage instead of to the image itself. And if it’s a blog that updates itself frequently, linking back to the homepage could mean that the person looking for the original post won’t be able to find it because it’s gotten too buried within the older posts on the blog.
Describing Your Pins
You don’t have to go into a Harry-Potter novel length description of every pin that you put on the site, but some basic info about what the heck it is will help other users out a lot. You could post a picture of delicious cookies onto the site, but if you simple write “Yummy!” in the description, no one will have any idea of what type of cookies they are. Be descriptive and get to the point. As an extra tip, if you don’t end up stumbling across this on accident, you can highlight text on a page before you hit the “Pin It” button, and when the Pinning popup appears, the highlight text you had selected will automatically be filled into the description for easier use.
Categorize Your Boards
From your dashboard (by clicking on your profile picture in the top right of the site), you can click on an individual board that you’ve created. Just under the board name on the next page, you will see an “Edit Board” option that will allow you to get into the gnitty gritty of each board you have. In this “editing” section, you will have the option to categorize your board. By categorizing your board, when people browse through certain topics on Pinterest to try and find new things to pin or repin, your posts will show up in the appropriate area. If your board isn’t categorized, your pins won’t show up to other people in any of these categories and will essentially be “hidden” from the community for lack of a categorization tag. If you want your pins to have the chance of being repinned, having a category on your pins makes them easier to find.
General Pinterest Tips
So, now that you’ve gotten some of the etiquette down, here are a few more tips you can use to help you get started.
If you know for sure that you have people following you, but Pinterest shows that your follower count is “0,” you just have to wait. I haven’t quite figured out how long it takes for Pinterest to update their follower count numbers, but it seems to take anywhere between a few hours to a few days. It’s annoying, I know, but you just have to hang tight and wait for the numbers to update.
When you sign up for Pinterest, they make you follow a few users by default so that you can get started using the site, but if these people don’t interest you in the slightest and you’d prefer to just follow your friends, you can go to your profile, click on the “# Following” link above your avatar, and click the grey “Unfollow” button next to each person’s name who you’d like to Unfollow.
Add New Pins/Boards
If you don’t feel like using the “Pin It” button to pin new things to your boards or to create new boards for your pins, you can do just that from the homepage. In the top right of the page next to your avatar you will see a button that says “Add+.” This button will bring up a popup with the option to add a pin, upload a pin, or create a board.
Add a Pin
Adding a pin is just what it sounds like and is the exact same feature you’re used to with the “Pin It” button.
Upload a Pin
This option is in place to allow people to upload images or videos they have on their computer to the site without having to first post them to an external website and then pin them from there.
Create a Board
Here, you can create a new board for a new section of pins. Unlike creating a board while pinning something new to the site, this option will allow you to tag, describe, and fully customize your board before you start pinning things to it.
If anything in this guide was confusing to you, or you’d like to learn more about the Pinterest service before signing up or requesting an invite, you can head over to the Pinterest Help section to find out more: http://pinterest.com/about/help/
Additionally, if you’re more of a visual learner and would like a video about the whole process to understand the basics of the site, head on over to this video:
It has a pretty detailed description of how the site works and how you can get more familiar with all of the ins and outs of the service.
Is Pinterest Here to Stay?
Pinterest has been growing more quickly than anyone could have ever imagined. But all that growth hasn’t come without concerns about the copyright issue of the site itself. There are questions being raised about how legal it is to post images without the original author’s permission, even if the image links back to the author’s site. Despite these concerns, Pinterest has grown to over 10 million+ users a month and that type of growth may be hard to slow down by a few bloggers who’d like their images removed.