Facebook and Twitter are obvious ways of sharing things on the web that you like, as of course is a personal blog or website. But there's now a new way of sharing your favourite web items. Pinterest is a digital corkboard that shows other people what you rate, what looks cute or appeals from a design or engineering point of view.
If you're an avid user of all things Google, Gmail, Picasa, Blogger and YouTube, sharing items via Google+ may seem a more obvious option, while newshounds may prefer Digg. Pinterest offers a different slant, in which peer ratings are important. You indicate your admiration of other pinners’ taste in items on the web by having them on your Pinterest boards and following them, if you wish. Unlike Twitter, which is a live stream of comments and links that soon drop off the radar, pinned items stay on your page, ready for other people to delve into.
As with most social media websites, tags are at the heart of Pinterest. Having a decent photo or two also helps pique other peoples’ interest. The site is based around interest boards that you contribute to, create and share, and Pinterest provides a selection of popular topic boards to get you started. The more 'pins' a site or a Pinterest user acquires, the higher their Pinterest ranking. To see what's popular, check out the 'Popular' link on the Pinterest home page. It couldn't be simpler.
You can follow or unfollow any Pinterest member you wish, just as you can with Twittter. If you've linked your Pinterest account with Facebook rather than Twitter, it's 'Likes' that you're after.
Pinterest is nominally still an invite-only beta website. Yet, it has more than 12 million members and - in the US - is dominated by female users. A BBC primer on Pinterest in March noted that UK usage is currently weighted the other way; male users have embraced it.
Pinterest originally invited craft and fashion bloggers to try out the service when it was in closed beta and there’s still a big focus on homespun choices such as family, home, DIY & crafts, fashion and cooking and the boards Pinterest suggests reflect this. More ‘male’ interests such as technology, cars and science are listed at the bottom of the initial home page, out of sight until you scroll down. You can add your own Pinterest category; the default list is rather safe.
As the site develops and new members with different interests join, these listings will change. As with all things social on the web, from Digg to YouTube to Twitter, Pinterest is user-driven and is shaped by members' likes. What makes it more than of fleeting interest in that, unlike Twitter, it’s not ephemeral. What you pin is a public, permanently accessible log of what interests you and how you value the web. We just hope Google doesn’t find a way of monetising such a concept and tracking what we view and pin for the benefit of ad traffickers everywhere.
How to get started with Pinterest
1. Request a login at Pinterest.com or accept an invitation from a friend. Your email address and a password are all you need. Click on any of the preset interest boards you wish and follow any that look particularly interesting. The Find friends option under your Account photo is a good starting point for finding and sharing pins with like-minded Facebook and email friends.
2. To start interacting on Pinterest it’s easiest to add a bookmark for each of your boards in your web browser. These are actually bookmarklets - tiny applications that allow you to add items to your Pinterest stash just by clicking on them when you stumble across something interesting on the web. In Safari and Chrome, for example, you just drag the Pin It bookmark to the bookmark bar.
3. Another useful tool native to Pinterest is Search. It’s possible to lose hours to browsing Pinterest boards due to their visual appeal and the way they seamlessly lead on to each other. If you want to find something specific – attractive business card ideas, for example – head straight for Search. Bear this in mind when tagging and naming your own pins.
4. If you find something you like on someone else’s board, click to ‘repin’ it and add it to yours. This also has the effect of raising the item’s profile and that of its original ‘pinner’. You can also share Likes and links via Twitter and Facebook by optionally sharing your repin.
5. Click Pinners you follow at the top of the screen to see the latest updates from them. You can curate your own Pinterest boards too. Click on something you like. If it doesn’t fit neatly into one of the boards you’re following, scroll down to the bottom of the Repin menuand click in the field to create one of your own.
Next page: Improve your Pinterest standing, add videos, get Pinterest on your phone
6. To improve your standing on Pinterest – or simply to share items you like and have stumbled across – you need to pin original items. Pinterest etiquette dictates that the original pinner gets credit for repins. Click the Add button next to your profile, choose Add a pin and then copy the pertinent page link. You can also upload images. A good photo and description will help ensure your pin is found.
7. Videos as well as photos can be shared on Pinterest. Channels for each are listed at the top of the page. You can also use Pinterest to market your products (be wary of overpromotion so you aren’t deemed a spammer) and to showcase your own talents to potential employees. Items for sale are listed under Gifts by rough price range. Note that when you type in a figure and it will appear in US dollars.
8. Cute works well on Pinterest, but it also works well for spammers. As with any website, you should be wary of the links you click on. We clicked on one that lead to an apparently innocent physic profile questionnaire. Dodgy photos and phishing are rare, but Pinterest provides a reporting tool for these and spam to the right of each entry.
9. Once you’re following a few pinners and have several boards, it can be hard to keep up with the additions to Pinterest. For desktop use, Pinterest is easy enough to control via your web page. On the road, a smartphone app is ideal for uploading and sharing pins. There’s a free Pinterest app for iOS plus a handful of third-party ones, while Android and Windows Phone users can use Pinsensation.