Everything You Need to Know About Pinterest

You probably fall into one of two categories: You’ve heard of Pinterest but haven’t signed up, or you’ve signed up for Pinterest and love it. Either way, I have a few things to help you understand Pinterest and use it more effectively.

Pinterest is a public online scrapbook for images you find on the internet. It’s 100% visual. The entire site consists of images that are displayed in an infinite scroll–no matter how far down on the page you scroll, there are always more images to see. You can view everyone’s pins or only the pins of people you’re following (who can be friends or complete strangers).

It’s one of the best time wasters on the internet, not just because of the fascinating images you can find on Pinterest, but also because you’re building something while you skim the images. You’re not creating the images, but you’re compiling pinboards of related images that interest you. Every time you pin or repin an image, you’re adding it to your virtual memory, a memory that you share with the world.

That’s pretty cool.

As of this second, Pinterest is the 113th most-visited website on the web. Lots of people are using it. You probably should too, even if it’s just for an occasional visit. Here are a few tips to get the most out of the site:

  1. Pin vs. Repin vs. Like:  When you find an image on the internet that you want to share on Pinterest, you “pin” it through one of a variety of ways (the best one is below in #2). If you’re skimming Pinterest and see an image that you want to add to your boards and share with people, you “repin” it. And if you want to remember an image but don’t want to add it to the infinite scroll, you can “like” it. For me, if I really love an image, I Repin it. If I just like it, I Like it.
  2. Right Click to Pin: Without what I’m about to tell you, pinning an image can be a little annoying. There are several ways to do this, but the best way is to get the Google Chrome Pinterest Right Click extension. If you don’t have Chrome, check your browser’s extension or plug-in list to find a similar tool. Once you add this extension, you can simply right-click on any image or video and select “Pin This Image.” It’s awesome.
  3. Hover to Enlarge: One of Pinterest’s few failings is that sometimes you can’t see an image well enough on the infinite scroll, so you have to click on it to see it better. I know, that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the beauty of Pinterest is the ease with which you can skim through images. So do yourself a favor and get the Pinzy extension too. If you hover over an image on Pinterest for a second, it’ll enlargen to full size.
  4. Don’t “Follow All” of Someone’s Boards: I learned this lesson the hard way. For over a year, whenever I followed someone new on Pinterest, I followed all of their boards instead of selecting individual boards to follow. A few weeks ago I found that I was hardly ever visiting Pinterest because the infinite scroll was clogged with images of wedding dresses, artsy furniture, makeup, shoes, and kid’s toys (well over 60% of Pinterest’s users are female. I love females, but I have absolutely no interest in the specific types of pins I mention above). So I’ve had to go through and unfollow individual boards while continuing to follow the stuff I’m interested in. Save yourself some time and do that up front instead of “following all.”
  5. Don’t “Follow All” Friends on Pinterest: This is both for the reason above and for another key reason. Once you become a Pinterest member, if you hover over your name in the upper right and select “Find Friends,” Pinterest will present a list of your Facebook friends who are on Pinterest. There will be tons of people in this list. Don’t touch it. At least, don’t follow all people (which Pinterest makes very easy). The reason is that you are probably “friends” with people on Facebook whose images you are not at all interested in. These are the people that you’ve deleted from your Facebook feed. Pick and choose the ones you’re actually interested in following.
  6. Don’t Auto-Share to Facebook: This is just annoying. At first I thought it was clever, but I’ve found that it just doesn’t work well, and it’s annoying to see the lists of people’s pins in my Facebook feed. If you want to share a specific image on Facebook, just do it manually.
  7. Don’t Pin Too Much at a Time: This is a weird one that you have to experience to truly understand. Basically, sometimes you’ll go to Pinterest and you’ll see a ton of cool images on the page. You might want to Repin or Like several of them. But then you realize that they’re all from the same person, and if you Repin or Like too many of them, they’re going to see that and might think it’s weird. Plus, the beauty of Pinterest is that it’s a hodgepodge of pins from all sorts of people. If you Pin or Repin a ton of images in a short amount of time, you’re monopolizing your friends’ feeds.
  8. Don’t Pin Off-Theme: I see this all the time now that I’m in the process of removing uninteresting boards from my feed. I’ll click through an image of high heels to unfollow a board labeled “Design,” and then I’ll see that there are actually some really fascinating examples of web design and architecture on that board. The high heels are off theme–they don’t belong on the Design board. Help your followers out by properly categorizing your pins.

I was going to recommend a few boards to follow, but the fun of Pinterest is discovering the boards that you connect with. Don’t be afraid to “follow” the boards of someone you don’t know. They’ll take it as a compliment that you appreciate their taste. And if you’re into cute animals and people, funny things, cool houses, beautiful locales, and impressive infographics, follow me on Pinterest.

Oh, and congrats to Charlotte for winning the Tournament of Cuteness Battle Royale 2012!

9 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Pinterest”

  1. You’re a person who understands practical allocation of time. To me, the biggest question about Pintrest is whether the investment of time is worth the return. What do you do with all of those pictures? Do you feel like you’re getting enough out of the site to justify the time you spend on it? Is it mostly just a fun distraction?

    I ask this because I worry that if I were to start using Pintrest, it’d become just another time suck that was amusing but not that useful (and I already have to be selective with how many of those types of activities I have in my life).

    • Is it worth the investment of time? Good question. I have multiple answers. It certainly can be a fun distraction. But it doesn’t need to be–I actually think there’s a fair amount of value added depending on what you’re looking for. Because of the nearly perfected element of discovery on the site, I think there’s a good chance you’ll find some great ideas for your home, vacation, or future party/event.

      Also, it really doesn’t take much time at all to pin a few things and skim through a few pins now and then. If you really want to save time, you could just look at my boards on occasion.

  2. *High pitch squeal* I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this site. I FOLLOW EVERYTHING!!! I PIN EVERYTHING I SEE!!! BEIBER!!! *Squeal*…. Hell no. Actually, it’s been a while since I’ve been on that site. It has become my virtual cookbook. There’s so many delicious recipes that I need to try. It is definitely not a site to go to when you are hungry.

    I just realise I can pin you. I’m going to do that when I get home.

  3. Time waster?! Oh no no no… I’ve found Pinterest to be a time SAVER. It all depends on how you use it and I think way too many people only see it as a tool to pin photos of cute kittens and funny quotes. (Boards I choose to unfollow.) I’ve been using Pinterest for over a year now and feel like I’m making the same arguments about it that I did about Twitter back in its infancy. Remember the days when people didn’t see the point or how it could be a useful tool? Like Twitter, the usefulness of Pinterest is all in how you choose to use it.

    I see Pinterest as a way of visually bookmarking sites. Since I’m a designer by trade as well as an avid cook and baker, Pinterest offers A LOT of pluses. I think it can be quite a game changer if the wide variety of uses it offers really start to catch on. Here are the best uses I’ve found for Pinterest:

    Online Recipe File—All your recipes in one place, accessible with one click and organized by photo kept in one place and easy to access from my phone = a working woman’s recipe heaven.

    Visual Inspiration Database—I’ve used it countless times when I’m stuck on a design problem. I keep boards for typography design, info graphic design and illustrators that I like so they’re easy to access if I want to hire them for a future project.

    Brainstorming Tool: Multiple people can pin to a board if you invite them. They can comment, like and tag others. It allows for of collaboration around visual ideas in a simple way where it all stays in one place. It’s also easy to share with people outside the pin board. We might drive a client to our brainstorming board, or we’ve shared a collaborative interior design idea board with our interior designer so she sees what we want.

    Shopping Tool: Price snipe makes for easy price comparisons and the click through allows for quick and easy purchasing. If you shop online and especially if you’re shopping for something based mostly on look and price (like a couch), it’s fantastic.

    Honestly, I see Pinterest’s social media aspect as secondary. It’s like a visual Delicious for me. I don’t really care who’s repinning or following me (or if I’m pinning a bunch at once and clogging your feed). The bookmarks are there for others to see, but mostly for me to keep and organize. At the same time, every day, Pinterest’s searchable database is getting larger and larger, which is really useful when you’re looking for something specific.

    I’m starting to see retailers and businesses starting Pinterest accounts, so it’ll be interesting to see where that leads.

    • Christine–As for Pinterest being a “time waster,” I kind of meant it as a compliment. There are only a few places that I go for a few moments of mindless entertainment on the internet, and Pinterest is one of theme (the others are ESPN.com, Facebook, and Google Reader).

      I really like the brainstorming tool that you mention. I hadn’t thought of that, but that’s a great use for Pinterest. Also interesting that the social element of Pinterest isn’t important to you (beyond sharing boards with specific people for brainstorming). I agree that it’s a good bookmarking site, but as of yet it hasn’t eclipsed Evernote, Trello, and Backpack for me.

      I know very little about shopping through Pinterest, but the idea of visually shopping for decor is brilliant.

      Also, if anyone ever plans to hold an event or party, following Christine’s events board is an absolute must. I plan on sniping many of these ideas for my next fundraising event. https://pinterest.com/cbielke/events/

      • I view the social media aspect of Pinterest as secondary, but still very important. It’s just very different than other social media sites. On Twitter, it’s suggested that you should target your tweets to things that will intrigue your followers and build your presence. I think that’s very appropriate for Twitter—and very appropriate for businesses and retailers that are jumping onto the Pinterest bandwagon—but I don’t agree that’s the way to approach your own Pinterest account.

        Unlike Twitter, you have multiple boards, so you can pin to multiple ideas and people need not follow the ones that don’t interest them—so I don’t feel like editing your pins is all that necessary. Edit them for yourself, that’s all. Mass pinning can be mildly annoying, but the nature of repinning makes that kind of inevitable sometimes, but other than when businesses do it, since all their pins are similar and to the same board, I don’t mind it. There’s usually enough variety within each person’s pins for it not to matter much. I pay attention to the pins I see, not really who pinned them.

        I actually take the opposite approach to following pinners than you describe in #4. I prefer to follow all of someone’s boards and weed out from there. The key reason being that as people add boards, if you are following them as opposed only one or two of their boards, you are automatically added to following new boards. Obviously, you should be careful who you choose to follow in that way, and yes, sometimes it backfires and I find myself needing to unfollow ‘Rainy Day Kids Activities’ or something else irrelevant to me, but more often than not I get introduced to an interesting new board I would like to follow anyway.

        **And thanks for the shout out – I’m surprised you like that board given that it has a few wedding dresses in it 😉

        • Christine–That’s a great point in your second to last paragraph. Following all for me depends on whether or not the person has established their Pinterest presence. If they have, then I pick and choose. If they haven’t, I’ll do as you describe above and follow all and then weed out later.

          I’ll gladly ignore the wedding dresses in that board given the other amazingness it includes. 🙂

  4. These are some great “rules” for Pinterest, before I was viewing it as another of the “black holes” on the web. Being fairly new to using Pinterest, I definitely feel inspired to change up the boards and do a lot of organizing. Thanks for sharing!


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