Been There, Pinned That: Are You Pinterested?

Article ImageI too was once a Pinterest skeptic. I kept getting emails telling me that friends had invited me to the virtual pinboard site, and I kept ignoring them. Eventually, my friends started trying to sway me in person, and I kept saying, "I just don't want to deal with another social media site."

Then, one dark and dreary night, I decided to try it out. At first I used it to organize craft ideas for Christmas. Then I started gathering recipes for an onslaught of holiday and birthday parties I had to throw. One thing is for sure: Recipes and crafts are the gateway pins!

Before I knew it, I was using the site to gather things I wanted for my house, ideas for renovation projects, postings of dogs I wanted to adopt, and random junk I thought was cute but didn't quite care enough to buy. When people asked me for a recipe, I would say, "Oh, it's on my Yummies board on Pinterest." I recently went for a haircut, and when my hairdresser asked what we were doing, I whipped out my iPhone, opened my Pinterest app, and showed her my board for hairstyles. (As you might imagine, that app led to a discussion about Pinterest that lasted the duration of my haircut.)

Yes, I soon became a Pinterest junkie. It was around this time that other people started wondering just what the hell it was for (including our very own Media Redux columnist, Ron Miller).

So let's be clear about one thing: Pinterest is kind of a girls club. I'd be highly skeptical if I found myself on a date with a man who couldn't stop gushing about this site. But now the site seems to have established itself enough that marketers are starting to wonder how companies can use it to their advantage. In other words, companies are trying to figure out how they can ruin it. As John C. Dvorak at put it, "When people say that this site could be an addictive nightmare, they are not kidding. Every marketing junkie in the Western hemisphere is wondering how to exploit the site."

Dvorak went on to say, "Now, that said, I cannot see how Pinterest can protect this idea. Google could copy it tomorrow and eliminate the threat, assuming the company can even comprehend why Pinterest is so superior." As I write this column, not only is there a buzz about Pinterest, but there is a grumbling about how no one actually uses Google+.

I wouldn't be too worried if I were Pinterest.

Since the inception of Google+, I've been griping about Google's insistence on getting into the social media space. Everyone is already on Facebook, and no one wants to do the work of switching their entire virtual life over to a new social network. No matter how clunky, weird, or invasive Facebook gets, it's the leader of the pack. And this is where Pinterest's true genius lies.

Pinterest doesn't compete with Facebook or even Twitter, but it actually integrates quite nicely with both of these social networks. Not only can I sign into Pinterest using a Twitter or Facebook login, but it will automatically post my pins to the sites (if I allow it to). That's another nice thing about Pinterest: It doesn't require me to do much. It's not begging me to check in on a virtual farm or craft witty status updates. I don't have to upload photos or sort through a timeline. I don't even really need to be on the site to use it, thanks to the handy-dandy toolbar plug-in on my browser. I only actually go to the Pinterest site once or twice a week, as opposed to the multiple times per day I check in with Facebook.

For some, Pinterest may be a colossal time suck. For overwhelmed brides-to-be, it may be what helps keep them organized as they plan the biggest day of their lives. But for some businesses, it's becoming a valuable tool just like other social sites. For instance, Book Business listed 10 nonprofit sites using Pinterest. From AARP to the National Resources Defense Council, nonprofits are pinning to save the world. The World Wildlife Fund uses stunning images of endangered species to get its message out there., a nonprofit online magazine covering environmental news and commentary, uses its Pinterest page to highlight urban farming, sustainable recipes, and street art.

In the beginning, Twitter seemed, well, pointless. Even Facebook was once nothing more than a tool for college kids to check out other college kids. Pinterest is simply the newest, hottest tool in a company's social media toolkit.