Pinterest: The Social Network You Didn’t Know You Needed

You’ve likely already listed your favorite movies, music, and more on Facebook. You tweet and like new sites you come across online, and if anyone kept up with your online ramblings at all, surely they’d know your preferences in everything from software to soap.

Then comes Pinterest, the latest social network that everyone’s talking about. You may have already seen your friends sharing links to it, but unless you’re interested in dresses, crafts, and cooking, you likely didn’t give the site a second try. Then, the whole world started using it, and even the President is sharing his favorite things on it.

So what is Pinterest, and why in the world should it interest you at all? Could it really be the next big social network?

Wait: What in the World is Pinterest?

Pinterest is an online pinboard where you can share the things you love online, visually. Remember the cork boards your teacher put drawings and reminders on when you were in school? That’s just about what Pinterest looks like, except it’s filled with little pictures of the things you and your friends shared. It’s an instantly classic web design, one that we’ve already seen replicated in other apps across the web. Only here, when you first check out the site, you’d quickly get the impression that it was a Ladies-only area, built to share the best recipes, wedding dresses, and crafts. Definitely nice, but not exactly what most web app geeks are looking for.

Pinterest - A craft, style, and design site on first bluff

I, for one, didn’t see a need to use Pinterest when I first heard about it, and never tried to get an invite at first. I mean, really, it seemed amazing that an invite-only social network could have gotten this popular. Do people really need another social network? I share enough stuff online, and had no reason to share little pictures of more things online, especially if all I saw was little pictures of other nice things that I really wasn’t interested in.

And the I tried Pinterest out.

Pinterest Turns Out to be Interesting

Now, once you have an invite, it’s easy to get started with Pinterest. You can create an account manually, or just signup with your Facebook or Twitter account. Then, Pinterest asks you to pick some of your favorite interests, then automatically has your account follow popular accounts in those categories, so you’ll get started off immediately seeing things that’ll interest you in Pinterest. This is actually a brilliant move on their part, because with many networks such as Twitter, it took people a long time to start finding and following people they found interesting.

Ah, so it does go beyond crafts

The Twitter comparison seems very apt, since here, you’re sharing a very specific type of update in a very public network. See, Facebook made sense to most people from the start, since it is really designed to let you be yourself online, sharing text, links, pictures, and videos just like you might if your friend was sitting beside you. It’s your life, condensed online. Twitter, on the other hand, only lets you share 140 character updates, including links or anything else you can fit in. It was hard for most people to understand, and if most of your friends weren’t using it, it didn’t make sense.

Pinterest, with a Twitter-like restriction, only lets you share pictures you’ve uploaded or clipped from other sites, with an up to 500 word caption. It also didn’t make sense to me when I first saw it, and surely many others felt the same if their friends weren’t already using it. Now that companies, designers, as well as half of your Facebook friends are using it, it’s starting to make sense.

Just like a simple tweet, a little Pinterest pin can actually have a lot of info

So why would I use Pinterest?

Pinterest is designed to let you visually share the things you love in boards. You can upload images or clip pictures from the web of anything, add a caption, then save them to a board that you can use to categorize things you like. Everything’s scaled to the same width, but can be as long as it needs to show the full image, which makes it rather nice for infographics, interestingly.

I personally have been pinning my favorite apps, fonts, and tech tools in separate boards, while Envato is pinning workplace pictures and design items the team loves. When you find something someone else pinned that you like, you can repin it on your own boards, or add a comment, much as you would on a Facebook picture. But with everything categorized in topic-related boards you can individually follow, it’s a great way to recommend and get recommendations for things you love.

Even Envato's on Pinterest

One of the most amazing things Pinterest has done is it’s made using the site seem easy enough that everyone’s figuring it out. Bookmarklets have been around for years, and there’s been dozens of online bookmarking tools. But Pinterest, by combining their great design and detailed instructions with tech that’s really not so revolutionary, has made a very revolutionary site that has everyday people clipping pictures online and sharing their likes in a way Facebook could only dream of.

Best of all, you get all of the basic Pinterest sharing features you’d need right there in the Bookmarklet. You can share your clips in a single click with your existing networks on Facebook and Twitter, which lets you still share everything with all of your friends and lets Pinterest leverage the other largest social networks to build their user base. You can even create new boards right while you’re clipping, add a description with a link, and save it all online in one step. Whether you’re pinning to share or to save for your own use, it’s obvious, works simply, and is one of the best ways to make a public directory of things you like. When you clip from a site, your picture is linked to the original site, making it a great way to share and save online content to rediscover anytime.

Bookmarklets have truly gone mainstream

Is it time to start pinning?

Perhaps you’ve wondered if Pinterest is worth your time, and if there’s any compelling reason for you to use it. Turns out, it could actually save you time. If you’re in the habit of sharing links and pictures of things you like on Facebook and Twitter, the Pinterest gives you an easy way to keep up with them and find them later, while still sharing them with your friends. It’s a great way to visually bookmark in a social way, and if you follow people who’s pins interest you, it’s a great way to find out about new things in a visual way.

I’m currently using it to share things I like, and think I’ll likely continue doing so. If you’ve never tried it out, it might be time to give Pinterest a try. It’s way more functional and interesting than it might have seemed at first, even if you’re not the least bit interest in sewing.


An incredibly simple way to share images of things you like online and organize them into virtual pinboards. Part Facebook Like 2.0, part social bookmarking.