New Platforms: Pinterest

Oddly enough, only a few months ago I was lamenting the rapid influx of new social media platforms trying to supplant (or support, depending on how you looked at it) the holy trio that are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  Yes, I know YouTube, Flickr, etc. all have their own history and their own niche markets, and are ready to be tapped at a moment’s notice for the right purpose.  But by and large FLT (FB, LI & Twtr) are based on communicating with other members of the community.  Sure, you’ve got soap-boxers on each of them, but success isn’t based on soapboxing on those platforms.  The other platforms don’t really require engagement from the content creator for them to be seen by the right audience or even considered successful.

And so it was, with a bit of nostalgia for the good ole’ days of cool new platforms that I began to consider the upstarts – FourSquare (though it’s somewhat in the middle of the foundations of SM and the spawn), SCVNGR, GetGlue, Empire Avenue, etc. Each of these new platforms relied heavily on your existing digital footprint.  You connected with people you knew primarily elsewhere and saw what they produced on each of those platforms.  For the record – I’ve yet to find anything worthwhile about GetGlue that I couldn’t just get from posting a normal status update to FB and Twitter.

Then along comes Pinterest.

It’s interesting (at least to me) that I first discovered the platform through Stephanie Smirnov, President of DeVries PR who had a fantastic inspiration board in her office when I first met her in person nearly two years ago, something that’s not particularly common in the B2B PR world in which I primarily live.

Pinterest (if you happen to be lucky enough to have an invite – and if you’d like one, drop me a comment below – I’ll send out as many as I can), provides you virtual pinboards (think bulletin board but for ideas rather than garage sale notices) to tack up visuals you find interesting, inspiring or otherwise worthwhile.  These visuals can be images you find as you’re surfing the web or pictures (or drawings) you’ve created and upload to the site.  Logistically pinning is accomplished through a drag-and-drop button in your browser and the founders indicate there’s a mobile app in development (personal note – can we speed that up guys – please?!).

Once you add an image to your pinboard you can add commentary, those who follow you can leave a comment, ‘like’ the pin, or even repin the image to one of their pinboards. And let me tell you – the first time a pic you’ve taken gets repinned it’s like your first comment on your first blog post, or your first RT.  The image can also be clicked which leads to the original site where the image originated.  This is a particularly important feature (more on that below).

Pinterest is what would happen if Delicious and Flickr mated and spawned a new platform.  Delicious (and the other bookmarking sites) primarily focus on the curation of the textual content of others and Flickr is (of course) based on showcasing your own images.  Here you’re showcasing the visual items you find inspirational that are created by others.  Pins are Tweetable, Facebook Like-able, and embeddable (though this one seems to be buggy on WordPress).

Pinterest has intrigued me more in a week than Empire Avenue and GetGlue combined in the last few months.

Some particularly interesting uses that are “built into” the site:

  • Fashion – pins lead back to the blog/e-commerce site they originated from. Raw webpage titles don’t provide the depth needed to re-find a link.
  • Food, restaurants and recipes – do you remember food by it’s title or how it looked on the plate?  There’s a reason cookbooks have huge full color pictures.
  • Books – it’s probably still bad practice to judge a book by it’s cover, but we still identify them that way.
  • Favorite places – A picture’s worth a thousand words to remind you of the trip you took where you forgot your camera (but can now get a street level picture of that little place you had lunch 15 years ago).

How about practical PR uses?  Done:

  • Photo contests (likes=votes, particularly useful since following a board isn’t required and the rules re contents are more lax than FB’s),
  • “Concept” product image hosting and sharing,
  • Rebranding exercises (are you listening Gap?),
  • New product showcasing,
  • “Viral” product launches,
  • Infographic or other statistical curation,
  • Portfolio review
  • Photographic essays
  • Printable coupons
  • Commentary on something visual (journalists/reviewers on a fashion designer’s new line, architects on student designs, etc.)
  • There’s even a professional service (b2b/white collar) angle – Insurance companies showcasing how to prevent damage during holiday season, hurricane season, etc.; Banks showcasing new features within their branches (ATM software/interface, coin counting machines).

Oddly enough, and completely by accident, I have found Pinterest to be many times more social than the other new upstarts.  With even just a small number of followers and people that you follow you easily discover others with shared interests and can begin following them (or individual pinboards on certain topics/themes).  So, yes, a service in invite-only Beta already beats ‘launched’ services on the actual social side of things.

The service definitely still needs improvement.  Specific things I’d like to see fixed / changed include:

  • Private boards – I may not want to share everything with everyone (particularly for work, or if I’m using it as a gift-idea platform)
  • Less crash/downtime – I know, growing pains happen but it is noticeable at the moment 🙁
  • Subboards – It would be great if there were multiple tiers for easy filing. Rather than having 5 different photography boards (e.g. nature pics, portraits, animal pics, architecture pictures, and city pictures), a single photography board with sublevels would be convenient.
  • Embedding – feature is a bit buggy (at least in wordpress).  I do like that the size of the image is customizable, but a few more options (like word wrap, right or left alignment, etc.) would be good.
  • Multiple pins/page – Enable us to pin multiple images per pop-up so we’re not repeating 5 or so clicks per image if there’s a few on a page we like.
  • Better policies and notifications – this is the big one that nearly made me turn away from the service.  Currently the policies are very lax because they’re all but non-existent, which is normally a good thing, but in this case there are still enforcers in place.  Worthwhile disclaimer – I only discovered this issue because I had a pin removed – it was an artistic image, but one that for some workplaces would be NSFW.
    • As it stands now the rules prohibit “images that you think other people will find offensive.” Guys – if you go by what “other people” will find offensive it’s an very greasy slippery slope. Just ask Facebook (ZDNet: Facebook removes photo of two men kissing). Or wait until the conservative right gets a glimpse of this pinboard of mine (this is suitable for work).  I’m pretty sure someone will be offended.The second part of the problem is that there’s no notification that a pin has been removed.  Pinterest sends you notices throughout the day of pins that have been liked, repinned, and any new followers you’ve got.  However, there’s no notice if your pin is removed.   Given that a pin could be removed for a variety of reasons (copyright issues, offensiveness, or perhaps it just disappears because of tech problems) the lack of notification is a pretty big oversight – if I bookmark something in Delicious, I expect it to stay there.  A simple combination delay/notice could be implemented (“This pin has been removed from public viewing and will be deleted in 24 hours because ____.  Please save the information locally as it will not be accessible after ___ date.”)

Overall it’s a fantastic service and definitely one that any visual thinker should poke around in, but certainly has a few areas that need tweaking. For some additional thoughts on the service be sure to check out Gini Dietrich’s post on Empire Avenue and Pinterest.

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  • Anonymous

    Great post, Nathan. I’m definitely interested in testing out Pinterest. From this post and Gini’s of course, it looks like it has a lot of potential. Would you be willing to send me an invite so I can test it out? Much appreciated.

    • Hey Jessica – Will do, invite will come in a bit. Cheers,

      • Anonymous


  • I am agree with Jessicamalnik and will also like to test this. Can you please send me invite?

    • Hey there – Will send over an invite this morning! Thanks for reading 🙂

      • Anonymous


  • I’m bookmarking this post so I can absorb it a bit later. I’d love an invite to check it out! =) — Kairi Soosaar

  • Kate

    Sounds like a great new platform- i’d love to check it out and thanks for posting on it!

    • Sent – hope you enjoy the service 🙂

  • Ephillips1026

    I’d be interested in an invite – sounds like it might be worthwhile. ephillips1026@yahoo

  • As a visual thinker and inspirational junkie, I can see unlimited possibilities with Pinterest. I’ve read good things about the platform and would love to try it out!

  • Such a great explanation of why and how one should use the tool – thank you! I really hope they’re listening to their users because you just gave them a ton of market research FOR FREE. It also made me chuckle – the fail whale hasn’t been around in a long time. I’d almost forgotten about him.

    • Hey Gini –

      Heh, thanks so much – glad you enjoyed the post (and I do hope they take a look – I think the platform’s got piles & piles of potential).

      It was actually deja vu for me. I sat there last week trying to refresh and kept on getting the error msgs and thought – why does this feel so familiar…then it occurred to me :).

  • Nathan, Informative post! The visual potential associated with pinterest sounds very appealing. If you have a spare invitation, I would love to play around with the site further. Look forward to reading more –

    • Hey Jennifer – Just dropped you a msg on twitter – would be happy to send over an invite, just need your email addie. Cheers,

  • Courtney M.

    Sounds interesting. I’d love to try it.

    • Just sent over an invite – hope you enjoy it.

  • eafinley

    Great post. I’ve been using Pintrest for about a month and pin countless things each day that I would have otherwise lost track of altogether – it’s perfect for a design blog junkie like me. And I, too, was surprised by the high-level of social engagement … it’s like Minnesota nice meets social media. It seems that maintaining the invitation policy has only furthered that – people invite people they know/like and perhaps that has had a continuous trickle down effect? Excited to see where Pintrest will go.

    • Very true. I hope it has good staying power

  • Joni

    If you have enough invites, I’d love to try it.

    • Definitely- invite sent, enjoy!

  • Becki C.

    This looks great! I’d love to try it if you have invites left.

    • Would be happy to Becki – invite on the way!

      • Becki C.

        Thanks so much!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the shout-out, Nathan! I’m a huge fan of inspiration boards (as you saw) and gravitated naturally to Pinterest. I pretty much only use it via the bookmarklet they offer which makes “pinning” any image ridiculously simple — I dont’t believe it’s supported by IE, though, which is a shame. I agree with you about policies, by the way — it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to get jiggy (or jiggly) with their images, if you know what I mean. I actually censored myself and DIDN’T do a zombie board (not kidding!) because I figured the community (which is very design-focused) wouldn’t approve.

    • Hey Stephanie –

      My pleasure, it really is a great system and I’m glad I noticed you pinning something one day, for an old school ‘clip the cool pic’ media junkie like myself it’s a fantastic godsend.

      Didn’t realize that about IE, I’m nearly exclusively a Chrome user at this point. But true – full support would be great – ideally I’d actually like right click to pin support so it doesn’t have to reload each image on the page.

      I would LOVE a zombie board!!! 🙂

      But indeed it’s good to know someone else is in the same boat re: policies. I assume they’ll get that ironed out relatively quickly though.

      Have a great week!

  • Great recap/suggestions, Nathan. Thank you for sharing some background on this service. I would love an invite to test the platform, if available.

  • CPiazza

    This sounds great. I have done this across several paper books and journals. An online pinboard would be nice — and easier to carry!

    • Sending an invite your way! Enjoy!

  • Sounds like an interesting tool. I like the ideas you outlined for how PR pros can use Pinterest. If you have any other invites, I’d love to test it out!

  • Great post Nathan! I love Pinterest! I was addicted to it from day one. I really like how you list how PR professionals can use it as a tool. It may not be FTL, but it is definitely a good platform to see and connect with those who have similar interests/hobbies as you do.

  • Really wonderful explanation about this tool and thanks for this.

  • laura

    I just discovered Pinterest yesterday, and I love it. Another feature I would like to see is a change from the SFW policy to a SFW/NSFW setting you could toggle….would require users to tag their own NSFW content, but might be preferable to prohibiting it completely.

    • Hey Laura –

      That does sound like a great feature. Well done!

  • I’ve been pinning on a personal level for a few months now and LOVE it.. it’s such a great way to compile all the neat things, ideas for the house, my company, etc w/o having to bookmark a million different sites and then having said things get buried in the site. I love it so much personally that I neglected to think outside my “board” on how I can use it for my company and our clients! Brilliant! Already creating a pinboard in my head!

  • Maggie

    I ‘found’ pinterest yesterday and was gung ho about signing up and saw it was invite only 🙁 Added myself to the waiting list, but in the meantime, what do I do? In the time it takes to actually receive one, I’ll most likely forget and move on to the next great thing. Too bad!

  • Danielle

    I’ve been waiting for months and months

  • Danielle

    I’ve been stalking Pinterest for months waiting for my invite. What an incredible place to exchange ideas and gain inspiration. I’d love to get an invite if you’re able to!

  • Pinterest sounds interesting, specially given that it can be used for media monitoring too in the future perhaps? I’d love to take a look at it firsthand; would you still happen to have an invite lying around?

  • Anonymous

    I am completely obsessed with Pinterest! I think it will be interesting to see how (and what) brands use it. It’s certainly a great thing for design-oriented brands, and some are already on the bandwagon: Real Simple (, Etsy (, Flavorpill (, HGTV (, Anthropologie ( Most of these have yet to really tap in to the platform – but Real Simple’s Pinterest page is a great example of a brand getting it right.

    Pinterest is also a great tool for showcasing your own personal brand. Someone who may not know me might learn quite a bit about my interests and passions just by looking at some of the pinboards I’ve created ( – not to mention the opportunity for my friends who run small businesses (graphic design, photography, interior design, small boutiques, etc). Definitely a platform worth watching – I think it will be really interesting to see how it grows!

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  • This was such a great post! I really liked it. In fact, it inspired me to request an invite and start my own account. Thanks a lot 🙂

  • Thanks for the explanation. Can you please send me an invite?

  • Corinna

    discovered pinterest today and would love to be able to pin ideas for the re-design of two rooms in my home. thank you for offering invites!

  • Amberpage8

    thanks for this post! love reading it! could you send me an invite to pintrest? im anxiously (not so much) waiting on the list. Thanks!

    • Amberpage8

      p.s really bummed to hear that some people have waited months and months for it 🙁 too bad its not faster

  • Liz

     I realize this article is a few weeks old. But if you still have any invites, I would love one. Great article by the way!

  • ktsaam

    thanks for this post was really helpful for a virgin pinterester…can you also send me an invite cheers

  • Nice post.I really enjoyed by reading it.And this is helpful for virgin pinterester.Thanks!  

  • You have explained it perfectly.No issues in that.Nice post.

  • Thanks for the shout-out, Nathan! I’m a huge fan of inspiration boards (as you saw) and gravitated naturally to Pinterest. I pretty much only use it via the bookmarklet they offer which makes “pinning” any image ridiculously simple..

  • Cortleport

    Great article and great site! However, when you sign up it asks you permission to access users information any time and post to users Facebook any time. I didn’t see any discussion on that. Doesn’t that pose a bit of a personal online security risk?

    • Hi C-

      If you’d rather not use Facebook to connect you can still sign up w/o it or use twitter. There are some permissions that you need to allow for platforms to connect w/ Facebook.

  • cheri

    Hi..I just joined Pinterest, but still feel uneasy pinning anything because of copyright laws. Even though I would make sure there’s a link to the original site, how do I know I’m protected from some crazy person wanting to sue me for pinning their image? Personally, I think it does a favor by bringing traffic to their sites, but there’s always some that still get upset when you pin their images. So how do we know we’re really protected when we pin? Copyright laws are vague sometimes to me, and it would appear that sometimes posting a link back, may not be good enough. Anyone have any info on this?

    • Hi Cheri – pinterest has policies for removing copyrighted materials if the owner desires. Also, check applicable provisions of the digital millennium copyright act-you should be safe.

      • cheri

        Thanks for your quick reply..I’ll check it out=)

  • Thanks for the shout-out, Nathan! I’m a huge fan of inspiration boards
    (as you saw) and gravitated naturally to Pinterest. I pretty much only
    use it via the bookmarklet they offer which makes “pinning” any image
    ridiculously simple — I dont’t believe it’s supported by IE, though,
    which is a shame.

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  • I sat there last week trying to refresh and kept on getting the error msgs and thought – why does this feel so familiar