As the social networking phenomenon continues to burgeon, online sites are anticipating what users want to see, and serving it up with the click of a mouse.
Pinterest is a white-hot social networking site that gives users a chance to create image collages – called “pinboards” – and share them with Pinterest peers. Whether browsing the site on the web, or via the smartphone application, Pinterest is image-based and image-driven.
Think Facebook, minus the sob stories and awkward pokes. Pinterest is more of a Utopian universe of humor, inspiration, puppies and perfect hair. Unless you’re not into those things, in which case the site is something altogether different.
“I think it’s just whatever you want it to be,” said local student Gloria Matthews. “Pinterest allows you to decide what you’re looking at. You pick your interests and, over time, the site learns to narrow the content down to what you like.”
By choosing “Fitness,” a user will induce a wall of chiseled abs, smoothie recipes, and motivational catchlines. Choose “Women’s Fashion,” and that block of biceps transforms to include high heels and high fashion. But switch to “Geek,” and Pinterest becomes a land of anime, steampunk and Doctor Who.
Because of its simplistic, attractive appearance, Pinterest users can get lost in a stream of creative idealism. But the network’s popularity may also present an opportunity for businesses to capitalize on its appeal.
“Pinterest is an unconventional approach to marketing, but I definitely see it becoming a more and more relevant marketing strategy,” said elementary school teacher and entrepreneur Brittany Kiser. “You can use it to post pictures of your products. It will send you emails to let you know who has re-pinned your pins. That way, you can track interest in particular items versus others. A good idea could be to post pictures of concepts that you are considering, thus using Pinterest to gauge whether or not it would be a profitable decision. I think, for a budding company, it is a move in the right direction.”
Jason White is the owner of Quality Woven Labels, a company well-suited for Pinterest promotion. White uses the site just as Kiser suggests. His company creates custom clothing tags, and has used Pinterest to connect with independent fashion designers.
“All of these re-pins and likes share a common interest, making it easier to take the conversation to Twitter or Facebook to nurture the relationship,” he said. “Like everything else, be real and show your true self. Authenticity is hugely important.”
Unlike Twitter or Facebook, however, Pinterest is an invite-only network. Those looking to join may click “Request an Invite” on the front page of the website, but the wait time can be frustrating. Odds are good that friends in existing networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+ – are already on Pinterest, and members can dole out invites. Inquiring in the body of a tweet or status update should do the trick.
“I requested an invite on the website, but was left waiting for well over a week before I finally lost patience and started asking around,” said Kiser. “Within a few hours, I was in. I definitely recommend just asking your friends. Surely some of them will be willing to get you through the door.”
An account can also be created and accessed by linking Pinterest to a Twitter of Facebook profile. When a user re-posts an image to his or own board, that person can then notify followers on other social networks. Users who log into Pinterest via Facebook must currently be using Facebook’s “Timeline” format – an option that will only increase visibility.
But Pinterest is not without its potential pitfalls.
“You acknowledge and agree that, to the maximum extent permitted by law, the entire risk arising out of your access to and use of the site, application, services and site content remains with you,” it reads.
Ironically, Pinterest encourages re-pinning, which appears to liken the site to Napster – only, in this case, as an enabler of illegal photography sharing, instead of music.
In February, photographer and lawyer Kirsten Kowalski was the first to publicly draw the Napster comparison, after removing some of her pinboards out of fear that she would be sued for copyright infringement. According to Kowalski, that prompted a phone call from Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, and a few weeks later – likely as a result of Kowalski’s public concerns – Pinterest released the following statement: “Pinterest is a platform for people to share their interests through collections of images, videos, commentary and links they can share with friends. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides safe harbors for exactly this type of platform. We are committed to efficiently responding to alleged copyright infringements. We are regularly improving our process internally with the help of lawyers who are experts in the field of copyright.”
With that in mind, it appears Pinterest users – by virtue of the protection afforded by the DMCA – are free to re-pin as the site’s creators intended, albeit with a reasonable degree of discretion.
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