You tweet … but do you pin?
Picking wildflowers with social media’s newest darling
March 19 2012

by tmartin on March 19, 2012

HUH? YOU DON’T PIN?  You haven’t joined the throngs – somewhere between 11 million and 16 million people, depending on which rating service you believe – pinning and re-pinning their way across the web?

You haven’t embraced social networking via “visual collections of things you love?”

You haven’t encountered the big corkboard in the sky?

I feel you looking blankly at me. That’s OK, I didn’t get it either.

But with the amount of buzz social media darling Pinterest (http://pinterest.com) has been drawing – its young founder Ben Silbermann attracted a crowd of more than a 1000 as he announced a Pinterest iPad app at last week’s trendy South By Southwest festival in Austin TX — I figured I better dig a little deeper.

I asked the company for an invitation to join. I have a pulse, an email address, and a Facebook page, so I passed the membership test and received a joining link.

Getting started involves nothing more than clicking the link, adding your email, connecting to your Facebook page, and dragging a “pin it” button into your browser bar.

Then, you find yourself  in the land of nested and cross connected virtual  corkboards.  And, if you’re like me, you have no idea what to do with them.

Lucky for me, I impulse-bought a box of discount of wildflower seed mix the other day. You know, one of those with an orange ‘special price’ sticker and generic picture of flowers on the front.

As I registered my name with Pinterest, that box sat on the sofa next to me, its seed contents listed by species name on the back in itty bitty type … and suddenly I had a pinning idea.

I created a board called “wildflowers.” I picked the category of “gardening.” I searched for each species by name. I picked a photo I liked and click the Pin It button.

Pinterest flagged the photo from the web page, I added a caption with the species and common names, and voila, the photo appeared pinned to my board.

I did not make the photos; I merely collected them from random locations across the web. That’s a key element of Pinterest: you don’t create the things you pin. In fact, the site specifically asks you not to promote your own work. Instead, you “tear” images from other websites and pin each one to your board.

That makes me feel a bit queasy. If you don’t want images you own being pinned, Pinterest provides a snippet of code you can embed into your site. But otherwise, well, let’s just hope someone rules that pinning falls under copyright fair use.

Taking that leap of faith, I pinned images for every one of the 14 seeds on the package. Here’s what it looks like:

http://pinterest.com/capeeyes/wildflowers/

Pretty, huh? I made a pretty collage of wildflower photos.

I was thinking maybe it could be a reference a few months hence when, in my perfect world, the seeds actually get planted, avoid bird beaks, sprout, and bloom.

“Hmm, what is that lovely blue flower?” I’ll wonder as I gaze upon the mound of blossoms spilling gloriously along the fence.

“Oh, let me look on wildflower board where I pinned those pictures and find out,” I’ll say to myself, clicking into Pinterest.

It turns out that pins take on a life of their own far more quickly than that, however.  Within an hour of creating my wildflower board, 27 people re-pinned the photo of Echinacea purpurea (aka, purple coneflower). Another five people “liked” it.

Even more surprising, I received an alert email that listed their names and comments and no one was named Cyberdude, Fjeirmasoma the elf, Bubba1234, or anonymous.  Instead, every commenter was a woman with a real first and last name. Mackenzie and Debby and Vicki and Kristina.

In interviews, the company talks about its core demographic being women in their 20s and 30s, living in the central part of the country rather than coasts. When I read what Beth wrote as she re-pinned the photo, I finally got it.

” I LOVE these flowers-they make me smile! I always try to have some growing somewhere in my garden.”

Pinterest is the stuff you tear out of magazines. It’s the shoes you might buy. It’s the hairstyles you ask your friend for advice on.

Pinterest is the cupcakes with fun flowers. It’s the holiday decorating idea. It’s the clever kitchen storage. It’s all the elements you’ll put in a redesigned bath (Deep soaking tub! Cool rug! Kohler curved faucet!) that you’ll build when you win the lottery.

I hate to say it, but I think its kinda’ a girl thing. (Go ahead, throw the tomatoes now!) Pretty much every female person I know, regardless of age, has some kind of collection of things ripped out of magazines or printed from a website.  Accessories. Ideas.  Inspirations. Dreams.

Pinterest understands this and knows that for many people, the act of creation doesn’t lie in designing the shoes – rather, the act of creation lies in gathering all the different shoes together for reference, conversation, or sharing.

Pinterest doesn’t want to you pin your own content because the point isn’t to be an artist – it’s to be a curator.

One group has been salivating over Pinterest: retail. Pinterest provides critical word of mouth advertising at its best, delivered from a peer group, and  illustrated by beautiful, clickable, photos.

For example, the online craft mecca ETSY reports that it draws more from traffic from Pinterest pins of pictures of its earrings and hats and picture frames and other hand-made accessories of life than from any other source.

Williams-Sonoma (http://pinterest.com/williamssonoma/), Nordstrom (http://pinterest.com/nordstrom/), and Lowes (http://pinterest.com/lowes/) incorporate pins into social network marketing.

A few creative organizations have explored other uses. For example, Canada’s CTV (http://pinterest.com/ctvnews/) created a feature called Canada Through Your Eyes (http://pinterest.com/ctvnews/canada-through-your-eyes/) in which it asks readers to pin images of Canadian news interest.

Hard as it may be to believe, no one knew what to make of Twitter at first. Just a handful of words and maybe a link – what can you do with it and who cares? But in a few short years, tweet and trending have become verbs and hashtags are part of business.

So who knows, maybe the pin becomes the new tweet.  And personal collections become public property. And we all add a third channel to our online personas.

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