Pinterest. I Get It.

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Earlier this week, my co-worker Rob posted a thoughtful article on babies-dressed-as-footballs, Super Bowl XLVI, and a turbulent weekend spent with Pinterest, the "best new startup 0f 2011".

Pinterest has posted some startling numbers in the past few months, hitting seven million unique visitors in December 2011. But, the weird thing about Pinterest is that people are either head-over-heels for it or haven't heard of it. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground (besides Rob, who's now heard of it and still doesn't get it). What bridges the gap between those two ends of the spectrum? Well, the answers are complicated and many.

Recently, I spoke with a close friend of mine who has been raving about Pinterest for a few months, since well before your mother, neighbour, barista and endless co-workers caught onto it. Speaking with her (yes, it's a she, which runs directly into the hammer Rob laid down), and discussing some of the ways she uses Pinterest, and some of the ways it has integrated itself into her life, I began to understand where the appeal lay, and why has managed to wriggle its way into the lives of so many people in a relatively short amount of time.

It's not so much that I disagree with Rob, then, and I understand his concerns and empathize with them, especially as a male (well, outside of Pinterest's predominantly female demographic), but since first digging into the social site, and with Rob's words in mind, I've begun to appreciate Pinterest's strengths, its place within the social sphere of the 'net, and the power that an enthusiastic and positive audience can have in driving traffic towards desirable content on the web. Unlike other popular socially-fueled aggregators, like Reddit or Digg, Pinterest is focussed on bringing its visitors the best things in life, not debasing humanity by digging through the dark parts of our collective soul.

Go big viral, or go home

One of the major driving forces behind Pinterest is its use as an aggregator for all of the cool/interesting/useful products being created and sold by small businesses and individuals around the world. My earlier mentioned friend has long been a fan of Etsy, a community-driven marketplace that sells everything from jewelry and paintings, to books, furniture, and toys. It's easy to get lost among all the wonderful artists who sell their work there, reveling in the hand-made products and artistry. I was a little shocked to hear from my friend that she had recently dumped Etsy for a new love: Pinterest.

Allowing its users to 'pin' things from around the web, Pinterest encourages its community to dig out the best-of-the-best on the web and collect it in one place, creating an ever-growing feed of great gift ideas, clothing, art and anything else you could possible want, and at a price point that fits your budget.

According to ComScore, via TechCrunch, Pinterest hit the "10 million [unique visitors] mark faster than any other standalone site in history." Including Facebook. Including Twitter. Including any website that didn't already have a large community attached to it (like Google+ for instance) To top it off, Time Magazine's Techland blog claims that Pinterest "drives more referral traffic to online retailers than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and LinkedIn combined." Not too shabby for a website that most people hadn't even heard of last summer.

With a predominantly female audience (83% in North America, according to this), Pinterest might not be a viable platform to reach a wide and diverse swathe of potential clients, but if you own a business that targets a predominantly female audience (or men looking to buy their sweetheart a gift, say), Pinterest could be just the place to help your product thrive and gain mind-share among a huge and passionate community of people from around the world.

Is Pinterest a home-run business opportunity for any and all mid- to large-size companies? No probably not. But it will help drive forward sales and awareness for some businesses who are already well-connected to online marketplaces such as Etsy or Ebay, and can add a whole new paradigm to their business model. 

Inspire me

"But I don't run a small business," you say? Well, neither does my wife. Her friends don't either, and, heck, neither do I. But Pinterest still holds a place in all of our daily and creative lives.

Going back to my friend, one of the major reasons she found herself going back to Pinterest on a daily basis was its ability to be used as a sort of online vision board. We've all heard of them. Looking for inspiration? Dreaming of a new home? Buy a cork bulletin board for your office and cover it with anything and everything that inspires you: photos, quotes, magazine cut-outs, whatever. Let the tide of positive energy wash over you and change your life. Pinterest is a vision board that allows users to collect the most inspiring energy and imagery from the Internet's most creative minds.

And how to capitalize on this newly found inspiration? Mashable has one idea, an article explaining how to plan a wedding with Pinterest, which, in fact, is exactly what my wife is using it for these days, with her best friend's wedding just around the corner. Personally, I've found it to be a great way to gather together photography that inspires me, that encourages me to push myself to improve my own photos.

But, wait, there's a Pinterest for men?

The biggest hurdle for most potential Pinterest users, particularly those who're male, is the initial inundation of products, photos, designs, etc... that are clearly geared towards and driven by 20-35 year-old women. But, even if you don't like delicious scones (crazy), around-the-house craft ideas (using the little plastic tags on bread bags to label the cords for your entertainment center, genius!), or funny photos of dogs, you just need to dig a bit deeper, find the right people to follow (like this guy) and soon you'll be flooded with all the coolest, stylish, and most interesting of what the web has to offer for your chosen interests.

And, hey, if you can't get over all the girls (they don't bite, I promise!), check out Gentlemint. It's like Pinterest for dudes, a place that Rob can go to browse through things like the Daddle (pictured on the right), smartphone glasses, and firewood stacking techniques until the hair on his chest grows thick enough to braid. In the meantime, excuse me while I laugh at hilarious pugs, ogle inspiring UI/UX designs, and find inspiration in gorgeous photography.

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Aidan Moher
By Aidan Moher
Web Designer
February 22nd, 2012
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