What is Pinterest.com? And how can you use it?

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It’s a name getting increasing recognition across the Web. No, it is not a fan page for the late British playwright Harold Pinter.

Pinterest is the latest expression of social networking and sharing [introduction] and has been described as a visual bookmarking site. After its ‘closed beta’ launch in March 2010 it became one of the top 10 social networks by the end of the year. It is now claimed to be fifth largest source of referral traffic on the Web, even though it is still in ‘open beta’ phase. Although currently you must request an invite to join, confirmation comes through within hours. Pinterest has gained critical mass and in a way that no other previous bookmarking system (such as Del.ici.us, Tumblr, Stumbledupon) ever did. It seems to be much more than just a fad, and is ticking all the right boxes. For a slide presentation and short video explaining Pinterest, scroll down to end.

It defines itself as a ‘pinboard’ – somewhere to post and share images or resources you find interesting. Think of it as a cross between the original Del.icio.us online bookmarking concept, Twitter and Facebook, with Stumbledupon, Flickr, Paper.li and Blogger thrown in. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, where your postings are ephemeral and have an effective ‘half-life’ of visibility measured in 1-3 hours, Pinterest posts remain permanently visible on your personal pinboard.

You may have heard that it is only a way of sharing images, and indeed it is very image-led. But because you can link the image back to its original site, and also write your own comments, you can effectively create a personal directory of categorized websites recommendations. (See tips about this lower down.)

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How it works

You can…

  • post any photo, graphic or video within existing categories provided by Pinterest, or (far better) create your own more-specific custom categories.
  • install a one-click ‘bookmarklet’ onto Firefox’s toolbar for easy posting of what they call new ‘pins’.
  • when using this bookmarklet, or Pinterest’s Add + link, you can choose any graphic from the webpage being ‘pinned’ (as you can with Facebook). However, it may not add a ready-made text description and it is good to make a description sufficiently enticing that people will click through. So posting to Pinterest is much more intentional and curated than the frequent random posts we make on Facebook or Twitter. It is not a place to share ongoing personal news, like Facebook.
  • click on ‘Pin it’ buttons that we are beginning to see alongside other one-click social-networking share links on websites and blogs. Using these, you do get a pre-chosen graphic and description (which you can edit), though you’ll still need to choose a ‘board’ ie. topic area.
  • install ‘Pin it’ buttons on your own website or blog (example in footer of this blog post) using the code available on the Pinterest site. Currently, if you put their button coding into a site-wide include, it can only carry the generic site info with homepage graphic and URL, rather than page-specific details, as Facebook and Twitter one-click share links do. However, it would be an easy Javascript fix to make the code draw down an individual page URL and grab the title tag wording as a description, and this flexibility will surely come available soon, if only as third-party coding solutions. (I can’t currently find one online – do you know of one?)
  • invite people to follow your Pinterest page by adding a ‘follow’ button to your website or blog.
  • follow other Pinterest uses (‘pinners’) or if you choose, follow individual boards within their site. So if someone is active on Pinterest and is adding resources to, say, 10 subject areas, but only one of these interests you, you can follow that one alone.
  • add your comments to anyone’s ‘pin’ (similar to commenting in Facebook).
  • ‘repin’ someone else’s pin onto your own board, in the same way as you ‘share’ a Facebook posting across to your own FB Wall.
  • Pinterest integrates with Facebook, Twitter and email, so you, or visitors to your pinboards, can share a pin with one click, or also use ready-made HTML to embed the pin into their own blogs. Your Pinterest activity can also be displayed on your Facebook page in a display box, or automatically tweeted.
  • Pinterest lays out the ‘pins’ on your page in a 4-column layout (or one column in smartphones) with their graphics in full size (not small thumbnails), with your description below them. (This strong visual/graphic emphasis is a core value for Pinterest, as it was conceived primarily as a means to share images.) Your most recent pins are at the top of the page, so when a board get too big, it may be advisable to split boards into two or more related sections. (It is easy to ‘repin’ (move) a pin to a new board.) However, there is currently no way to ‘nest’ subsection areas within a single board topic. (When you have a number of boards, they are shrunk in size on your homepage, with thumbnail size graphics.) I suspect that as users build up larger numbers of pins and create many different boards, there may be a demand for an interface that accommodates this.
  • Final important issue: although you can include an URL to make a graphic clickable to reach the related webpage, it is not very obvious to users that this is the case. Although the domain of your link is displayed in gray beneath description, it is not totally clear that this is a full direct URL linking to that webpage rather than the overall site. Furthermore, if you click on that pin to find more, or comment, the visible link is not then displayed.

    So in your descriptive text below the graphic, include words such as ‘please click picture to read more’. (It is not possible to embed HTML links into the descriptive text, or into the comments section about a pin.)

    Don’t however write this if the illustrative graphic from a pinned webpage is a YouTube video, because clicking on a video always takes you to YouTube itself.

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Sharing the good news appropriately

There are a growing number of online guides to using Pinterest, and some specifically relate to using it for marketing:

While appropriate relational evangelism is not exactly the same as secular marketing, their practical tips are hugely helpful and apply to any Pinterest user.

Pinterest etiquette demands that most of your pins are not self-promotion for your own website (this is true of Twitter too). Your page will only have credibility if it contains a wide variety of carefully-chosen third-party pages. You will also gain respect by demonstrating that you are following a number of other ‘pinners’ and functioning as part of a community.

Pinterest is an ideal platform to create a page of community resources for your town or area.

Churches can use Pinterest: see articles by Center for Church Communication
and Social Media in the Church though see Angela’s comments on church strategy. I’d strongly urge a church Pinterest page to include many mainly-secular boards relating to the local town/area/community, sports and hobbies, family, health etc. But not, please not, contentious social and political issues.

Here are 10 examples of non-profits and other business/charity examples using Pinterest.

As an individual, you can set up a Pinterest page and share your faith appropriately. Here’s a valuable guide: 10 Amazingly Easy Ways to Live Out Your Faith on Pinterest.

Here are some more suggestions:

  • Choose a number of ‘boards’ from Pinterest’s ready-made secular-interest topics, or preferably create others of specific interest to you. (Your own chosen topic areas should be also linked with Pinterest’s own default topics. They do not currently have one for ‘faith’.)
  • Consider a non-confrontational title for any specifically Christian-content boards, eg. ‘faith’.
  • In your secular-topic boards, post the best secular web resources, including videos, that you can find. Your board should be genuinely valuable to readers, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the topic.

  • However, there may also be Bridge Strategy Christian pages available on secular topics. These could be videos clips, blog posts, or pages from, for example, Power to Change. The availability of topics for which there are good ‘bridge’ pages could influence your naming of ‘boards’, by covering ‘felt need’ and life issues, or hobbies/sport.
  • Like Facebook, you can post YouTube video clips. This gives you the opportunity to choose conversation-starting video clips from YesHEIs.com, GlobalShortFilmNetwork and God: New Evidence, Damaris Culturewatch and elsewhere, including outsider-friendly life-stories. As explained above, there can be no clickthrough link for a video, except to its own YouTube page.
  • As with Facebook, people can comment on your pins, so there is the opportunity for you to enter into sensitive non-preachy dialogue.
  • Often raise questions rather than posting answers.

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Tell your story

Are you a Pinterest ‘pinner’? Please share your story with us using the Comments section below. And are there good Pinterest guides or other resources that you recommend?

Pinterest is a major new opportunity to share faith appropriately. It’s also very easy to use. If you’ve struggled, for instance, to install apps on Facebook, or even work out byzantine levels of FB privacy, you’ll love the intuitive and simple operations.

Not another network!

Don’t think, “Not another social network to get involved in!” No one surely wants to run more than one network, two perhaps if you count Twitter. (This is probably the reason that Google+ may not succeed in the end.) Think instead, “A free website for me, networked and searchable with thousands of others, and easier to use than any other web creation system, even Blogger. And which requires of me minimal writing!”

The Ultimate Guide To Pinterest
View more presentations from Michael Litman

Here’s a YouTube discussion of Pinterest:

Finally, infographic from Sandbox

Pinterest graphic

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