This post was written on Feb. 7th, 2012, and is most likely outdated by now.

Humans are visual animals. We also like to touch, hear, smell, and taste things, but sight is undoubtedly what we use the most in this world.

That fact—plus the clean and intuitive user interface—is what makes Pinterest such a compelling social network. Launched in March 2010 out of Palo Alto, California, not many people had even heard of it until late last year. The platform was created last year by Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra, and Evan Sharp. The three of them quit their jobs and began working from a tiny shared apartment in November 2009.

What’s all the hype?

Experian Hitwise reported 11 million total visits during the week ending December 17. It now drives more referral traffic than Google Plus, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined, according to Sharaholic. As of February 18, 2012, according to Alexa traffic rankings, it was ranked #96 in the world and #19 in the US.

Ron Conway, an investor in the site, said that Pinterest’s user growth rate is what Facebook’s was in 2007. On January 31, it won awards for Best Design and Best New Startup of 2011 at the Crunchies Awards, hosted by GigaOM, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat.

Pinterest Referral Traffic January 2012

Pinterest total visits

What is Pinterest?

The clever name says it all: it’s an online pinboard for your interests, letting users find, collect, organize, and share the items they love. Each “pin” is an image or a video, either from a website or uploaded from your device. You can add a description to your pins and organize them on different “boards.” Each board includes a title, a description, and a selectable category.

“Pinterest is a visual site, and a lot of people are visual by nature,”
co-founder, Ben Silbermann said, “but at its core, Pinterest is a site that connects people who are passionate about the same things.”

Pinterest now has a free iPhone app that’s just as user-friendly as their website.

Who is using Pinterest?

Around 80% of Pinterest users are females between the ages of 25 and 44 according to data from Google Ad Planner. They are moderately educated Caucasians who have incomes over $30,000 and have more children. Around 68% of the visitors live in the U.S.

Pinterest Demographics

Some of the most popular topics on the site are crafts, fashion, weddings, architecture, home decor, design, food and travel. People are using it to discover cool things, find inspiration, and aid their buying decisions. They are planning their weddings, remodeling their houses, and searching for recipes.

Not too many big brands are using Pinterest yet, but they will be very soon. This kind of traffic and visual exposure is simply too good to pass up. It’s a super valuable tool for companies and individuals to help with branding themselves.

Scroll down for a list of brands that are already using Pinterest well.

How does the site work?

Your homepage is a wall of pinboards from the users you follow, updating itself in real-time, with the most recent pins at the top. You can repin other people’s pins onto one of your own boards, “like” other pins, comment on pins, and tag people. Tagging people can be done in a pin’s description by using the “@” symbol plus the person’s name, just like Twitter.

You can follow people, even if they aren’t following you. Or you can also follow a user’s individual boards, in order to select and limit the content you see on your homepage. One really cool feature is that you’re able to add contributors to your boards. It’s just one more way to share content, and your followers can help you fill up your profile page. I’ve started a board called “Branding and Design Books” and have added followers to share their book recommendations with me and everyone else.

By adding a price and “$” or “£” symbol in a pin’s description, a price tag will automatically be placed in the corner of your image. This is great for retailers and individuals who sell products online. Just make sure that each pin links back to the web page where the item can be purchased.

Connecting your Twitter or Facebook accounts allows you to sign in to the site quickly. You can find your friends that are already using Pinterest, and send out invites via Facebook and email. When you pin something, you are given the option of sharing it on Twitter or Facebook, and when viewing a pin, there are sharing and embedding options on the right-hand side.

Pinterest provides a “Pin It” button for Chrome’s bookmark bar, a “Pin It” button for websites, and a “Follow Button” for websites. All of these can be found on the website’s Goodies page.

What is it used for?

A lot of people are using this site simply as a tool for discovering new things, or as a kind of scrapbook, pinning things they find interesting. But others are using it in a much more focused way—with a purpose.

  • Brides-to-be are planning their weddings and collaborating with their friends’ to get opinions.
  • People redecorating their homes are also collecting opinions by creating a board for each room in their house and pinning various styles.
  • Shoppers are using it to pin items they find online and want to remember, and by searching for products in specific price ranges (there is a “Gifts” drop-down menu on the homepage).
  • Craft and DIY enthusiasts are organizing tutorials and projects they find online and will come back to later.
  • Teachers are collecting and sharing lesson plans and activities.
  • Small business owners, particularly online retailers, are showcasing their products to the public and sharing content related to the industry.

Which brands are using Pinterest well?

Real Simple
Cooking Light
Shape Magazine
Today’s Parent

Time Magazine
The Wall Street Journal

Travel Channel
Today Show

Food and Cooking
Whole Foods
Cabot Cheese

Lilly Pulitzer
Club Monaco
Lands’ End

West Elm
Bergdorf Goodman

Fashion and Beauty
Tarte Talk
Rent the Runway

Nina Garcia
Martha Stewart
Chris March
Michael Kors


Chronicle Books

National Wildlife Federation

What about you?

Are you using Pinterest already? Follow me for branding, social media, and technology infographics, Adobe tutorials, and visual inspiration.

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