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Why all the interest in Pinterest?

Move over Facebook and Twitter there’s a hot new social media site everyone’s talking about. It’s beautiful, insanely addictive and now Pinterest is the fastest growing website … ever.

The site has added more than 17.8 million users this month alone, according to comScore a 52 percent jump in just one month and the site isn’t even open for anyone to join. It’s still invitation-only at the moment.

So what is this Pinterest, you ask?

Put simply, it’s a digital bulletin board. It’s the online equivalent of that folder filled with pictures of dream-weddings you tore out of magazines or that shoebox stuffed with snippets of decor ideas you hope to use as inspiration for your home one day. It’s the bevy of URLs you’ve bookmarked and forgotten about.

The site, which launched in March 2010, describes itself as an online pinboard to organise and share things you love. It allows users to “pin” interesting images onto “boards” they have titled themselves, such as ‘recipes to try’, ‘craft ideas’, ‘books to read’, ‘dream vacations’ and so on. It allows users to tailor their collections by their tastes, styles and aspirations.

Anyone can browse your boards that’s where the social part comes in. You can peruse through the pins and boards of total strangers to get new ideas. See something you like and you can “like it,” comment on it, or save the image on a board of your own by “re-pinning” it.

While Pinterst has become enormously popular in the States and the UK, it hasn’t caught on as quickly here in Bermuda at least, not in the way, say, Facebook has. Many here haven’t even heard of it. But there are a handful of local people who are already into pinning and are hooked.

“I love it,” said Bermuda resident Bridget Clammer. “It’s a place to organise all of your own ideas and interests and also a place to find even more inspiration from others.”

She says she finds a lot of great ideas on Pinterest on a variety of subjects. “In the weeks leading up to a Christmas party I was hosting, I pinned a ton of Christmas recipes, DIY decorations and children’s activities,” she said. “When I’m thinking about redecorating a room, I’m pinning a ton of home decor ideas. And, right before a hair appointment, I’m pinning photos of celebrities or models with hair styles I like.”

Bermuda resident Naomi Carretta says the ideas she’s found on Pinterst have even saved her money.

“Since buying new furniture on the Island is expensive, I like to buy used furniture on eMoo, refinish it and create activity tables for my three year old. I recently bought an old nightstand, refinished it and turned it into a Lego table for my son. It’s perfect since I can fit all of the legs in the drawer and just glued the Lego board on top.”

Ms Carretta says she’s recommended Pinterest to many of her friends.

“I describe it as an online binder for your recipes, home ideas and DIY projects for your children, but all on one page!”

Unlike Facebook, Pinterest is more content-focused than it is social-focused. It’s not about how many friends you have or if you have something to say, it’s about whatever it is that interests you.

“No matter what you’re interested in, whether it’s travel, photography, interior design, weddings, food, cars or anything else under the sun you can find an endless supply of ideas and inspiration on Pinterest,” Ms Clammer said.

Without question, Pinterest’s popularity has exploded. According to statistics by Hitwise, visits to the social bookmarking site increased 4,000 percent between June and December of last year. In June, they had just 275,000 visitors. By mid-December, they were up to more than 11 million.

Large retailers like Gap, Nordstrom and West Elm as well as small, independent retailers like those found on Etsy have taken notice and are already on Pinterest. Others are scrambling, with good reason, to establish a presence and cash in on the power of Pinterest.

The site’s audience is predominantly female users (read: shoppers). A recent comScore estimate put the percentage of female users at 68 percent and those users drive 85 percent of the traffic on Pinterest. In other words, not only are there more women on Pinterest, but they’re also much more active. And, they like shop more than their male counterparts.

In February alone, Pinterest drove more people to retail sites than Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined. Industry watchers say over time, Pinterest has the potential to translate more quickly to sales dollars than any other social networking site including Facebook.

Alexandra Mosher, a Bermudian jewellery designer, has already seen that. Pinterest is one of the top drivers to her website. “It’s the highest referral site now it used to be Facebook. But I went on Google Analytics this morning and saw Pinterest has now surpassed Facebook for me,” Ms Mosher said. “The most referrals to my site come from Google, so people who have heard of me and Googled my name. Second is direct people going right to AlexandraMosher.com and third is Pinterest before Facebook. Twitter is after that.”

“That’s amazing to me. I have lots of interaction on Facebook 819 fans. People who like me on Facebook, they know me. They come to my page because they’ve seen or heard of me or they’ve taken my card or something like that. I’ve built up that following over two to three years. Whereas people have only been following me on Pinterest, for the last six months and it’s already driving more traffic for me.”

Pinterest’s popularity is rooted in the fact that the site does one thing no other site on the internet does it helps people discover new things. If you know what it is you are looking for, you can easily find it on Google, Bing or Amazon. But on Pinterest, you discover things you never knew existed or thought you needed.

Ms Mosher says she thinks that’s why Pinterest has been so great for her business. It’s given her exposure to international customers who have never heard of her, but when they see her work they like it.

“I’ve had a few back-and-forth comments both with local and with foreign who are like wow your collections are beautiful, stunning and I’ve already started getting sales from it,” she said. “There was a guy in Aspen whose wife pinned a piece of mine and within a few weeks, he had bought something for her from me for Valentine’s Day, so that’s really cool to see.”

It’s not just business for Ms Mosher she’s personally a huge fan of the site. “I love, love, love it. It’s eye candy. I go there more frequently than Facebook now actually because it’s more inspiring. It’s awesome, truly. You connect with people in a different way as well it’s about something visual and artistic,” she said. “I even use it as a way to reward myself now. I’ll say, ‘OK, if I get these three projects done, then I can spend 15 or 20 minutes on Pinterest.”

Pinterest has also inspired Ms Mosher to redesign her blog (http://blog.alexandramosher.com/). Most blogs require you to scroll through post after post of text, but her new blog will just have a series of images readers can click on if interested.

While she does use Pinterest for her business, Ms Mosher says she is very careful not to make it all about marketing. “I pin some of my pieces into ‘look book’ boards. I have one called ‘Coral’ and it’s full of all things coral-coloured, from dresses and flowers to shoes and nail polish. I mix a few of my pieces in there to sort of show that it goes with the whole look, but there’s a funny community about Pinterest in that they don’t want over-self-promotion.”

The Fairmont Southampton is another Bermuda business that’s putting the power of Pinterest to work. They’ve set up boards that include pictures of the resort, Bermuda’s beaches and Bermuda weddings. It also includes recipes from the resort’s various restaurants.

Carlita Lodge, the hotel’s marketing manager, says they’re using the site to promote brand awareness of the hotel and Bermuda as an ideal vacation destination but they, too, are conscious not to use overt sales and marketing tactics.

“A lot of users have boards about ‘Favourite Places,’ ‘Dream Vacations,’ or ‘Here Comes the Bride’ so we aim to produce content that would fit naturally into those categories,” said Ms Lodge. “We mix in special offers and packages on Facebook and Twitter, but not on Pinterest. People are not using Pinterest to find deals, they are using it to find inspiration.”

L2 (a digital think tank) recently released a report on the digital IQ of hotels around the world and it named the Fairmont Southampton a “property all-star” for its use of Pinterest.

Ms Lodge said the resort’s presence on Pinterest isn’t just about putting heads in beds. “It’s not a guaranteed source of revenue for us. Instead, it’s a way that we can get some exposure to markets that otherwise may not have considered Bermuda or Fairmont. If we can get someone’s interest and stick in their mind as a beautiful destination and a thoughtfully-connected resort, then we have succeeded on Pinterest.”

Until just this last weekend, Pinterest actually had a policy prohibiting self-promotion by users, making marketing on the site different from marketing on other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter where direct marketing to fans and followers is the norm.

Its old rules said: “Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.” The reference to self-promotion is now gone. Now they just urge users to “be authentic.”

The policy now reads: “We think being authentic to who you are is more important than getting lots of followers. Being authentic will make Pinterest a better place long-term.”

Alexandra Mosher, who is known for making jewellery with Bermuda sand, agrees. She says whether you’re on Pinterest for reasons that are personal, professional or both it’s all about expressing who you are.

“I don’t have your average jewellery shop kind of jewellery, I’ve got something with a story. My art is something I have to make. The ideas are in my head and they need to exist in the world. And it’s so awesome that people on Pinterest like them too,” she said. “I once read that ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’ and that’s Pinterest that authenticity. I feel like Pinterest is a visual version of why you do it.”

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Published March 28, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 28, 2012 at 9:23 am)

Why all the interest in Pinterest?

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