I've been seeing updates on my friends' newsfeeds lately about photos they "pinned," or "repinned," or comment on the new social network, Pinterest. Finally, I had to check it out.
I quickly saw that it could easily become addictive. It has all of the elements that have worked for the other networks, without the boring, "what I had for dinner," and "I'm going to bed now, nighty-night," posts. That's because all posts ("pins") on Pinterest revolve around photos or videos, and the comments thread from those pins. The photos can be items for sale, historical or entertainment photos, artwork, or anything else in the form of visual media. Users receive approval, acknowledgement, and feedback from the community when their pins are "liked," or "repinned," or commented on. Membership is by invitation only making people want it even more. (An invitation, by the way is really easy to get -just go to their Facebook page or Twitter page, and leave your e-mail address.) Some of the pins are really interesting. I especially liked the art pins, and the Coca-Cola pins.
The site interacts with Facebook and Twitter, and has very good page rank on Google searches due to excellent backlinking and traffic.
The bad news is that this site is data-mining on steroids. They don't even try to hide or deny it, as Google, Facebook and Twitter have been know to do. They tell you to download their toolbar on your computer and phone, and pin everything you like on the web (the toolbar is optional, by the way), so your surfing is tracked. You have to give them a valid e-mail address just to receive an invitation to the "community." They're even hiring a search and data mining engineer.
People are pinning stuff from other shopping and photo sites like Etsy, Flickr and Facebook, so it is quickly becomeing the "catch-all" for content. They're relying on funding right now, so watch for news stories about the tech giants like Google and Yahoo and Microsoft offering to buy them out.
And the tech and social media blogs are going crazy writing about it. One popular recurring discussion is about how to protect your privacy from Pinterest (good luck with that), and using Pinterest in your business.
My advice? This is quickly become a site you can't ignore if you normally post photos of your products or services online. The site advises users taht promoting your own products once in a while is fin, but asks users not to simply use the site for self-promotion (good advice on any social network). Because the site is so new, it doesn't really have a history or a certain future at this point, however, so I wouldn't count on it for any long-term efforts. Also, as with any social network, remember that anything you post there (likes, comments, pins and repins) are visible to the world and will most likely remain there for a looooooong time, so don't post anything you don't want th world to see. And I would strongly recommend not downloading the tool bar (it's called the "pin it button) - simply because we don't yet know how secure that will be, how hard or easy it might be for hackers to penetrate the site's security, or exactly which surfing activity the site is storing or what they're planning to use it for (other than advertising).