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Pinning the Future

by lfifield

There’s a new kid on the social media block and her name is Pinterest.

A few weeks ago I began hearing buzz of Pinterest, a “virtual pinboard” that allows users to organize and share images and videos they find online. Time Magazine named it one of the top 50 Website of 2011. Curious but skeptical (how many more times can we re-invent the Facebook?) I signed up for an account… which meant I actually had to wait to receive an invitation for three agonizing days while all my social media savvy friends tweeted about their pinning exploits. It was torture.

I discovered later that I joined during “the surge.” After over a year online, Pinterest’s active users increased rapidly in just over a month—and in the same time, the site’s value increased from $40 million to $200 million.

Why the sudden growth spurt? Brian Donahue nailed it in his blog post on our behavior as consumers. Social media and technology have shaped the way we share information and allocate attention. The online experience is now centered around sharing the best of ourselves with our friends—when our grandmothers would write thank you notes to Woolite for making such excellent soap, we now take to the internet to gush over our favorite products and tweet directly to companies to praise or admonish them.

In Pinterest’s words: Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.

For the first week, I used Pinterest solely to save interesting images I found on Tumblr and organize links to tutorials I might need in the future. I created a number of boards—from fashion to books—and added my friends so I could see what they were pinning as well. If I liked something a friend had shared, I re-pinned it to one of my own boards. Pinterest didn’t replace Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr—it enhanced the experience of all. I began sharing pins on Twitter and Facebook, pinning images from Tumblr, and finding new users with interests and tastes similar to my own. Pinterest has a broad layout that allows users to absorb images and information in a clear and open configuration, instead of a linear, Facebook-style format that requires scrolling through updates.

All material is clearly attributed—clicking on an image opens the original source in a new tab or window, depending on the user’s browser preferences. Many users share news by pinning the picture on a given news story and adding the headline/excerpt in the description line.

The questions now is how Pinterest could be used in the political space. While there are dozens of categories under which users can organize their pins, political/activism is not one of them. Could political candidates have Pinterests? Could political organizations? Would their presence stand out and lack the authenticity so crucial in this space?

Share your thoughts with us—tweet or comment below—does Pinterest have potential at the intersection of politics and social media?