As a couple previous posts have already indicated, Pinterest is the talk of the social media world these days. And while some may think the visual pin board site offers nothing more than the opportunity for people to ogle food they will never prepare, home decor they can never afford and do-it-yourself projects they will never have time for, it’s now the third most popular social network in the U.S. So there must be something to it.
I, too, first viewed Pinterest with suspicion — just another chance for me to get sucked down the Internet rabbit hole when I should be grading papers. But I quickly changed my tune when I realized its potential. Yes, it’s a time-suck. Yes, the beautiful pictures of gourmet meals and faraway destinations often makes me feel a little discontented by the Lean Cuisine I’m eating at my desk. But if used for more practical purposes, it can be a helpful classroom tool (or in the case that Pinterest is blocked in your classroom as it is in mine, an out-of-classroom tool).
Publication staffs can use Pinterest for external and internal purposes. From an external marketing perspective, staffers can post photographs from recent events and even repin images that relate to recent stories (Wrote a story about new music? Share pins about your favorite artists. Just finished a spread on spring fashion? Pin some of your favorite looks). The ability to pin items to specific boards that can be named to match certain sections, topics or stories makes Pinterest more visually organized than, say, Tumblr. And the Pin It bookmarklet makes it a snap to share just about anything you can find on the web or upload from your computer.
I’m most excited about Pinterest’s internal communication applications, though. I love that users can create boards on specific topics, like the one I created for my class called Design Inspiration, then give other users access to add to that board. Instant and controlled collaboration. We use our Design Inspiration board for just that: a place to share images, videos, graphics, web pages, colors, typefaces, whatever we come across on the web that inspires us to create. As a designer, I benefit from access to the pins my students add to our board that I might not have otherwise encountered. As a teacher, I enjoy seeing what my students post; it provides great insight into the design tastes of my individual students. And as more media organizations join Pinterest, I can see the board topics continue to grow and better relate to all aspects of the journalism process.
It remains to be seen if Pinterest is more than just a flash in the pan. But for now, I’m enjoying experimenting with this mesmerizing visual diversion, both personally and with my students.