If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got accounts on more social media sites than you can count.

There’s Youtube for posting funny videos of your dog or kids, or your own insights into the, ahem, “stuff” people say.

There’s Flickr for posting your vacation pictures or attempts at fine art.

There’s Spotify for creating and sharing play lists of your favorite music, and Goodreads for organizing reading lists and offering books.

LinkedIn helps you grow your professional network, while Classmates is great for reconnecting with old friends.

You can check out reviews on Yelp or Trip Advisor before trying a new restaurant or destination, then check in on FourSquare once you arrive to earn rewards.

Twitter is for spreading news or offering bite-sized opinions. And, much as you might want to, let’s not forget that clunky, background-graphics-and-music-saturated Myspace page that’s been collecting dust for the last three years.

Then there is Facebook, currently king of them all, not only because it’s a jack of all trades, but also because it brings many these disparate accounts into one central place.

With all of that going on in our collective digital lives, it’s hard to imagine there could be room for anything else. And yet, in just the last few months a newcomer on the scene has risen to become, by most estimates, the Internet’s fastest growing social media site.

Pinterest is a “virtual pinboard” that allows users to post and organize links to things they find eye-catching or inspiring. Each post, or pin, must have an image that serves as a gateway to the original location. Users might post a photograph of a recipe they want to try or an item they saw for sale on Etsy, then type in their own brief description of it. The original pinner’s followers can then go visit the Website where the image originated by clicking on the pin.

Kathy Dube-Mathieu, of Auburn, has been using the site for a few months, and took to it right away.

“I was immediately inundated with images of everything from the ocean to Robert Pattinson to a recipe for refrigerator oatmeal, all on one site. Pictures I had never seen: the bright blue water of Bora Bora, a sunset over the desert, an overhead view of Edinburg Castle, recipes for main dishes and desserts I had never tried,” she said.

“Because Pinterest is so image-driven, it appeals to women and artsy-fartsy people,” said Jennifer Gendron-Carleton, a Lewiston-based graphic designer.

She signed up for Pinterest in January after her cousin, Becky McManus of Old Town, sent her an invitation. McManus doesn’t mince words when it comes to her own feelings about the site.

“I’m addicted to Pinterest,” she said.

“It has allowed me to become more organized, thrifty, and it gets my creative juices flowing. I use it to inspire me. I’ve created a tattoo from quotes I have seen. I use it for rainy days, to give me a project. I’ve used it to plan a bridal shower on a budget, I’ve used it for recipes, I’ve used it to spice up my workouts, and I have filed away ideas to use in my future dream home.”

One of the benefits of Pinterest is the ability to create themed boards, making it easy to organize a lot of ideas and information. While Facebook and Twitter have long been used to share links with friends, their newsfeed structure, with the most recent posts constantly rising to the top, can make it difficult to find posts for later reference.

“I first heard of Pinterest from friends on Facebook. I hesitated to try ‘one more thing,’ but one night when I had some time, I tried it out and was hooked, “ said, Shawn Wright, a Monmouth-based financial advisor.

“The first thing I did was set up some boards: house ideas; fun with P-nut, my 10-year-old; bucket list for places I’d like to go; DIY ideas; recipes. This made pinning so much easier and helped me find things. It’s so easy to go back to a board for an idea rather than search through old piles of paper or Websites.”

The ability to organize a lot of information in an intuitive way is also a key part of McManus’s love for the site.

“I never kept track of the things I found online. If it was something I could use in the next week or so, I would keep a tab open in my Internet Explorer until I needed it, but most of the time I would file it in my head, never to be found again,” she said.

In addition to its Website, Pinterest also has a smartphone app. This allows users to take their pins with them wherever they go.

“I have the Pinterest app on my iPhone, so I can browse ideas, pictures, recipes and Websites while waiting in line, or waiting for an appointment. Convenience is key,” said Dube-Mathieu.

“The excitement of being able to access it all on my handheld device makes me giddy. I could be at the grocery store and look under my recipe board and get ideas for dinner. It’s awesome!”

The secret to Pinterest’s success may be its simplicity. At its core, it’s really just a digital version of something people have been doing for as long as visual media has existed. Just think back to your parents’ fridge, your high school locker or the old corkboard you once littered with pictures of your latest teen heartthrob or that car you pined to buy someday.

“As a teen, I plastered pictures of rock stars, supermodels, cool ads for shoes, handbags, makeup, you name it, all over my walls. It was inspiring then, and Pinterest is inspiring to me now, 18 years later,” said Dube-Mathieu.

“I still have a refrigerator door full of family pictures and magnets from places that friends, family or we ourselves visited, but Pinterest has a wider array of subjects, pictures, recipes, and interests, all in one place,” she said.

Gendron-Carleton finds the site especially useful for artistic inspiration. “It’s a new way of doing something old-fashioned that I used to do, which is collecting newspaper and magazine clippings. In art school, we used to keep binders full of ideas. Now, Pinterest allows me to do the same thing.”

Currently, Pinterest accounts are invitation-only. If you know a Pinterest user who will send you an invitation, you’re in. If not, you can request an invitation on the site’s homepage and wait. Would-be users report wait times of anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for their invitations to arrive.

To Gendron-Carleton, the wait is worth it.

“Anyone who has a product to sell or is in media needs to be on Pinterest,” she said.

Peter Marra, a Savannah, Ga., Web developer with clients all over the country – including the Lewiston-based Farmers’ Almanac – agrees. He began using Pinterest for several of his clients in February.

“I read about it on Mashable.com but, like a lot of people, had to wait until I found someone who was already on there to invite me to sign up,” he said.

For Marra, the value of connecting your business to Pinterest is simple: “Eyeballs. The adoption rate of Pinterest was just fantastic, so it was really no decision at all. With the nature of social media, when a user base grows so rapidly, you have to find a way to leverage it for your own brand.”

One of the clearest benefits is that every time a Pinterest user pins a page from your site to one of their boards, it not only builds awareness, but also improves your standing with search engines like Google.

“It’s viral, so the fact that one person can pin a piece of content that dozens of other people can also see and pin themselves is extremely valuable. And the fact it’s a ‘bookmark’ of sorts allows for the potential that someone will reference it again in the future,” said Marra.

“(Farmers’ Almanac) publishes a few recipes per week. One of those recipes has been re-pinned over 3,000 times, which means 3,000 people have seen or saved the recipe for later reference. In another case, a client of mine creates custom welcome gift bags for events. She uses Pinterest to create a board containing potential items that could be included in that particular order. It’s really useful compared to emailing someone 20 photographs.”

Mercenary motivations aside, most users say the social aspect is key.

“I think the best thing about Pinterest is seeing what your friends like and pin to their boards. Pins can create great conversations or maybe allow you to recognize some commonalities you never knew you had with that person,” said Renee Barriault, of Auburn.

It may also be a way to build new friendships.

“Because you can group your pins by subject, and share with others who may have similar interests, it’s really a great way to network with like-minded people. Twitter was really touted as the platform that was for finding people with comparable interests, but I think Pinterest has way more potential in this area,” adds Marra.

For more information on Pinterest, or to get started creating your own pinboards, visit www.Pinterest.com.


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