Although it’s been around for two years, Pinterest has finally hit the big time. Everyone’s talking about it. It’s fun and, frankly, a bit addictive.

Pinterest is a virtual pin board — imagine a virtual scrapbook or vision board. Pinterest users create thematic pin boards based on interests, hobbies or dreams. When you see a piece of online content accompanied by an appealing photo, you “pin” the link (and corresponding photo) to one of your boards by using the website’s Pin It button or by uploading the link.

Your boards and pins (images) are public. You follow people or their boards, re-pin their pins onto one of your boards, or “like” other pins – the Likes show up on your Facebook page. You can browse pins by topic or search by keyword. It’s social and serendipitous.

Why the buzz?

Pinterest was dismissed by many as merely a niche site for women planning weddings and craft projects, but, according to ComScore, it now has over 4 million users and is rapidly growing. Its traffic increased 329% in the last quarter! No longer niche, it’s one of the top ten social media sites in the world.

Who uses Pinterest?

I see people on Pinterest who don’t use Twitter or Facebook regularly; it’s attracting a new social media audience. The market research firm Experian says Pinterest users are primarily female (58%) between 25 and 44 years old (59%). These demographics “distinguish it from other new social media platforms, which are generally populated by men 18-24.” We’ll see about that, I’ve seen a lot of men join Pinterest recently.

Many nonprofits have joined Pinterest, but few associations have. The Texas Apartment Association (TAA) uses Pinterest well. Their boards share useful pins, like apartment model ideas, creative amenities, resident outreach ideas, crazy signs, cool-looking apartment building photos, and leasing, marketing and social media tips.

Texas Apartment Association's Pinterest boards

How do we use it?

Pinterest is a place to connect with members, particularly those who aren’t on other social media platforms. And, it’s fun! You can show a different side of your organization. Like any other social media initiative, follow the POST methodology to develop a plan. Here are more tips:

  • Follow Pinterest’s guidelines: “Try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.”
  • Add contributors to your boards, so it’s not a one-person effort.
  • Include keywords and phrases in the descriptive text of your pinned images, so search engines will index them.
  • Don’t just pin, be social and re-pin too.
  • Add “Pin It” buttons to your web and blog pages.
  • Follow TAA’s lead and include this in your profile: Pin/Re-Pin does not imply endorsement.

What to pin?

Above all, think visual. If you want Pinterest engagement, Maggie McGary says, you need links to visual ideas and inspiration on your website, blog or elsewhere.

  • Share tips and solutions that people can use on the job.
  • Showcase award winners, niche members, inspiring people, unsung heroes, volunteers, or mentors and mentees.
  • Pin infographics or cartoons about your profession or industry.
  • Pin recommended books, films, blogs, podcasts, or videos.
  • Promote upcoming meeting locations with photos of the hotel, city or tourist attractions. Get ideas from CVBs and hotels on Pinterest.
  • Show your office’s personality. Share photos of office décor, weird desk items, refrigerator contents, holiday decor, shoes, ties, or junk food and phone addicts. Encourage roving staff photographers but always get permission before pinning.
  • Ask members to share photos from your trade show, for example, favorite swag or wish list products, or from a day at work. If they use a special hashtag, you can search for their pins.
  • Give members a place to unwind together by encouraging them to share recipes, crafts, DIY projects and gardening pins.
  • Janet McNichol used Pinterest to organize materials for her association’s staff innovation day.
  • Jessica Levin sees a lot of Pinterest potential for event planners.

How to get started?

Here are a few resources to help you get started.

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who is newly addicted to Pinterest, but can stop anytime she wants. Really.