What is Pinterest and How Does It Work?

Last updated: January 14, 2017 - 12:36pm EST

Have you ever kept a collection of interesting things in a scrapbook, on a bulletin board, or perhaps on your fridge door? Pictures of friends or loved ones? Drawings or school assignments that your children or grandchildren did? Inspirational quotes or sayings? Newspaper clippings of stories that hit close to home? Pinterest.com is like the Internet's version of that.

Tell me more about Pinterest

Pinterest is a website that lets you find, collect, and organize interesting image-based things that you find on the Internet, find on Pinterest itself, or put on Pinterest yourself. It does this through a series of user-created categories, called "boards," and a series of visual bookmarks, known as "pins."

Pins on Pinterest can be all sorts of picture-based elements: photos, drawings, videos, animations, Internet links, and so on.  Some will even show you the location that they depict on a map! And boards on Pinterest are used for all sorts of different topics, such as do-it-yourself crafts and activities, recipes, fitness, event planning, home décor, fashion, and so much more.

Pinterest pins

How does Pinterest work?

Pinterest is what is known as a "visual bookmarking tool." A bookmark helps you remember what page you were on when you put a book down so you can pick it up again and continue from the same spot, right?  Similarly, your Internet browser also has a "bookmark" function that lets you tell it to remember important or favourite web pages so you can get back to them quickly if you need or want to. Pinterest takes the principle even further by letting you store collections of web pages that you find, computer files that you upload, or even things that other people have bookmarked on Pinterest!

The "visual" part of the name refers to the fact that bookmarks on Pinterest have to be -- or be accompanied by -- a picture, animation, or video. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes! Add visual bookmarks -- known as "pins" -- to your boards by searching for ones that others have posted on Pinterest, creating them from websites that you've visited, or uploading files from your computer. Then, organize your bookmarks by creating "boards."

Pinterest pin of lunchbox ideas

Pinterest also functions like a social media website. As just mentioned, most things that are bookmarked by others on Pinterest can be added to your bookmark collection. Conversely, most things that you bookmark on Pinterest can be added to the bookmark collections of others. You can also find and connect with people you know who use Pinterest by way of your other social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. Once you do that, you can create collections that your friends can add bookmarks to as well; things get bigger, done faster, and more fun when you work together!  Or, if you want to share a collection privately with your friends, create a "secret board," and only the people you specifically choose will be allowed to see it or add to it.

We'll get into how to do many of these things in our later tutorials, so be sure to check out our articles on how to work with Pinterest boards and how to pin on Pinterest if you want to learn more. If you’re ready to start exploring, check out our tutorial on how to sign up for Pinterest.

6 ways you can start using Pinterest today

1. Create your own custom cookbook and discover countless recipes.

Pinterest recipe pins

Striking a balance between eating delicious and eating healthy is tough these days, and not every recipe collection will have exactly the kinds of foods that you want.  So why not make your own?  Create boards for recipes that are organized by meal time (i.e. breakfast, lunch, or dinner), type of dish (appetizer, snack, main course, dessert, drink, etc.), type of cuisine (French, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Mediterranean, etc.), and more!  There are tons of pins on Pinterest that feature delectable dishes for every occasion, so go ahead and pick your favourites! 

2. Plan a (surprise) party, wedding, social gathering, or milestone event.

Pinterest party planning pins

Does a relative have a major life event coming up, like a wedding or a milestone birthday?  You can use Pinterest to help plan a party or reception.  Set up a board, then look for pins that will help you pick out the venue, decorate in style, cater to food needs, manage everyone's wardrobe, pool gift ideas, and more!  Plus, if you want your bash to be a surprise, make it a "secret board" and only invite friends to it who will be helping you with the planning (and whom you trust not to spill the beans).

3. Coordinate your fashion sense.

Pinterest fashion pins

Whether your style is classic, cutting-edge, thrifty, or something else, Pinterest can be a source of inspiration for you.  Pinterest has lots of pins that help you pick out your must-have clothes or accessories, try out a trendy new hairstyle, or learn about today's top-tier cosmetics!

 4. Save money with do-it-yourself crafts and home décor.

Pinterest DIY pins

Many Pinterest users are all about doing things yourself.  They can show you great ways you can make thrifty, attractive crafts for the home, rather than purchasing them at retail cost. Search Pinterest for "D.I.Y" users who can help you make anything from a cute customized clipboard to a giant set of speakers. Learn how to transfer your family photos to wood, make your own fragrant bath ball, or even build your own bookshelf out of old crates.

5. Stay fit by organizing and finding new workouts.

Pinterest fitness pins

It's important to stay active, especially as you grow older.  Pinterest can help by letting you organize pins with ideas for your daily regimen, or ones that take things up a notch with advanced workout ideas. Whether you're into yoga, swimming, biking, hiking, aquatic aerobics, Zumba, Pilates, or just plain hitting the gym, Pinterest has pins that will give you inspiration for how to stay in shape.

6. Promote your business.

Pinterest business promotion pins

Do you have a small shop or start-up that could use some more customers?  "Pinterest for Business" has you covered!  You can sign up for Pinterest as a business (or turn a regular account into a business account), and then put up pins to show off your products, space, personnel, and more!  Plus, you can put a link on Pinterest that leads to your official website; conversely, you can place a link on your website to your business's page on Pinterest!  Pinterest also offers you tools to help you know how many people are looking at your business's page and pins.  Plus, you can create special pins that let your customers see prices, business hours, and more as they change! And it's all free!

 As you can see, the possibilities for using Pinterest are many and varied! Let other Pinterest users come up with the great ideas, and then put them into practice. Or start adding your own ideas to Pinterest to help others! To get started, check out our tutorial on how to sign up for a Pinterest account.

The history of Pinterest, and why it’s so popular

Founded by Evan Sharp, Paul Sciarra, and current CEO Ben Silbermann, Pinterest.com went live on the Internet in 2010. In 2012, Pinterest had over 10 million registered users, making it the fastest website to reach this milestone. Pinterest was always (and still is) free to use in its earliest years, and as such, its business model did not generate much revenue. However, starting in 2014, Pinterest began allowing companies to purchase advertising space on the website.  In 2016, Pinterest launched the Pinterest Store, which allows users to buy products that they see on Pinterest directly.

Pinterest is so popular because it allows users to find great resources and ideas on the Internet, save them, and share them with other Pinterest users. This helps many people share visual information, entertainment, instructions, and more all on one platform. Pinterest is also free to use, even for businesses. Pinterest has historically been most popular with women.

To get started with Pinterest:

1. Sign up for Pinterest and let it know what you would like to see.

Creating a Pinterest account is fast, easy, and free! Just enter your name, age, gender, and email address, and then pick a password... or sign up with your Facebook account instead! Then, pick at least four categories of things that you're interested in. This will help Pinterest show you some neat bookmarks right off the bat to get your inspiration going!

Choose topics on Pinterest to follow

If you want to sign up for Pinterest now, check out our step-by-step tutorial with pictures for how to create a Pinterest account.

2. Create your own custom Pinterest "boards" to organize your "pins."

Before you make any bookmarks on Pinterest, you have to have places to put them! You can create categories -- or "boards" -- to store your bookmarks in. Give one a title and a description, and then file it under one of Pinterest's pre-set topics so that it's easier to find. You can even add map locations to your bookmarks for a board, get other people to add their own bookmarks to a board, or make a board private so that only certain people can see it or add to it.

Pinterest board creation form

If you want to learn more about Pinterest boards, we’ve got a whole step-by-step tutorial on how to use Pinterest boards.

3. Add "pins" to your "boards" from websites, other users on Pinterest, or files on your computer.

Once you have some "boards" to store your bookmarks on, it's time to start making your bookmarks -- the "pins"! If you have a photo, video, or animation file on your computer, you can upload it to Pinterest and make a pin out of that. Or, if you see a pin that you like that was posted by somebody else on Pinterest, you can copy it to one of your boards. And there are many websites with built-in functions that allow you to quickly and easily turn their content into pins for Pinterest!

Add pins to Pinterest board

To become a Pinterest pro, check out our tutorial on how to pin on Pinterest here.

4. Connect with friends by linking your Pinterest account to other social networks.

Your Pinterest account can be connected to your accounts on other social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. If you do this, you can find your friends who are already on Pinterest, and then share pins or collaborate on boards together. You can even go the other way and share the things that you find on Pinterest with your other social networks!

Connect Pinterest to other social media

Is Pinterest safe?

Pinterest is about as safe to use as other social media websites.  It requires little personal information (and no financial information) to create an account, and requires password-protected sign-ins to use. You can also adjust your privacy settings in order to control how much you interact with other users.

One thing you may consider before using Pinterest is that user identities cannot be verified.  This means that anyone on Pinterest can appear as they like, and potentially involve other users in scams by tricking them into revealing personal information. Occasionally, fake pins advertising giveaways or contests appear on the website, so exercise caution.  Question pins that appear to be ‘too good to be true,’ as they likely are.

To learn more about how to stay safe while using Pinterest, be sure to check out our article on Pinterest safety. There, we have 5 key tips for staying safe while using Pinterest.

Pinterest pros and cons

Pinterest.com has become popular quickly for good reason! It’s completely free to use, even for businesses, and it helps you keep yourself organized when browsing the Internet. Whenever you find those great ideas, recipes, or other things that you generally need to remember, Pinterest helps you save, organize, and visualize them all! You can also share your boards and pins with your friends, as well as connect Pinterest to the rest of your social media accounts. Searching Pinterest for ideas is so easy, especially since Pinterest’s guided search helps you easily add and remove keywords as you go.

On the other side of things, Pinterest can end up being quite time consuming, as it’s easy to get lost in all the content and ideas. Be sure you watch how much time you’re spending on Pinterest! Remember also that Pinterest boards are by-and-large public, so be very mindful of what you put out on Pinterest. Unless you make your boards secret, anyone who has a Pinterest account can see what's on them, such as your friends, family members, and even strangers all over the world.

To learn more about how these positives and negatives of Pinterest may affect your user experience, be sure to give our review of Pinterest a read.

Pinterest competitors

There are a few websites like Pinterest out there that you may prefer if Pinterest has too many features that you don't like. One of the most popular ones is Fancy.com; like Pinterest does now, Fancy allows its users to instantly buy many of the bookmarked items that they find. WeHeartIt.com is another Pinterest alternative that is used primarily for inspiration; “heart” posts that move you and participate in a large community of positivity. Trippy.com is another website that is very similar to Pinterest, but focuses on planning trips and finding vacation destinations.

Two other popular alternatives to Pinterest include 500px.com and Juxtapost.com. To learn more about these alternatives to Pinterest, check out our article on the best websites like Pinterest.

 

 

As you can see, Pinterest is both a way to collect interesting things to look at, as well as a social network with which to share and work together with friends (both old and new). Best of all, it's safe, easy to use, and absolutely free! Our Pinterest course will show you how to use the website by setting up an account and getting inspired about things to collect, creating different types of boards, creating pins in different ways, and searching and adjusting your settings.

We’ll teach you all about how to sign up for Pinterest, how Pinterest boards work, and how to pin on Pinterest. We can also set you up by teaching you how to change your Pinterest settings, how to search better on Pinterest, and what other great websites like Pinterest are out there for you. Your free Internet scrapbook is waiting! What memories will you keep -- or make -- on Pinterest?

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