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Pinterest is an invite-only virtual pin board site and mobile app that’s skyrocketed to the front of the social network scene – it hit 10 million monthly users faster than other site in the U.S, according to ComScore. Users pin images and videos they love to personalized boards with different themes. As with all social networks, Pinterest fans can follow other users’ boards and share the content with their own followers by clicking “repin.” When users log-in to Pinterest, there’s a steady stream of visual nirvana just waiting to be pinned onto a wedding, dream home, or fashion board. It’s addicting.
Twenty-four-year-old Shay Merritté, a design strategist in Cleveland, has been bookmarking inspirational images and recipes with mobile and desktop apps like Evernote for years, but there was never an easy way to share this information with others.
“I’ve always been kind of a hoarder of visual miscellany, especially as a creative person,” Merritté said. “With Pinterest, I love that it’s a visual place to show what inspires me and also what inspires my friends.”
Online communities have become more and more obsessed with expressing personal tastes, whether it’s through Facebook’s Like Button, ‘friending’ or ‘following’ others, or snapping Instagram pictures. Pinterest is just another platform for self-expression – from interests and style to hopes and dreams. Friends and followers can see who someone is by the things they covet, Merritté added.
“It plays to people’s needs for extreme personalization and also feeds their materialistic wants,” he said. “It allows them to show off to their friends without any actual investment, kind of like window shopping.”
Sites like Dibsie and ThisNext have also taken advantage of this trend. Both sites curate products from around the web in an easily searchable format. Shoppers can browse and buy, or just browse and bookmark their favorite things. ThisNext allows users to create and share “shopping guides,” a collection of hand-picked images “with no commitment necessary,” while Dibsie users share favorite products with friends and followers in a “personalized catalog created and curated by you and your social network.” Pinterest has been such a successful tool for retailers that it has been quietly generating revenue by modifying links from e-commerce sites with affiliate tracking codes. If a user buys a product after they clicked through the link on Pinterest, Pinterest gets a part of the sale.
Pinterest’s success should come as no surprise. Flickr and other visually focused social networks like Instagram, the photo sharing iPhone app, and Tumblr, the easy-to-share blogging platform with a big emphasis on photos, have already proven that there are many strong communities of creative people who love to share inspiration.
“People used to bang out long WordPress posts about their trip somewhere, but now you can just follow their Instagram and see the food they ate and the sights they saw,” Merritté said. “It’s really a much more compelling experience and much more digestible.”
And the examples of image-based bookmarking sites don’t stop there. Juxtapost, We Heart It, and Image Spark offer a similar experience to Pinterest, from collecting images that directly inspire someone’s work (Image Spark) to gathering any kind of image, product, or quote users love (Juxtapost and We Heart It). Possibly because most of these sites attract female users, new social network Gentlemint took a different angle -- their archive of images has quite the manly focus. Svpply is a design-oriented product-bookmarking site that also appeals to both genders. Guides to tech, accessories, and men’s and women’s clothing are curated by users.