Edit January 4, 2012: I’ve invited everyone who has asked for a Pinterest invite, so feel free to keep asking for one. Just leave a comment below. If you really want an invite, I’d love it if you’d like The Backlight on Facebook or tweet about us or something like that. Thanks!

Pinterest is a new-ish, free site/service/social network that lets you save (or “pin”) images that you like and save them all in one place. I’ve been playing with it for a couple weeks now and not only is it a lot of fun, but it’s potentially a great new social tool for bloggers and businesses to help you connect with people and drive traffic back to your blog or website.

Note: Pinterest is still in invite-only mode, but I’ll invite you if you want. Email or DM me your email address and I’ll invite you. Or just mention in your comment that you want an invite and I’ll send the invite to the email address that you entered in the comment form.

How does it work?

According to the company itself, “Pinterest is a place to catalog the things you love.”

The essence of Pinterest is this: You’re doing your thing, minding your own business as you stroll down the web, and then BAM. You come across some kind of really cool graphic (photo, illustration, etc.).  You think, “Man, I want to save this!” So you press a button in your browser (more on that in the video below), save (or “pin”) the image to your Pinterest account, and then all of your followers on Pinterest see that cool image that you pinned. (All pinned images include links back to their original sources on the web.)

People can also repin anything that you like that someone else has pinned. This is the Pinterest version of a retweet. When you repin something, it shows up as a pin on one of your boards and also shows who the original pinner was.

On the flip side, when you log in to your Pinterest account, you see the latest pins of the people you’re following. It’s like the Twitter timeline.

You can save your images in different groups, or “boards” as they’re called on Pinterest. Right now I have a Cool Infographics board (where I pin some of the cool infographics that I come across), a Bucket List Ideas board (where I pin photos of places I want to see and things I want to do), and a Nerdy Stuff I Like and Want board (self explanatory).

Click here to check out my Pinterest account so you can see what I’m talking about. You can follow all the boards of any given Pinterest user or just specific boards.

And here’s a video overview I did of what Pinterest is and how it works:

[Click here if you can’t see the video]

[Click here if you can’t see the video]

One last note: It seems like most Pinterest users are women. There are a whole lot of cute shoes and to-die-for hairstyles being pinned. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s mix things up a bit, shall we fellas?

Oh, and if you’re wondering if this is some small little social networking site that’s going to shrivel up pretty soon… I think not. Here’s what pinterest.com’s Alexa profile looks like:

Pinterest's Alexa profile. Impressive, eh?

Pinterest's Alexa profile. Impressive, eh?

Pretty impressive, and it looks like it’s very much on the up. So get on it early!

So how does this help my blog?

There are a several ways Pinterest can potentially benefit you if you’re a blogger (and I say “potentially” because this is still a new service and I’m still playing with it and figuring stuff out):

Connect with people on a more personal level – Pinterest is a very personal thing. You’re saying, “Here, I like this! This is me!” It’s a great way for your blog readers to get to know you better, to get to know more about your interests and passions. When you know someone better, you tend to trust them more, right? Right. Trust is important.

Get more traffic and new readers for your blog – Your profile on Pinterest includes an image of you and links to you elsewhere on the web. So on my Pinterest page, you can see the four little square buttons under my photo and bio (in the bottom left corner of the picture):

Pinterest profile.

The left button is to my website (to Blogging Bookshelf in this case). The second button is a link to my Twitter account, and the third is a link to my Facebook profile. The last button is the RSS feed of my Pinterest account so that someone could add my pins to their RSS feed reader if they so desired. All of these things drive traffic back to your blog.

But wait, there’s more!

If you’ve got some cool images on your blog, pin them! Your followers will see those pins, see the website they were pinned from, and then possibly click through to your blog that way (see the next image).

Get backlinks – So these aren’t going to be the most valuable backlinks in the world, but every time you or someone else pins an image from your blog, you’ll get a link from that pin back to your blog. And if someone repins that pin, you get another backlink, and so on.

Here’s what the link looks like:

Pinterest link back to the image source.

Pinterest link back to the image source.

Make some extra money (maybe??) – Ok, so I don’t know if you’re allowed to do this or not, but you *could* place affiliate links in the descriptions of the things that you pin. So if you pin an image of a book you really like, you *could* include an Amazon affiliate link in the description.

I sent a message to @Pinterest on Twitter asking if affiliate links in the descriptions were allowed, but I never heard back from them. Lame.

There’s one bit in the terms of service that says this:

[It is forbidden to] use the Site, Application or Site Content for any commercial purpose or the benefit of any third party or in any manner not permitted by these Terms;

Hmmm… Do affiliate links count as a “commercial purpose”? Who knows. Try it at your own risk, or shoot Pinterest an email. And then let me know.

What can/should you pin?

You can pin all sorts of stuff! If there’s an image for it, you can pin it. Here are some examples:

  • Favorite books or movies
  • Books you want to read
  • Quotes (if you can find images of them)
  • Products you like
  • Products you want
  • Photos you love
  • Art you love
  • Favorite places
  • Places you want to visit

And the list goes on. Just figure out what images are common in your niche and/or what kinds of things you like, and pin those things.

You can be pretty general with the things you pin, or you can focus it to be more specific for your niche. For example, if you blog about DJing, you could create one board for your favorite album covers, another for the DJ equipment you use, another for the equipment you want, another for the DJing books or magazines that you read, and another for photos from the shows you do.

See how that works? Pretty spiffy, eh?

Integrating Pinterest with your blog

If you look at the very very top of my blog toward the right side, you’ll see a handful of social media icons. The one on the far right is the Pinterest one. I still need to add links in my sidebar and footer.

There are actually “Pin It” badges that you can get for your blog, like the Facebook, Twitter, BizSugar, and BlogEngage badges you see on Blogging Bookshelf. I imagine, though, that these would be most useful for photo blogs or other blogs that are graphically rich.

Pinterest provides a variety of ready-made badges and buttons here.

Final words

Some niches would lend themselves better to Pinterest than others. Interior design, for example, would be HUGE. There’s a lot more to pin there than if you blogged about, say… law. But I’m confident that most bloggers in most niches can find interesting things to pin. And if there’s nothing related to your niche, just pin stuff that YOU like.

Or if you’ve got a bunch of different interests and don’t want to have a different Pinterest accounts for each blog, just create different boards for each interest. Remember, people can choose to follow all of your boards or just specific ones.

Anyway, go try out Pinterest and see if you like it. See if you get any traffic from it, and see if you get any good ideas. I have to say that I really enjoy pinning stuff. I haven’t seen much traffic back to my blog yet, but I’m not too worried about that. That’ll come. In the mean time, I’m too busy looking for cool new stuff to pin.

This is how social networking should be… Just plain fun.

  • Have you heard of Pinterest before?
  • Are you on Pinterest? (Feel free to link to your account in a comment.) Why or why not?
  • Do you as a blogger see any value in Pinterest, or is it just a lame waste of time?
  • How else could bloggers benefit from using Pinterest?