The interest in Pinterest

Ah Young mixes drinks at a Pinterest Potluck in Northern Liberties.
Ah Young mixes drinks at a Pinterest Potluck in Northern Liberties. (Ah Young mixes drinks at a Pinterest Potluck)

This website is a virtual bulletin board for your aesthetic discoveries: Find something cool, and pin it down.

Posted: March 23, 2012

As a graphic designer, Mike Dew is inspired by what he sees - especially while tooling around on the Internet. "I come across things that I want to cook, or stuff for my apartment, or things for work like type, design, architecture."

Now, it all gets tacked on his Pinterest page.

Get ready to embrace the newest social media darling - because along with your Facebook wall, Twitter handle, and LinkedIn profile, now you must have a Pinterest page.

That is, if you are the creative, visual type. This site, launched two years ago by Yale grad and former Google product specialist Ben Silbermann, enables users to produce virtual bulletin boards on which they can "pin" their favorite images. It's a lot less celebrity gossip and photos of your neighbor's kids, and a lot more of the prettier, less newsy things in life.

That handmade baby mobile you spotted on Etsy? Pin it. The farm-to-table vacation retreat you want to take? Up on the board. The Danish folding chair you lust after? Pinned! Capture Bali beaches, drool-worthy chocolate tarts, or a vintage armoire in a whitewashed boudoir.

Pinterest, named one of the top 30 U.S. websites by analytics company Experian Hitwise with more than 103 million U.S. visits in February, was created as a way to organize, in one place, the memorable things that float around in users' virtual and real-life worlds. And like the Facebook phenomenon, where thoughts/actions/interests/musings somehow interest others, now our aesthetic souls can be shared, too.

For Tricia Hwalek, her page is as aspirational as it is inspirational.

"When I was a teenager, I would cut things out of magazines and put them on poster board," says Hwalek (follow her at pinterest.com/princessespana), a Connecticut-based accounts manager whose company has an office in King of Prussia. She has created boards filled with outfits to buy when she reaches her goal weight, ideas for a playroom when she finally buys that new house, and snapshots that remind her of past vacations.

When people visit your page, they can decide to "follow" or "like" you (a la Facebook and Twitter), or repin those images or boards onto their own profiles.

It's almost like walking into someone's living room and discovering their taste in furniture, the pictures from their family getaways, the colors they painted their walls. It's also a way to spy on others' aesthetic playgrounds, hence the popularity of pages by well-known design giants.

And, of course, Dew.

The Northern Liberties resident was recently named one of the 10 most popular people on Pinterest, right up there with the founders of the site, a creative coordinator for Williams-Sonoma, and popular graphic designer/bloggers like Joy Cho of Oh Joy! He now has more than a million followers. "It's just bizarre to me," says Dew (pinterest.com/tempspaz). "I just put stuff up there for myself ... and the whole thing just snowballed."

Dew's boards titled Cartography, Awesomeness, and Threads (as well as the one dedicated to lamps) are like looking through a catalog of cool. His status as superuser is the ultimate feel-good nod, the equivalent of a million people stopping you on the street and saying, "Excuse me, but I dig your taste."

Dew is humble, and a little in shock over the hoopla. "I'm not really a style person," he says. "People aren't always complimenting me on that sort of thing."

The many followers haven't changed the way he uses the site, but he's a little more aware of sourcing. "If I put a photo up of food and there is no recipe, people lose their mind in the comments."

For other locals, it's the social side of Pinterest that is appealing. Sibyl Lindsay, who is in marketing, and her friend Lindsey Love, owner of Coco Love Homemade bakery, decided to host a Pinterest Potluck at Lindsay's Northern Liberties home in February. "It was a social networking thing," says Lindsay, who used to work in the corporate office at Urban Outfitters. "It brought a bunch of creative people together."

The group was made up of women from around the region, whom Lindsay and Love either knew or connected with by following boards on Pinterest. Some had never used Pinterest before, but signed up at the party.

They talked food, kids, shopping, and shared their trials and tribulations of being small-business owners and breaking into the creative marketplace. "We got to talk about business without sounding like we were marketing or pushing things."

As with Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare, as Pinterest gains momentum, savvy marketers are taking notice. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., the group responsible for the Visit Philly campaign, created its own Pinterest page in January.

"It's a no-brainer," says Caroline Bean, the social media director for the GPTMC (pinterest.com/visitphilly). "Photography is a great way to show off our assets."

That translates to boards filled with images - from the Liberty Bell and City Hall to the hand-knit sweaters, letterpress cards, and jewelry sold in Philly's fashion-forward independent boutiques. There's also the edible eye-candy of just-shucked bivalves from Oyster House, and a mozzarella-laden hoagie from Sarcone's.

GPTMC has launched a video campaign with notable Philadelphians picking their 101 favorite things about the city, which are being added to its Pinterest page.

It's a way to show off the hipper, best side of Philadelphia. "We want to capture people when they are still dreaming about where to take a trip," Bean says.

The site can also lure people back to the organization's website, the way that the events and news bites it pushes out on Twitter and Facebook do. "We can see what other people are pinning and learn something about Philly, too," Bean says.

The biggest appeal of the site may be its ability to make permanent those fleeting virtual experiences.

"The Internet moves so fast," says Dew. "You could see something one minute, and then it's gone."

Or not, if you stick a pin in it.


Contact Ashley Primis at 215-854-2244 or aprimis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ashleyprimis.

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