What Is Pinterest? An Intro to Using the Social Image Platform

A brief intro to the visual social network that everyone loves

Pinterest
Photo © Kim Kulish / Getty Images

You’ve heard about it from friends, you’ve read about it on blogs and you’ve probably been convinced that it’s one of the hottest things on the web. Everyone’s on Pinterest and it seems as if everyone absolutely loves it, but what exactly is it, and should you jump on the bandwagon too?

What Is Pinterest?

You can think of Pinterest like a web-based pinboard or bulletin board—but with greater organizational functionality. You can also think of it as a bookmarking tool.

People typically pin or save images they found on the web (or on Pinterest itself) to different boards (used to categorize their image collections). Many of the images saved on Pinterest are clickable, and open up in a new tab to the original web page where they were found,

For example, Pinterest is a very popular tool for recipes. People can browse through images of delicious looking food, click on an image that looks good and be taken straight to the recipe instructions when they click on it. They can also save it to their own recipe board so they can access it later.

Pinterest is also a social network. Users interact with each other through liking, commenting, re-saving each other’s stuff and private messaging each other.

If you're ready to get started with Pinterest, follow the slides below to learn how to use it yourself.

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Sign Up for a Free Pinterest Account

Pinterest
Screenshot of Pinterest.com

Pinterest is totally free to use, but just like any other social network, you need an account to start using it.

You can create a free account at Pinterest.com with an email and password or simply choose to create one from your existing Facebook or Google account.

You'll be asked to fill out a few details such as your name, age, gender, language and country before you'll be instructed to pick at least five categories to follow so that Pinterest can start showing you personalized pins based on your interests.

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Familiarize Yourself With Your Profile

A screenshot of Pinterest.com.
Pinterest.com.

In the top right corner, you should see a menu with several different options.

Home: This is where you'll find all the most recent pins saved by the users you currently follow as well as new suggestions based off the things you've already saved.

Following: If you just want to see what the users you follow are pinning, go to this tab.

Explore: To find new ideas on things to pin and users to follow, use the Explore tab to browse through things you might not discover just by sticking to your home feed

Your name and profile picture. Select this any time to go to your profile. (If you haven't yet set up a profile picture, you can do so by clicking the three dots in the top right corner, selecting Edit settings from the dropdown menu and navigating to Profile in the lefthand menu.)

Messages: This is marked by the little speech bubble icon. Send and receive private messages with users you follow and follow you back.

Notifications: This is marked by the bell icon. Interactions and suggestions will pop up here.

Settings: This is marked by the three dots. Select it to change your settings or upgrade your account.

Closer to your profile, you'll also see four tabs:

Boards: Displays all the pinboards you created.

Pins: Displays all the things you recently pinned.

Tries: All the pins you tried for yourself and left feedback on.

Topics: These are suggested topics you can follow based on your interests.

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Start Saving Pins and Creating Boards

Pinterest.com
Screenshot of Pinterest.com

Here comes the fun part. Now that you’ve spent some time setting up your account and you have a brief understanding of how Pinterest really works, you can start saving pins to your boards. There are two ways to do this.

Option #1: Save Pins You Find on Pinterest

To save a pin that you found while browsing Pinterest, just hover your cursor over the pin and click the red Save button that appears in the top right corner. You'll be asked which board you want to save it to.

Option #2: Save Pins You Have on Your Computer or What You Find on the Web

Navigate to your profile click either your Pins tab or Boards tab and look for the Create Pin button or Create Board button to the far left of your pins/boards.

Create Pin: If the image is on your computer, so you can upload it to the web. However, if what you want to pin is on the web, copy and paste the direct URL in the given field and you'll be able to select specific image you want to pin.

Create Board: Use this to create different boards and to keep your pins organized. Name your board and make it Secret (private) if you like.

Bonus Option #3: Save Pins Directly from the Web

Pro Tip: If you like to randomly save things to Pinterest while browsing the web, you'll definitely want to install Pinterest's browser button to make saving as easy as doing in a couple of clicks. 

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Follow Users or Their Individual Boards

Pinterest
Screenshot of Pinterest.com

If you come to find that you really like the boards and pins of specific users, you can follow them so that their stuff will show up on your personal homepage board feed (when you’re signed in to Pinterest).

Simply click the username of any Pinterest user to pull up their profile and click Follow at the top of their profile to follow that user’s boards or you can alternatively follow specific boards of that user by clicking the individual Follow button beneath each board.

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Interact with Other Users

A screenshot of Pinterest.com.
Pinterest.com.

Pinterest’s intuitive user platform makes it extremely easy for anyone to share and interact with other people. You can interact in the following ways on Pinterest:

Save: Use this to save the pin to one of your own boards.

Send: Send a pin to other users on Pinterest or share it on social media.

Comment: If you have something to say about the pinned item, feel free to leave a comment.​

Add a photo or note: If you tried the pin (such as a recipe, a craft, etc.) then you can upload your own photo and add a comment about what you did or didn't like.

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Download the Pinterest Mobile App

Two screenshots of Pinterest for iOS.
Pinterest for iOS.

Pinterest is loads of fun to use on the regular desktop web, but you'll be blown away by the power of the mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Discovering new pins, saving them and finding them again later when you need them couldn't be easier or more handy with the app!