Many of you may have heard about the newest “big thing” in social media over the last couple of months called Pinterest.  If you have not tried it yet, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard or bulletin board where you post images onto boards about various subjects you choose.  On their web site they state, “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.”  You can view other’s boards and each pinned image links back to the original web site page where the image was found.  You can also upload an image of something you photographed with your phone or camera.

A board is created by either using the “Pin” button that can be added to your browser or selecting "Add>Add a pin" from the web site and selecting the URL.  You can sign up or log in using your Twitter or Facebook account.  Using your existing account links them but it carries over your profile information automatically which is nice.  Then just click the pin button when you are on a web page with an image you want to pin and it displays the images on the page for you to select the one you want to pin to the board of your choice.  There are also mobile apps you can use from your phone.  Just like Twitter, you can follow others and be notified of when there is new activity.

Pinterest Example 1So it is obvious this could be some fun on a personal level to share with friends, but how would it be useful for business?  Just like Twitter when it started, the business use case evolved as people found other ways to use the tool.  So, to give you some ideas, here is a product showcase board called “Products I Like” that I created from recent articles in Microwave Journal:

You could collect various images from your own web site into different collections or boards based on subject, application, product type, etc.  Of course, they would all need some type of graphic associated with them on each web page, but it is a nice way to visually present material on various subjects.  You can actually attach prices to products you pin.

Pinterest Example 2Here is a second board I put together about “Engineering Genius” dedicated to some of my favorite inventions (mostly related to wireless except for a few other favorites I had to include like a Lamborghini and an interesting beer cup).

There are two big issues with Pinterest related to copyright.  First, in order to be completely legal, you need to acknowledge the owner and link back to each image that was pinned, although most people do not do this.  Technically speaking, it should go back to the original source and not just the web page it was seen on.  So there is a lot of concern about making boards and being at risk to copyright infringement unless you take the time to do this with each image.  Second, the terms and conditions of Pinterest state that they own the rights to each image that is pinned and can use them for whatever means they see fit, so you could lose copyright control over your images.  I have seen several publications jump into this and then delete their boards after finding out that they are giving away such permission automatically by pinning their images.

Copyrights are already a huge issue on the web, and I think over time this will work itself out.  After some exposure to the specific terms and conditions of Pinterest and some backlash from users, they might amend their terms to something that is more practical for users and businesses.  Most web sites will never complain anyway since each pin is typically linked back to the web page which drives traffic to their site.  With over a 10 million registered users at the beginning of Feb., the traffic is significant for many sites.  According to TechCrunch, Pinterest got to 10 million monthly unique US visitors faster than any other independent site in history, so I think that is why they are getting so much attention lately.

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