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Social network Pinterest draws interest online

Like the images on its site, the clever definitions and analogies by Pinterest users are endless: "Pinterest is like getting a new magazine in the mail every day." "Pinterest is everything you never knew you always wanted to know about anything."...


Like the images on its site, the clever definitions and analogies by Pinterest users are endless: "Pinterest is like getting a new magazine in the mail every day." "Pinterest is everything you never knew you always wanted to know about anything." "It's like Etsy and Pottery Barn had a baby and made a scrapbook of their cute little family."

The latest social media craze is a virtual pin board, or scrapbook, to collect and organize your favorite images and ideas from around the Web. While the site has something for everyone, it's dominated by home decor, fashion, food and crafts, and has become the new Internet darling _ make that obsession _ among women in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

"Pinterest is like fantasy football for girls," said Jeannette Appold, 44, of Rosemount, Minn. The attorney and mother of two says the social bookmarking site has added value to her life by bringing out creativity that she never knew existed. "Michael's (craft store) has gotten so much of my money lately," she said of her newfound passion to imitate craft projects she's found on the site.


Pinterest has been around since March 2010, but its popularity has recently exploded, making it one of the 10 most popular social networking sites. The site grew to nearly 5 million users in November 2011, from just 418,000 in May, according to metrics firm ComScore.


Here's how it works: When you see an image that you want to "pin" to your "board," you can capture it using a "pin it" plug-in and add it to your online profile. Everyone who follows you can view your pinboards, comment on them and add to them if they have permission. They can "repin" the images to their own boards and you can do the same with what you see and like on their boards. Clicking on the image usually takes users to the original source, so a pin of, say, chicken curry, should take you to the website or blog that provides the recipe.

Make sense? The best way to deeply understand how Pinterest works is to join the site and start pinning.

Many users are crediting Pinterest for adding inspiration and creativity to their lives in new and challenging ways. Appold has 17 different boards organized by books she wants to read, recipes she's inspired to try and clothes she dreams of owning, to name a few. She also has a board of Pinterest-inspired things that she's actually made: gifts for her children's teachers, a prayer pot and chore chart for her kids and a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Appold also uses the site to organize ideas she has for her basement remodeling and a bridal shower she's planning.

"It's a great creative outlet for people who don't have time to be that creative," she said. "It spurs me into action. I never would've done these things without it."

Practical ideas

Other Pinterest users like the site for its abundance of practical ideas. Did you know you can use an empty egg carton to organize your junk drawer? How about using toilet paper rolls to store those pesky electronic cables? Such ingenious solutions leave Pinterest users asking _ "Why didn't I think of that?" _ and keep them coming back for more.

"An addiction" is the best way for University of Minnesota student Courtney Reigh, 21, to describe her Pinterest use. She prefers "pinning" over Facebook, and logs into her account five to 10 times a day, spending 10 to 25 minutes each visit scrolling for images of home decoration ideas, recipes and clothes. She's expanded her style and wardrobe, and learned to make the "perfect poached egg, all to the credit of Pinterest."

"I can get lost in that site," she said. "I check it first thing in the morning, right before I go to bed and everywhere in between."


Some Pinterest users are just getting the hang of it, but are devoted fans nonetheless. As the director of social media for Bentz Whaley Flessner, an Edina, Minn.-based fundraising consulting firm, Justin Ware, 32, is well versed in all aspects of social media. He first became interested in Pinterest as a tool for nonprofit organizations, but he quickly began using it personally, too.

The Minneapolis man has started looking for vegetarian recipes and pinning them to his "good eatin'" board. He also has boards to house pictures of dogs, camping gear and photos of his favorite places.

But in the Pinterest world, Ware is an anomaly. Guys haven't jumped on the Pinterest wagon the way women have. About 70 percent of Pinterest users are female and according to Experian Hitwise, most are 25 to 44 years old.

Not only are most Pinterest users female, but most of them live in the Midwest, where the site first caught on. And even though Pinterest got its start in Palo Alto, Calif., Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann, an Iowa native, recently told the Des Moines Register that the first people to understand the website were mostly women in Des Moines, then Minneapolis, then Houston and Chicago.

"To this day, the Midwest and Iowa in particular are disproportionately represented given its population amongst our user base," he told the paper.


Midwesterners are up to 102 percent more likely to visit Pinterest.com than the average U.S. Internet user, according to ComScore.

Molly Broman, 28, is among the housewives driving traffic to the site. Pinterest is peaking just as she and her husband are renovating their south Minneapolis home, which has been in the family since 1948. Broman has turned to Pinterest for inspiration to upcycle decades' worth of hidden gems in her basement and attic.


She's created several Pinterest projects, but has noticed that a lot of people are passive on the site and collect oodles of pins without ever actually making anything. Such behavior has inspired pins that read: "Thank you, Pinterest, for helping me feel creative, even though I've really just been sitting at my computer for the last three hours." Or, "Less pinning. More doing."

For Broman, who has always been an active crafter, the site has helped to push her to be more creative.

"You can get caught up in the hype of collecting all these beautiful pictures and telling yourself that someday you'll do them," she said. "But for most people it never actually manifests into anything."

Her definition of Pinterest? "It's a big, happy, crafty community of people who support each other."

Distributed by McClatchy Newspapers.

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