Fifty-seven million. That’s Pinterest’s most recently released number of active monthly users. Less active users top 70 million. I’m betting at least a few of your friends and relatives are on Pinterest. You probably are too. But what, exactly, are you doing with it?
If you’re like the majority of people, you have boards for the most popular topics: DIY/house décor, food, and clothing, shoes, and jewelry. Wedding-related boards also abound. You might use Pinterest to find recipes or gift ideas. Nearly 80 percent of retailers have accounts, and some social media gurus estimate that about 25 percent of craft giant Etsy’s sales originate through Pinterest.
Pinterest can be loads of fun. In this professional strategist’s opinion, however, it’s also the most useful social media platform available in terms of goal-setting, planning, and collaboration. Yes, you heard me correctly. The site made popular for providing 472 uses for mason jars and roughly four billion ways to prepare chicken is the hidden gem of strategic planning.
What are all these unheralded virtues? Well, for one thing, once you pin something, you can actually find it again. When’s the last time you tried that with Facebook or Twitter? Facebook now offers a bookmark post feature, but many people don’t know about it and you have to remember to do it. If you bookmark too many things, you’re back to sorting through reams of posts. With Pinterest, on the other hand, you can not only search pins, but search specifically within your own pins.
In addition, Pinterest is designed to be highly visual and inherently easy to organize. We’re used to seeing boards based on types of things, such as gardening tips or kids’ crafts. But you can just as easily make a board titled “March Meals” or “2015 Goals” or “Things to Do on Paris Trip.” Because every pin includes a picture and the phone app is excellent, Pinterest also makes a great miniature vision board you can carry with you. Pin pictures of outfits you can’t wait to wear or that represent your health goals to help you avoid temptation. Pin inspirational quotes to boost your confidence before going into a networking event or difficult meeting. Whatever you need to help motivate you toward your goals, pin it.
Further, Pinterest is almost unbelievably flexible in terms of privacy and collaboration. You can, if you wish, keep some boards private or invite only certain people to follow them. You can also send pins to people you follow, which is a great way to share recipes, old family photos, and more. But here’s the exciting part: you can invite others to pin to specific boards. Say, for example, you’re planning a family vacation or a trip with the girls. Give each participant access to a group pin board and let everyone post ideas for places to visit and things to do. This works for any kind of group gathering – or any type of event you might be co-hosting with someone else. You could even create a date night board to share with your significant other.
Compared to the other social media sites out there, Pinterest is also pretty kid-friendly. Yes, there are some pins you wouldn’t want your third-grader to see, but unlike on a typical search engine, you probably won’t stumble across them accidentally. I would not recommend young children have their own unsupervised accounts, but Pinterest can be a great option for sitting down with your child to search for project, party, or food ideas. It’s also an excellent tool for introducing kids to strategic thinking and planning. Choose a meal or craft together, create a board, and then search for pictures of the ingredients or supplies. This is particularly useful for highly visual learners or those who haven’t learned to read and write. Homeschooling? Have your student create a board relative to a work or literature or period of history. Older kids? Pinning to a joint board can be a more teen-friendly way of connecting and sharing. You can make a board for anything from prom dresses to potential colleges.
Most powerful of its benefits, perhaps, is the way Pinterest allows you to tap into a vast pool of ideas from a wide array of people. You don’t have to follow someone to see her pins unless she’s posted them on a private board, and the overwhelming majority of boards are public. At last count, Pinterest was up to a staggering 80 billion-with-a-b pins. This means you can tap into the research someone else has already done to find what you’re looking for. If you locate someone who regularly pins business strategies or workout tips you love, follow her and her pins will show in your feed. In terms of finding and connecting with people who are interested in the same kinds of things you are, Pinterest is unparalleled. It’s also incredibly easy to learn and to use.
So, don’t let these ideas take the fun out of pinning, but next time you’re signed in, spare a thought for how you can make Pinterest work for you. And if you’ve avoided signing up on the grounds that you don’t need another time-killer, you might want to rethink your stance. This might just be the most effective planning tool you aren’t using.