Understanding Pinterest

“I have absolutely no idea how this works”, I remember saying to myself ten minutes after first registering with Pinterest many years ago! It was a social media platform I’d heard of at the time but I hadn’t had chance to explore it so being the nerd I am with these things I decided to sign up.

Prior to signing up I had this impression of what Pinterest was but upon registering I soon realised it wasn’t at all what I expected and I simply didn’t get it; I didn’t have the foggiest idea what Pinterest was for. So I gave up on it and stepped away.


I hadn’t touched Pinterest for a good couple of years until one December day my other half declared that she’d “seen some great Christmas decoration ideas for the the fireplace”! I was then taken on a tour of all these ideas that she’d collected in her “Christmas fireplace” board on Pinterest and there it was I thought, “this is how to use Pinterest“.

How I hadn’t seen the value in Pinterest before was anyone’s guess, especially when I saw how easily & effectively it could be used but I think this is a common problem on social media. People join new platforms expecting them to work in a similar way. But this isn’t always the case.

Facebook has similarities to Twitter, you post from your account, see other’s messages and images and follow people. Instagram is about following people and seeing their images and Facebook is now a LOT like this. However, platforms such as Pinterest and Google+ are not so similar and this can confuse people.

I explored Pinterest a little further from this point on and began using it for a blog I had at the time. Pinterest is not only useful for collecting & grouping ideas (although it is VERY useful for this) but it’s great for finding or sharing any type of content and therefore it’s adored amongst the blogging community as it’s a great way to promote content.

Explaining the basics

Pinterest is a huge self-contained wealth of information but you need not be daunted and if you’re a creative type or looking to promote written content you’ll absolutely love it.

So, first things first. Go and register. It’s pretty easy (see below) and you can use your Facebook account (which is safe) or enter your email and create a password.


You’ll be asked to confirm some other details and then you’ll be asked to follow 5 topics. Twitter will give you some suggestions but you can select the 5 you most like or do some searching. Don’t worry, this doesn’t matter too much in the long run.

Once you’ve chosen your 5 topics you’ll be ready to get started. The image below, which is based on using Pinterest via a laptop rather than smartphone, shows you the home page. You’ve got 3 main options here:

  • Search
  • Read / Scroll through content
  • Go to your profile (the “Simon Social Media” button seen below)

What you see in this view, which also applies to the app, are “pins”. Pins represent content, and that could be an image or an article. What’s important to know is that Pinterest’s very visual so users are likely to use longer/thinner images (see “Anatomy of a killer” image below) to attract users.

These pins have a title (e.g. “Copper curtain rods” below) and they tell you who shared the pin (e.g.”Melissa Zook” below). As you scroll down you’ll see LOTs of content (or “pins”). Hover over an image in a pin and it’ll bring up some images/options; “Pin it”, “Send” and Like (shown as a heart). Two of those work as you would expect but “Pin it” will be new to you!


“Pins”, “Pin it” – you’re starting to lose me

I’ll explain more. But first let’s use a simple example to give some context. Imagine you have one of those corkboards on the kitchen wall at home and you use it for keeping those postcards you get from friends and family on holiday. This is the way in which Pinterest works. You create boards on Pinterest and you pin content to those boards. Simple metaphor over, let’s carry on.

Creating a board

  1. From the home page as shown above, select the link/button with your username
  2. This will have taken you to your profile – you’ll see your image (if added) and other details
  3. Select to Create a board
  4. This will bring up the same form as the image
  5. Choose a name, description (optional) and category
  6. Then hit the Create button


I’ve created a board! What’s next?

Now you’ve got a board you’ve got somewhere to pin to. It’s a bit like when you first buy your cork board for home and it’s empty. What we need to do now is find some content.

In the example below I’ve used Garden Furniture so I’m going to stay with that theme whilst you can replace “Garden Furniture” with whatever you called your board.

Finding Content

  1. At the top of the page you’ll see the Search bar. This has the red Pinterest logo next to it
  2. You can search on anything, in this example I would search for “Garden Furniture” but I could also search “Garden Furniture DIY”, “Garden Furniture ideas” or something more specific like “Garden Furniture Fence”.
  3. Each search will bring a slightly different set of results so feel free to be specific
  4. Perform your search
  5. Once you’ve entered a search topic you’ll see a wealth of pins appear in your page

Content found, how do I pin??

  1. Look through the images/pins from your search and hover over an image that looks interesting
  2. Clicking on the image brings up a new window which will show more info
  3. Click on the image again will take you to the website or article from where that image originates but don’t do that now
  4. Find the “Pint It” button and press it
  5. You’re now shown a window which has the pin on the left and on the right you’ll see the board you created
  6. Hover over the name of your board and select “Pin it”

You’ve now pinned this topic which means you can go back and read it at any point. It also means others will see the content if they come across your profile or your board (both of which are searchable on Pinterest).

So, if you now head back to your board (select username button in top right & select your “Gardening Furniture” board) you’ll see the pin in there.

You can now start creating boards and pinning as much great content as you can find!

Let’s recap

  1. Pins are content & images shared by other users
  2. They can either be images (infographics work well) or images which link to online content (blogs and articles)
  3. Boards are created to group & categorise pins
  4. Users, their boards and pins are all searchable. This is the basis of how Pinterest works, it’s a great sharing tool.
  5. Pins can be pinned to more than one of your boards
  6. You can have many boards

If you’re creative you’ll really love Pinterest for idea generation when you get familiar with it. The way it allows you to find great content and save it to your own board is fantastic and really useful. It can feel odd, taking someone elses idea or content and saving it to your own board but that’s how Pinterest works. You can save someone elses article to your board and a third person may only spot that article via your board. That makes your board useful AND the person who owns the article will be glad of the extra exposure.

Using the garden furniture example above is basic but it shows how to create a board. You can use boards to group completely distinct topics or related topics. For example, one person might have a board for “Gardening”, someone else might have “Sheds”, “Benches”, “Patio sets” etc. It’s really up to you.  The benefit of Pinterest is the way it easily allows you to find the information, store it and share it.

That’s all for the basic introduction to Pinterest. In the next blog I’m going to look at how you can use Pinterest to promote yourself or your business.

If you attempted to get started using our guide but got stuck just let me know and I’ll be happy to help.

Did you enjoy this post? Why not check out our next blog: Using Pinterest to promote your blog or business

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