Pinterest as Free Market Research

1 03 2012

My first reaction was panic. You know how it goes. First I heard about Pinterest. Then I heard that it grew 429% from September to December 2011. And I thought, Oh, my god, the future is preparing to leave without me…again.

So I raced to have a look. Pinterest was lots of images. Contained in several boxes. Lots of images, several boxes. OK, so this is … what?

This is a critical moment. Do we stay and dig in? Or cut and run? The temptation is to cut and run because, well, what if we waste 20 minutes figuring out that this is nothing? What if we unwrap this package and there’s nothing inside?

My theory, these days, is that the only real way to assess something in the digital world is to use it. And this means spending enough time dorking around to get the hang of it.

I use “dorking around” deliberately because you know how this goes too.

We don’t really grasp what we are looking at, so we are obliged to proceed fitfully and awkwardly, trying this, trying that. And of course, there’s always the small fear that we are about to do something stupid, as in the early days of email, when your colleague actually managed to message “Philips is a complete tool” to everyone in the company.

So it’s a double bind. Refuse to use the technology and we end up behind the curve. Use the technology and we risk wasting our time or, worse, embarrassing ourselves.

I pressed on, because, as I say, you can’t know unless you do. Pinterest makes things easy. It supplies categories like “Stuff,” “Home,” “Travel,” “My Style.” The idea is to fill these categories with images. We find something online we like, clip the URL, and enter it under “pin” and, hey presto, the images appear in the general stream and our own Pinterest page. We have “pinned” an image to a “board.” (There’s no theft of intellectual or creative property. Pinterest preserves the link and gives an acknowledgement.)

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