5 Ways to Use Pinterest as a Community Building Tool

Everyone is talking about Pinterest, the social “pinning” site used to share, well, anything.  It’s a little early to say, but judging by the buzz (and the amount of people posting about Pinterest on their blogs), it has a good chance of becoming the top social site for 2012 and perhaps the next big thing.

Pinterest is different from your Facebook, Twitter or Google plus because it’s not about posting a sentence or paragraph in hopes of starting a conversation. Instead, folks post images of things that interest them and that’s what gets the conversation started. At this point, most of the people I follow on Pinterest are talking about food, fashion and home, but the sky is the limit. Pinterest is giving us an opportunity to share our interests and find other people who enjoy the same. It’s also giving me an opportunity to see another side of my social media friends. I can tell you who is renovating, who are moonlighting as foodies, who are expecting kids, and what kinds of books everyone is reading.  Pinterest is a very cool tool.

Because I’m now tasked with handling the community growth and outreach for the company I work for, I’ve been thinking about the different ways Pinterest can be used as a community building tool. Unlike Facebook, you create boards, not groups. And unlike Twitter, the image is the focus, not the pithy comment. Also, there aren’t brand pages on Pinterest, it’s all individual people sharing, so the community building might not be so obvious and cut and dry.

Still, I have some ideas…

1, Learn About Community Members

We only know as much as our community members are willing to share. And while many of our members will follow us on Twitter, they’re not going to friend us on Facebook because they don’t know us very well and most use Facebook as a tool for connecting with personal friends and family, not community managers.  Pinterest is interesting though, when we follow someone’s boards, we learn more about their likes and dislikes. We can tell their fashion sense, the types of television shows they’re watching, and even a little about their sense of humor.  We don’t have to follow every one of their boards, either, only those that interest us the most.

Pinterest is an excellent way to gather demographic information because we can learn age groups, interests and a little bit about what folks do for a living, and what they like to do in their spare time. But it’s not a big brother sort of thing. The peek into the lives of others isn’t intrusive because we’re viewing  what they want to share with us, and they know exactly who they’re sharing it with.

2, Start a Brand Board

Like any social network, the last thing anyone wants Pinterest to become is a haven for spammers.  However, there’s nothing wrong with having a relevant brand board. I’m not saying to drop links and advertisments all day, every day, because that’s not community building. Instead, share. For example, the board I’m just starting to build for BlogWorld will share photos from our event, fun stuff from community members, and team and member achievements.  I might also share fun stuff found at other conferences, tips for attending our conference and share news about our speakers. Remember, though, Pinterest is more visual. So the sharing will be in images with only a little descriptive text underneath.  There’s plenty of room for comments, though.

3. Find People of Interest

Pinterest offers community managers a whole new opportunity to find new community members. By searching relevant topics we’re able to meet people who might be interested in what we do. Simply follow the boards and people who you feel would benefit from your community and engage (with spamming or being pushy, please.).  They’ll receive a notice that you’re following and if they’re into it, they’ll also follow your boards to learn more about you or your brand.  They’ll also learn more through conversation.

4. Start a Related Board

An alternative (or companion) to the brand board is a related topic board. For example, in addition to a board for BlogWorld, my employer, I can also start boards for new media, blogging, conferences, and social media. As people start to follow those boards and the conversations ensue, they’ll learn more about who I am, what I do, and hopefully join BlogWorld’s other online communities.

5. Have a Conversation

It’s not enough to pin up a board or follow, like or repin someone else’s boards and pins. By taking some time to comment on pins and ask questions, you’re engaging with people who could become part of your online community. Search interesting topic and let Pinners know what you think of their pins. Join existing conversations and share your point of view.  Even though Pinterest isn’t a text heavy social network, it’s still a place to engage.


Pinterest is still in early adapter stages, but more people are joining every day. The ways to grow community may not be as obvious as Facebook or Twitter, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Take some time to explore and learn how Pinterest can benefit you, your brand and your community. You may find it to be an important tool in your outreach.


How are you using Pinterest?


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  1. Pat Steer says:

    I discovered Pinterest last fall, and the idea that it might be “the next big thing” in social media occurred to me then. Right now, I’m primarily using it like everyone else I follow – to highlight stuff I like, my favorite things. But I did start one board to highlight scientific art, and then linked a couple of the images back to my online writing. Along with people following and re-pinning that board, I did get a little Pinterest traffic on those articles (a very cool side result.)

    I guess right now I’d say I’m racing ahead slowly – exploring, building a community of friends, and seeing where the Pinterest wave will take me. And while on that path, I’m discovering some very cool things in modern and small space design, and in ways to trick out my teardrop trailer.

  2. Natasha says:

    I love Pinterest and have been pinning for a while now. I also love blogging about ideas, recipes etc that I have found on Pinterest and how I use them in my every day life.

    Happy Pinning!
    Natasha @ 5 Minutes Just for Me

  3. debi9kids says:

    Great post and ideas.
    I have definitely found that my Pinterest boards have brought my blog a ton of traffic.
    It’s amazing.

  4. Georgiana Leite says:

    I agree that Pinterest has a good mix of social resources to be the next big thing but I just wish its RSS for our personal boards were more  aesthetically pleasing …I would definitely would want to have a feed of one of my boards in my site.
    Has anyone tried that?

  5. Is there a “Join this Group” function, so that for example others can join your BlogWorld board and pin pics?  I can’t see it at the moment? Walter @adamson:twitter