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What Pinterest means for the arts
march 2, 2012
There's been a deafening hype around Pinterest since it exploded on to the social media scene in last month. Like the noisy new kid on the block, it's impossible to ignore – have a quick look at #Pinterest on Twitter and you'll notice it's a little like Marmite; you either love it or you hate it.
A cross between an image-sharing social network and a bookmarking tool, Pinterest works by organising or "pinning" images from anywhere on the web to a virtual personal pinboard. You can create as many boards as you want, on any theme – fashion, food, craft, architecture, interior design – then locate images and use a "Pin It bookmarklet" to stick them to your moodboards.
Pinterest's social function is that users can re-pin items from other boards to their own and "like" or comment on things others have pinned. There's also an option to cross-share through other social networks. You can also @ users á la Twitter and create collaborative boards, allowing, for example a bride and groom to pin a wedding list together.
Whatever you think about the 2011 Crunchie award winner for Best New Startup, Pinterest is setting the social network world ablaze. Earlier this month comScore announced that the image-sharing social network was the fastest independent site to hit 10 million monthly unique visitors in the US. Shareaholic has also reported that Pinterest drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Reddit, Google+ and LinkedIn.
In the UK, Pinterest has closer to 200,000 users, but its success comes as no surprise. The network satisfies the creative hunger of those who want to express their interests overtly. Where Facebook likes and Twitter retweets sit idly next to or below shared content, Pinterest gives pinners an in-your-face opportunity to hyper-personalise: This is me. This is what I like. This is who I want to be.
Have a browse of the site's front page and you'll see a glittering array of fashion items, wedding dresses, dream home furnishings and jewellery. Colour, shape, craft, design and imagery, all stylishly laid out in one place. There's no doubt that Pinterest's unique selling point is that it is visual, so for a sector that buys and sells in visual experiences, the social network appears a perfect fit for arts organisations and venues.
Already ahead of the curve, a handful of galleries and museums have picked up on Pinteret's most obvious artistic use: creating virtual, shareable versions of exhibitions and collections. Audiences can preview pieces of art and museum items online and share their favourite pieces by re-pinning them onto their own boards. It's something Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery have done to a good effect.
Others have taken the virtual venue one step further by organising gifts in the museum or gallery shop to a board – the Chicago History Museum and the Contemporary Jewish Museum have both done this to encourage pinners to share the most desirable items with their friends. Every pin also displays and carries over source links so virtual visitors have no problem clicking through to an item's listing on the online store, bringing them one step closer to a purchase.
Pinterest can also improve audience engagement by encouraging comments on pinned items, allowing users to critique a gallery's works of art, for example, and the collaborative pin board idea is also an interesting one. With it, arts organisations might encourage audiences to curate their own collections – a "visitor's favourite of the gallery" board or one with items from around the web centred on a signature piece from the exhibition. Child-orientated venues might even feature drawings and sketches submitted by the kids on a "pin your art" pinboard.
And what about arts organisations that don't specialise in curation? Pinning a board full of things to do in the area when audiences are visiting is one option, as is pinning artistic stills from backstage at a theatre show. Orchestras might even pin their instrumentalists by section in a "get to know us" board.
Get signed up to Pinterest and the opportunities do seem endless, and there's no harm in experimenting as pinners and businesses wait and see what the magic method is for making the most out of the site. But what's the catch? Well, there are actually a few.
Firstly, and like most social platforms without a dedicated business service, the social network discourages self-promotion. The site's Pin Etiquette states that "Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you're proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion."
Of course, that's only a suggestion, but an arts social profile is only as strong as the happiness and compliance of its audience. Push a product or service in their faces too aggressively and your audience – the ones most likely to share and tell others about you – will lose confidence and switch off.
Another talking point is that Pinterest has a significantly larger female user base than it does male. In the US, female pinners account for 83% or users, and although there's nothing wrong in being a more female-friendly social network, from an arts and business point of view the reach of your product or service over Pinterest is a narrow one.
If your current audience or visitor makeup is more male than it is female, you might be working a great deal harder to engage users in comparison with a venue that has predominantly more female visitors.
UK figures are currently much more balanced, at 44% female and 56% male, which is encouraging. But given the head start Pinterest has had stateside, arts organisations will need to keep a close eye on the developing makeup of their audience. Given Pinterest's sudden fame, it wouldn't be a surprise to see male-orientated competitors popping up in the near future to piggyback on its success.
The final concern surrounds copyright, namely the legal ambiguity around what can and can't be shared. Josh Davis at LLsocial points out that 99% of pins are likely to be in violation of Pinterest's own terms of service, which state that when a user pins an image it means they have been granted access to do so or own the item personally.
But, at the same time, Pinterest does drive traffic back to image sources and has just launched a web code for individuals or brands that don't want users to pin their site's content. Eyes are on the social network right now as it looks to answer questions about copyright.
You can make comparisons to PicPlz, Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr but it's fair to say that social media hasn't really seen anything like this before. As a community-focused journalist, I'm always on the lookout for more innovative ways to tell a story, deliver content and encourage readers to do more than just click, read and close. I'm not so sure that Pinterest offers journalism too much – at least not yet – but for the arts and culture communities, I think there's plenty to exploit.
Go experiment and get pinning.
via: the guardian
read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professi...