The Writer’s Guide to Pinterest

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Lately we’ve heard a ton of buzz about online pinboard Pinterest: how it recently hit 10 million U.S. monthly uniques and how savvy brands and publishers are using the site for content marketing. And yes, there’s been some backlash over how the site is monetized and whether pinning an image might violate copyright law. (Websites can now add some code to make their images unpinnable, but of course they’d also miss out on potential traffic from the site.)

That doesn’t seem to be slowing down millions of devoted Pinterest users, many of whom blog about weddings, fashion, or DIY. It’s quickly spreading to other niches as well. Ebyline talked to several freelance writers and bloggers about how they’re using the platform to inspire and promote their writing.

  • Crowdsourcing ideas. Freelance writer Terri Huggins joined Pinterest in search of inspiration images for her new home, but she also discovered that pins could inspire ideas for articles. “I look for pins that are out of the norm or non-traditional that could possibly make a great angle for a story,” she says. “For example, I found an interesting pin of bridesmaids holding gorgeous, huge paper flowers as opposed to a real bouquet of flowers. It caught my attention because in the wedding world it’s taboo and frowned upon to not have real flowers at a wedding, but yet I found a unique alternative that completely went against tradition. I found a way to craft that into an interesting pitch.” While on the site, Huggins also looks for motivational quotes about writing and life to keep her going on tough days.
  • Organizing ideas. Tara Bellucci, who writes about quirky interior decorating ideas for the Apartment Therapy blog, used to look for ideas and products via Google, but she’s since switched to Pinterest. “I love that Pinterest links automatically to the origin of the pin, where even if it’s not the content creator, it’s a good lead,” she says. As Bellucci searches for products that might work well together for a “mood board post,” she organizes them into pinboards, where she can “easily collect web clips and see what works and what doesn’t.” For instance, she used this board on Pinterest to create this resulting post.
  • Thinking visually. Leah Ingram, a freelance writer and the blogger behind Suddenly Frugal, discovered Pinterest when several readers repinned a photo from one of her posts, generating traffic to her blog. That piqued Ingram’s curiosity about Pinterest, so she clicked over to the site to check it out. Now that getting “pinned” can mean a boost in traffic, bloggers like Ingram give more thought to the images they use. “Whatever ideas I have, I try to think of how I might photograph them and how I can include those photos in my blog post so someone will pin it,” she says. The post that originally sparked her interest in Pinterest instructions for DIY laundry detergent and continues attracting pins. Ingram says she’s seeing more and more traffic via Pinterest.
  • Building your platform. Bethanne Patrick, Executive Editor of Book Riot and author of two nonfiction books, sees huge promotional potential for authors, but more in a creative than an overtly self-promotional sense. “One novelist I know, Randy Susan Meyers, has created boards characters in her novel: hair color, the way she dresses, places she would live,” says Patrick. “Her novel came out two years ago, so it was postspiration if you will, but now I’m seeing people put together inspiration boards for books that they are working on.” Authors or publicists could also create boards of favorite books, places they’ve visited during a book tour, or even artwork created out of books, giving readers a glimpse of the images that inspire them. “It puts a lot of control back in the artists’ hands,” she adds.

This Week’s Headlines: PaidContent Acquired by GigaOm, Pinterest Creates Outcry

Never a dull moment in the social media and digital journalism worlds, is there? This week was no exception with the news that GigaOm has acquired PaidContent and that Pinterest is secretly profitting off of pins by adding affiliate links. Here’s as look at some of this week’s headlines:

4 Online Tools to Watch in 2012

websites to watch

Twitter and Facebook spent much of 2011 battling for social media supremacy, while Google introduced its own social network, Google +, last summer.

Experts have a range of predictions for 2012, among them that social media will get boring (perhaps the focus will shift towards using the tools instead of reporting on them as news) and that businesses will increasingly outsource content (good news for you, freelancers!). Content curation, image-sharing, and video also appear on most social media predictions.

As we welcome the new year, here are four of the websites and apps we’ll be watching.

  1. Pinterest: Design bloggers, brides-to-be, and photo junkies have been using this image-sharing site for awhile, but it’s recently gone more mainstream with a fluffy of new users. In fact, Mashable reports that Pinterest grew from 1.2 million users last August to 4 million as of December. Users “pin” images they like to one of their themed “boards” and other users can “repin” images (similar to retweets on Twitter). Book-lovers might use Pinterest as a visual representation of books they read or want to read, while novelists might create boards for each character or setting to use as virtual inspiration boards. And some bloggers and website copywriting services are already using the site to boost their traffic by pinning an eye-catching image from each post.
  2. Storify: This is social media curation tool went live in April 2011, allowing users to tell stories by collecting tweets, YouTube videos, Flickr photos, and other types of multimedia content in one spot. Recent stories include the Italian Economic Dilemma and New Year’s Eve at Occupy Wall Street. Users in other languages and media outlets like The Weather Channel and The Vancouver Sun are already using it, and we’ll be interested to see if it gains momentum this year.
  3. Instagram: This photo-sharing iPhone app is already wildly popular, and an Android app is in the works. We predict that similar services like PicplzPath, and Color (for 30-second videos) will continue driving interest in real-time photos as 2012 unfolds. MediaBistro’s 10,000 Words blog offered tips on how new organizations can use Instagram (or any of these photo-sharing tools, really) to crowdsource information or share breaking news while following to the principles of ethical journalism.
  4. Flipboard: This iPhone and iPad app for customized news reading was downloaded more than a million times within a week of its December launch. As mobile content heats up, apps that give readers greater control over the media they consume and how it’s displayed could help news organizations stay relevant. It’s also a way for journalists to cut through the clutter online and current in their beat. One of Flipboard’s competitors, Zite for iPhone, was described as the Pandora of News.
Writers, have you used any of these website or apps for reporting or consuming news? What would you add to this list?

Image courtesy of Ambro /