Have you tried Pinterest?

(Purple clematis on a blue fence – one of the first images I pinned – from dontcallmebetty.tumblr.com)

How many of you are taking advantage of Pinterest as part of your social media platform? According to Reuters and Comscore (data via Wikipedia) Pinterest had gathered 48.7 million users as of February, 2013. That number jumped up from 11.7 million users in 2012. So I assume some of you are on board with Pinterest.

For those of you who are unaware – Pinterest is a pinboard style social media site where you can collect, organize and share images of things you love.

When I was a teenager, I used to fill scrapbooks with images cut or torn from the pages of popular magazines. Pinterest reminds me of that activity – to the trillionth power, mind you. The site is most popular with women – global stats indicate 83% of users are women. Maybe some of them used to keep the kind of scrapbook I’m describing.

On Pinterest, an image is a pin – you can add pins from anywhere on the web or from your own computer – any pin can be repinned by others and it always links back to the source.

You organize your pins by topic on what the site calls Boards – Boards can be private or public, and you can invite others to share on your Boards

You can follow others and then their pins will show up on your Pinterest home feed.

The site provides a bookmarklet device that allows you easily to pin content from the web and bring it back to Pinterest.

Like all social media sites, Pinterest has its rules of etiquette. Participants are reminded to be kind when they make comments. It is best to express your own unique qualities in the images you choose to pin, rather than pinning to collect followers. Users are told to promote artists to create great works by linking back to their pages and making polite comments if one discovers an image is being used without proper credit. Nudity, porn, hateful pins or pins that encourage people to hurt themselves should be reported. The Pinterest community is evolving, so users are urged to let those in charge of the site know what is working and what isn’t.

I first heard of Pinterest, months ago, when reading a blog post by Kristen Lamb: Writers – Why it’s time to renew your love affair with Pinterest. She wrote that Pinterest was a powerful tool for writer inspiration. If you spent your lunch hour on Pinterest, you’d come away refreshed, your head full of creative ideas. After all, a picture does say a thousand words and images stimulate creative parts of the brain. She advised the linking of blog posts up to a Pinterest Board – why not take advantage of the crowd already gathered on the site to promote your blog. One suggestion that she made appealed to me – create Boards that reveal your stories or characters in images.

I did get excited about Pinterest when I first discovered it. I spent time there and got several family members hooked. I’ve let it slip a bit by the social media wayside the past few months. I have had to prioritize my time. I returned to Pinterest the other day and was once again fascinated by the Boards I had created.

I’m still in love with Izzy’s Garden. If you’re reading my novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight, and you want an idea of how I imagine Izzy’s garden, check out that Board. And if you want to know what Crater Lake is like (at least in my imagination), check out the Board – Views of the lake, and you’ll get a good idea. The Board I created entitled, Pictures of people that make me think stimulates endless ideas for stories and characters. And if my mind needs a bit of beauty, I have a Board called, Incredibly beautiful places and things to wander through.

I know that many of you probably feel the same time pressures I do when you think of yet another social media platform. Pinterest is quite beautiful – that is more than can be said for Twitter or LinkedIn. Why not give it a try – no reason you couldn’t start small. Create one or two Boards and pin up a few images.

Let me know how it works out Rolling on the floor laughing

Like a Bird on a Wire (or a wooden bench)

Bird on Wooden Bench - Stanford Campus, CA

My unquenchable desire to spread my social media platform beyond the confines of the known universe had me turning to Twitter this week. I have always thought that Twitter was the exclusive purview of people with fancy little cell phones who had mastered the art of typing on tiny keyboards. I put this comment up somewhere on a discussion and a few people told me that they Tweet from a laptop or home computer. I decided to give it a try. Like most things out in the social media world – getting signed up was no problem.

Things happen fast, fast, fast in the Twitter world. I managed to follow a few news sites almost immediately. Found a great Indie authors site that offered this bloggers connect up thing. That meant I had to add a Twitter follow to my blog. I managed that. I started connecting with people in the World Literary Café. I’m not sure what I did there, but people started following me back to my blog. Good, so far!

For the most part I was just watching the Tweets mount up on the screen without having much of a clue what they meant. They looked like strings of gibbeley-goop. But then it all started to make sense. Like when you watch the loading bay at a large factory – everything seems like random activity. Trucks are coming and going, forklifts all over the place and people buzzing around. Then all of a sudden, a pattern emerges. It all falls into place – fascinating!

I started following George Stroumboulopoulos around – I’ve been a fan for a while. Bruce and I had a chance to see a live taping of his previous show – The Hour – at George’s studio in the CBC building in Toronto. That was back in 2008. George was amazing – full of energy, humour and generosity. He stayed for at least an hour after the show was wrapped up – just interacting with the audience and answering questions. There is something a bit incredible about seeing George tweet that he is in the Ottawa airport and being able to reply within a few seconds – I feel sorry for all the time you spend in airports, George. Pseudo-intimacy for sure – George and I are not buddies. But he is fun to follow around.

Last night I actually figured out what a hashtag is and from there I tapped into a trend. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages – tears were streaming down my face as I read through tweets that were arriving in groups of 40 or 50 at a time – #ImSoSickOf – I had no idea that Twitter could be so much fun. This was my favorite – I’m so sick of how ten years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash – now we have no jobs, no hope, and no cash. I jumped on that one right away and was the 76th person to re-tweet it.

I think I’m starting to get a handle on the social media world. What I’ve learned so far leads me to think the following:

  • Facebook – for interaction with friends (real friends – the kind of friends you would want to show pictures of your grandkids to or share your home renovation projects with – OK, let’s just leave aside for a moment the issue of whether friends are ever interested in your home renos.)
  • Facebook Fan Page – people can like me or follow what I’m up to without me having to accept them as a friend who can see pictures of my grandkids and home renovation projects – sounds good – fans, not friends.
  • My Blog – the place I get to share who I am with whoever wants to read (and hopefully someday be able to say – here’s my book, guys!)
  • Pinterest – a place to see and share beautiful images, mostly with strangers (also a place to link up blog posts – especially if they contain great pictures.)
  • LinkedIn – the place for professional networking, establishing credibility in terms of education and past work experience (also a great place to link up blog posts and connect with people from times in my life gone by.)
  • Twitter – fast connections with total strangers about anything and everything (a lot of people are using Twitter for crass and in-your-face promotion – I figured that out quickly. Glad to say, that’s not my style and most of it is easily ignored.)

I guess in closing, I would say – don’t be afraid of social media platforms. Don’t write off opportunities to connect with others before you even give them a whirl or a tweet for that matter. I am not a techie or a computer whiz woman. I’m just a regular computer user and I am able to maneuver my way around. Maybe I’m like the person who buys a pricey microwave oven with all the bells and whistles and only ever uses it to heat up coffee – but still, I am using it! You can, too. Give it a try. Then we can tweet together, like a couple of birds on a wire (or even a wooden bench, but you can be the drunk in the midnight choir. I’ve never been a great singer.) Sounds like fun – right?