Social media watch: Pinterest

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Saying there’s a new social networking site of note is likely to prompt some eye-rolling. After all, social sites come and go — Friendster, anyone? — and merchants are rightfully wary of investing time and resources in establishing a social outpost that may not endure.

But since launching in May, momentum has genuinely built behind Pinterest — and merchants may be surprised to discover their products are already featured there.

Pinterest is loosely based on the concept of a bulletin board. Users “pin” item images to themed “pinboards” they create, reflecting their own interests and personalities. Users can like and comment on others’ “pins” (meaning pinned items) and follow other users and/or individual pinboards.

Sample Pinterest individual profile

Perhaps because of the emphasis on alluring visuals (as opposed to Twitter and Facebook’s streams of textual status updates) Pinterest’s following has exploded. As of November, Pinterest had grown 2,000% since June, and attracted more page views than the craft-and-artisan marketplace Etsy.com, according to TechCrunch. And the site has attracted $37 million in funding, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek — suggesting it has staying power beyond next month.

Boards can be highly conceptual — “the written word” or “the color pink” — and they can feature destinations, individuals, recipes, and anything else represented online with photos. But most often, Pinterest boards function as intensely personalized product collections, with millions of items “pinned” using the site’s bookmarking tool. Pinterest users can pin any product, whether or not merchants are Pinterest members — just as consumers can post links from any Web site to their blog or Facebook pages.

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