Pinterest exploded out of nowhere, didn’t it? The social media site launched quietly last year and every so often you’d see a friend talking about joining it. Then, suddenly, it felt like everybody and their dog was joining the network! Should you join the bandwagon?

A Crash Course on Pinterest

For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a form of social bookmarking service (specifically, an image social bookmarking site).

Pinterest home page

You find an image or video you like on the Internet, and then pin it to your account. So it’s basically an online version of a pin board.

Within your account, you can arrange your pins into separate boards. Your boards are your own categorization scheme for your pins. For example, you can organize your pins into boards like "Photography", "Infographics", "My Wedding Plan", and so on. You aren’t required organize your pins or create boards, but this is a key feature of the site.

People can follow your account or just your boards. You can also follow other Pinterest users and their boards.

With so many other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook demanding your attention, is it really worth it to carve extra time out of your day for Pinterest?

Yes! Here are 10 reasons why.

1. It’s a Great Source of Design Inspiration

When you’re stuck on a design project, you can browse Pinterest and look at what other people are designing and creating. You can just start pinning to generate ideas and concepts as you browse around the site.

For example, let’s say you’re stuck on the typesetting for a project. You can use Pinterest to find out what fonts your favorite designers have discovered recently. For instance, check out this "Free Fonts" board by Vladimir Prochazka.

Design Inspiration

Here’s an idea: You can use a Pinterest board as mood boards to develop your design ideas and concepts, or even as a presentation tool to show your clients.

2. Organize the Unorganizable

With Pinterest, you can create separate boards for different themes or ideas. Then when you come across something online that strikes your fancy, you can pin it to the appropriate board.

This saves you time later on because instead of having to sort through an entire browser history or bookmark list, you can simply go to the board for that subject and find the thing you need.

For example, you can create a board for Photoshop tutorials that you’ve found helpful, like this one by Julie Bode.

Pinterest Photoshop Tutorials

3. It’s a Good Source of Traffic for Your Site

Allowing people to pin your pages, blog posts, photos, etc., will help your design work reach more eyes.

Pinterest is social — people follow each other and are notified when someone they follow pins something. So, when someone pins or repins (the equivalent of retweets) your stuff, the people who follow that person will see it as well.

Let’s take as an example your online portfolio. Adding a Pinterest button for visitors of your portfolio can allow them to pin your design work for their social network to see.

If you’d like to integrate a Pinterest button on your site, they have a nifty widget builder tool for easily doing that.

Pinterest Widget Builder

4. It’s a Good Learning Tool

What do you want to learn about today? Do you remember when you used to be able to go to Yahoo! and simply choose a category of sites to surf through?

Those days are over for that search engine, but they’re alive and well on Pinterest.

Let’s say you’re very proficient in Photoshop but aren’t sure you want to pay the monthly subscription fee for the Creative Cloud subscription, so you decide to learn GIMP.

You can use Pinterest’s search to find the best Gimp tutorials.

Pinterest GIMP tutorials

5. You Can Promote Your Design Work Through It

In addition to being able to have links to your own sites and projects in your Pinterest account profile, you can set up boards that relate to those sites and projects.

One technique that has become quite popular is to create two specific boards.

One board is for your work that has been commissioned by other people, or things you design that you think your followers will find interesting.

The other board is for pages, posts, photos, etc., that mention or feature you and/or your work.

That way you promote yourself, you promote your clients, and you promote those who promote you!

Pinterest as a Design Portfolio

Here’s an idea: If you don’t have an online portfolio yet, you can consider creating a Pinterest board for pinning your design work on that you can show or link to clients. Though this isn’t what Pinterest is designed for — and there are plenty of free hosted online portfolio services out there that have specialized features for displaying your design work — it’s worth a ponder.

6. There’s a Real Sense of Community

In addition to creating your own boards on which to pin things to, you can also join group boards that allow pinning by multiple Pinterest users.

Pinterest Group board

Group boards help put you in touch with other people who are interested in the same things that you’re interested in.

It’s sort of like networking, but more fun. And with more rabbit holes to fall down into.

7. It’s Low Maintenance

Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest has no messaging capability (yet). This means that you don’t have to check or worry about responding to messages from other people. You simply pin and re-pin, and that’s it!

8. You Can Sell Your Designs on Pinterest

According to a 2012 Social Shopping Survey, 59% of Pinterest users have purchased something they saw on the site. When compared to Facebook users, Pinterest users are almost 80% more likely to buy something that’s been pinned. This is particularly good news if you’re trying to sell design work (like posters and printed material) independently!

Pinterest vs. Facebook

9. It Isn’t Overrun by Social Media Marketers (Yet)

How often do sponsored posts turn up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds? This hasn’t started happening on Pinterest yet.

While people have started using this social platform to promote their wares, the number of marketers on there is still relatively low.

This means you can feel sure that someone is pinning something because they genuinely like it, not because they want you to buy it from them.

10. Everybody Else is Doing It

Normally this is not a good reason to do something — but when it comes to social media — it’s actually a very good reason.

Wrapping Up

I’m still figuring out my own Pinterest boards. I went crazy pinning social media badges there a while ago when I wanted to dress up my own blog a little bit.

And, of course, all of my friends talk incessantly about the great recipes they find through the site.

Exploring the system has been really fun and is definitely something you should think of doing as well.

Author:

Erin Steiner is a writer and web content creator from Portland, Oregon. She's written for top web properties like The Huffington Post. She covers design, marketing for small businesses, and personal finance (for Billfloat). Connect with her on Google+.