Photo illustration by Daniel Bean. (via Thinkstock)
If Facebook is a place to keep up with friends, and Twitter is a place to discuss what’s happening now, Pinterest is where people go to dream of a future filled with delicious casseroles, intricate pillow shams, and idyllic vacation spots.
Perhaps it’s this dreamlike environment that has helped Pinterest grow so quickly. It has more than 70 million users and, according to some studies, it’s the second-highest traffic-driver to outside websites after Facebook. Its enthusiastic base — an 83 percent female group known as pinners — isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
And for good reason! It’s a great resource for shopping, trip planning, interior design ideas, and general visual inspiration. But you may not be using it to its full potential. Below, a list of useful things you might not have known how to do on Pinterest.
1. Pin faster.
Many enthusiastic pinners probably already know that you can add a Pin It button plug-in to whatever browser you’re using to surf the Web. Then, when you find a cool image, you can immediately add it to one of your boards.
But you might not know that this button allows for a wonderful shortcut. Before pressing the Pin It button, highlight a snippet of text you think works as a description. It’ll automatically be populated into the description section of your pin. That way you don’t have to waste time describing it yourself if you don’t want to.
2. Find everything that’s been Pinned from a specific website.
If you’re curious how well-pinned a website is, you can enter that website into the search bar on the upper-left side of the Pinterest site.
Then it will automatically generate all pins from that source.
3. Keep your Pinterest profile away from Google.
Say you’ve been searching for something embarrassing on Pinterest. Like, I don’t know, post-apocalyptic survival tools. And maybe you don’t want your profile showing up in Google searches. You can hide your account from major search engines by clicking your account name in the upper-right corner of the screen and selecting Settings.
Then scroll down to Search Privacy and toggle the button to say Yes.
At any time, you can go back and make your profile public again.
4. Keep your recent searches from prying eyes.
In the same vein, if you’re casually browsing $5,000 wedding dresses, you probably don’t want your boyfriend of two weeks to see that. If at any time you want to clear your recent searches, go to Settings and click the Clear Recent Searches option. Your history will go bye-bye.
5. Send direct private messages on Pinterest.
Recently, Pinterest added the option to directly message pins to people inside and outside the social network. It works by hovering your mouse over the image you want to send until a Send button appears at the top.
Once you click it, you’ll have the opportunity to attach a personal message, and then you can choose whom to send it to. You can type the name of someone you follow on Pinterest, attempt to find friends via your other social networks, or email the pin.
The next time you go to send a pin, the people you contacted most recently will auto-populate when you type in the recipient box. So the friends you communicate with most frequently will be just a tab button away.
6. Edit your notifications.
If one of your pins or boards has become so popular (*hairflip*) that you’ve been inundated with an endless stream of notifications, you can quickly adjust who’s pinging you by going to the double thumbtack icon in the upper-right corner of your screen.
From there, you can see who’s interacting with you on the network. But you can also adjust what notifications you see by clicking on the pen icon in the upper-right corner of the box.
A message will pop up, allowing you to adjust what you’re alerted for. You can then choose whom you get notifications from.
7. Ensure that Pinterest isn’t tracking your online behavior.
This one all depends on how comfortable you are with the Pinterest gods (aka data engineers) having access to your search information at all times. I, personally, want to keep my daily search habits separate from the time I spend on Pinterest dreaming of a prettier apartment. No matter your preference, you can control how much access Pinterest has by going to Settings.
Once you’re there, scroll down to a section called Personalization. This is where you can control whether Pinterest tracks your search history on the Internet.
Pinterest has a whole blog post dedicated to explaining what it actually does with this information, but to make a long story short, Pinterest uses your Web surfing history to recommend pins from the sites you’ve visited. So perhaps you’re contemplating the purchase of a new pair of boots from Anthropologie. You’ve glanced at them a few times online, but you want to think on it. When you log in to Pinterest, chances are those boots will show up in the Recommended Pins section.
In sum, it’s a good way for brands to stalk you even when you’re not on their pages.
That being said, Pinterest stores your search information for a span of only 30 days. So it’s not quite as sketchy as other online social networks that use this info for more nefarious purposes.
8. Map your future vacation.
A lot of people use Pinterest to collect images of dream vacations (even if they might not have the cash in the bank for that plane ticket). The Places tool takes this one step further, allowing you to create a board based on a map, search for things based on a location, and automatically add images in their correct geographic spots.
To make a map-based board, go up to the + button at the top of the screen and select Create a board.
You’ll then be asked to fill out the basics of your board: its name, description, and so on. At the Add a map? section, toggle Yes.
Your blank slate will then appear in the form of cutesy cartography. You can start pinning things based on their location by selecting Add a place.
As you start typing in your search, Pinterest will auto-populate image and business results. If you don’t have a specific place in mind, you could always just search for “art museums near San Francisco” or “sandwich places in Noe Valley.”
Once you pin an image, it’ll show up as an adorable red marker right there on the map. You can float your mouse over it to see more.
And that’s how you pin like a pro. Now go and fill your boards with gorgeous beach sunsets and French macarons. I’ll be here staring at my computer, wishing I could physically live on Pinterest.