A Collegiette's Guide to Pinterest: What Is Pinterest & How Do You Use Pinterest?

Many tech-savvy collegiettes have been pinning and boarding since Pinterest’s birth in March 2010, but in case you haven’t caught on to the trend yet, here’s a more in-depth scoop on social media’s hottest new star.
What is Pinterest?

You’ve already got a zillion profiles to keep track of, so what makes Pinterest different than any other site? The social media market may seem saturated and full of photo sharing websites like SmugMug, Flickr, and Photobucket, but there’s no doubt that Pinterest has introduced a quicker way of sharing images on the web — especially those related to fashion and retail. Pinterest allows you to grab images from any website or upload your own, and then “pin” them to your account. In order to keep everything organized, Pinterest has you create “boards” with themes like architecture you find impressive, clothing and makeup that fit your style, gadgets on your Christmas list, or anything else you like to browse online.
The beauty of Pinterest is that you use it as socially or as personally as you’d like. While its primary function is to help you collect your interests, you can also use it as a social network by following people; liking, commenting on, and “re-pinning” their pins; or having your own followers. Privacy settings are also within your control — you can strengthen your social media presence by linking your account to Twitter and Facebook, or limit your profile’s exposure by restricting it from popping up on search engines.

Why do people like it so much?

Pinterest identifies users’ interests (funnily enough) and lays them out in a particularly appealing format, a feature which has earned it several comparisons to Reddit [link: www.reddit.com] (a user-generated compilation of some of the web’s most popular links) for women. As phrased by the Atlantic, Pinterest has attracted “a fascinating demographic breakdown: it’s strongest among young women in the center of the country.” While that may be true, Pinterest’s ability to cater to each user’s preferences makes it a powerful tool for anyone.
“I like how it allows you to be artistic and organized,” says Toronto high school sophomore Annie Robinson. “I usually follow accounts that have anything to do with fashion (designers, editors, sites, magazines, etc). I like to pin [or] re-pin anything that I think is pretty and that I might want to come back to later for an article that I am writing, or even a status picture.” Plus, Pinterest’s “Pin It” button provides an original, convenient way to consolidate everything that catches your eye on the web and group it into handy subcategories. Instead of a huge list of bookmarks or a never-ending feed, you’ve got all your favorite things in a grid-like format — both pretty to look at and easy to manage.
Now that we’ve convinced you that it’s worthwhile, how do you get on Pinterest?
Starting a Pinterest account works a bit differently than with most other social sites, primarily because it’s invite-only. By using the invite-only technique, administrators have better control of entrant rates, and perhaps members pay more attention to the welcome emails that make clear the aim of Pinterest — to serve as “a community to share collections of things you love.” But don’t be fooled by the term “invite-only” — Pinterest is not the exclusive Regina George of social networking, and anyone can request an invite by visiting Pinterest.com and simply clicking the “Request an Invite” button. You’ll receive an email from “Ben [Silbermann, founder] and the Pinterest Team” that notifies you that you’ve been placed on their waiting list.
There’s a faster way, though: Now that Pinterest has accumulated millions of users, chances are your friend is already on there. Post, chat, tweet, text, or (here’s a new-fangled idea) ask around to see which of your friends is on Pinterest, and request an invitation from her. Once she invites you, you’ll receive an email with a link that allows you to sign up.