Allison Donlan

Pinterest is a social media site, so it’s a time-waster, right?  It definitely can be, with endless pictures of cute cats, but Pinterest can also be a great resource.  It’s easy to organize the pins you save into different categories, and if you download the browser button, you can save almost anything from the internet to one of your boards.  With the right tips and tricks and very little effort, you can use Pinterest as a useful tool.


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Pinterest 101

First, let’s go back to the basics.  If you don’t know how Pinterest works, it’s an image-based site.  Users can upload their own pictures directly to the website, ‘pin’ photos from another website using the browser button, and save other users’ pins from their dashboard, where they see pins from boards and people they follow.  However, just because Pinterest is centered around pictures doesn’t mean you can’t save text-based content.  As long as there’s an image somewhere on the page, you can pin it.  You can also always screenshot text if there are no pictures and then upload the screenshot, as long as you make sure to include the source.   

The pins you save don’t simply sit on your profile all jumbled together.  When you save something, you choose or create a board to save it to; boards are collections of pins you create with a common theme.  For instance, if I want to save a recipe from the Food Network, I hit the Pinterest browser button in my toolbar, and all the images from the page will appear.  I then select one, and Pinterest will show all of my boards I can choose from and give me the option to create a new board if I want.  To find the recipe later, I go into the board I saved it to and click the picture I pinned, and it will take me to the website.  It’s that easy! 

You might choose to have boards called ‘Recipes,’ ‘School help,’ ‘Work Outfits,’ etc.  When you first sign up for Pinterest, the site will ask you to select some of your interests, and the options cover diverse subjects from pop culture to academics, animals, fitness, beauty, and more.  Later on, you can always add more, and your dashboard will change too based on what you look at on the site.  Boards are easy to organize—you can even make subsections within a board or merge two boards together if you decide you don’t need two separate ones.  You can also mark boards as ‘secret’ if you want to save certain ideas without making them viewable by other users.  In the opposite direction, you can invite other users to collaborate on a board with you. 

Tips and Tricks

Once you know the basics, it’s time to get pinning.  What you use Pinterest for is totally up to you!  Recipes? Tips for your academic or professional life?  Inspiration for art, writing, or life in general?  All of the above?  They're all valid options.  It can be fun to blow off steam once in a while by exploring Pinterest for random fun stuff, but the site is a genuinely helpful tool as well.

To make the best use of your time, choose wisely what you want to use Pinterest for.  It might seem like a frivolous site, but it’s a good source of information on whatever you’re looking for.  There’s plenty of content linking to advice or how-to’s for basically any subject.   I like searching for writing tips and prompts, along with plenty of other things. Inspiration, motivation, explanation—it’s all there.  If it’s not, go find it and save a new pin.  

The best part of Pinterest is how easy it is to organize everything you save.  Instead of having a million bookmarks in your browser or links copy/pasted somewhere or just looking at something once and hoping you remember it, you can organize all the information you want to save by category in an aesthetically pleasing way.   You can add your own descriptions when saving pins in case you want to remind yourself of why you saved something.  I definitely recommend using subsections within your boards if you start to amass a lot of pins or if you have several areas pins fall into within a board.  To organize your boards themselves, Pinterest offers a few different options.  I find that alphabetizing mine is the easiest way for me, but you could also drag and drop them into an order that makes sense for you.

The best part of Pinterest is how easy it is to organize everything you save.

Pinterest is a great resource for finding and organizing useful topics, but it’s also a good idea to limit your time on Pinterest.  Even if you intend to focus on finding helpful ideas or information, it’s easy to get distracted.  Try to plan ahead to spend only 15 minutes, or whatever works for you.  Use this time to just explore and find inspiration or to look for specific things.  Pinterest isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great site to try for both entertainment and resources.


Allison is a rising senior at Hamilton College who loves reading, writing, and animals.  She is majoring in Literature and minoring in Psychology, and she plans to go into publishing upon graduation.


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