You’ve probably heard about it – through friends raving about the latest idea they’ve found, or loathing their own addiction – but what exactly is Pinterest and how can the latest Internet sensation benefit your family?

According to the site, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows you to organize and share all of the beautiful things you find on the web.  A “pin” is an image added to Pinterest.  A pin can be added from a website using the “Pin It” button, or you can upload your own images from your computer.  Each pin added using the “Pin” It button links back to the site from which it came.

To get started, you’ll have to set up an account.  Pinterest is currently invite-only.  You can request an invite from the site or someone who is already a part of Pinterest can invite you.  Once you are registered, you can begin creating boards tailored to your interests (a board is a set of pins, created on any topic).

Your boards should be created so that you can easily find what you are looking for.  For a family, you may like to create boards for family friendly restaurants, day trips, vacation ideas, crafts, seasonal ideas, or recipes.  The list is endless.

With your initial boards in place, you’re ready to start pinning!  Say you want to find some new snack ideas for the kids.  Simply enter your interest into the search field and a virtual cornucopia of ideas will be at your fingertips.  For this example, we’ll look at “kid snacks.”

Pinterest is all about the images.  Great images will garner great attention.  One that caught my eye on this search for snacks is a Safari Dip.

A good pin should include a source link.  This tells you where the pin originated.  When you click the image, it should link you to the source so you can see what is involved and decide if you’re really interested – always make sure to click the pin because there is nothing more frustrating than getting excited about an idea only to find there are no instructions on how to do it.

Assuming you like what you find, you then have the option to “Repin” the item to your board for safekeeping.  Maybe today isn’t the day for Safari Dip, but it could be a great hit during your child’s next play date.  Simply click “Repin” and select the board you want to add your pin to (I’m adding this to my “Snack Ideas” board).

In addition to Repinning already posted items, it is important for yourself and the Pinterest community to add your own pins to the site.  To help with this process, Pinterest offers a “Pin It” button that can be added to your tool bar for quick pinning of things you find online.  Maybe instead of starting at Pinterest you Googled “kid snack ideas” and found something you really don’t want to forget.  Pinning will allow you to bookmark the things you find online and share them with the rest of the Pinterest community.

Keep in mind that a good pin comes from an original source, gives credit to that source and includes a thoughtful description.  For example, people looking to spice up their summer flip flops in a crafty way will appreciate learning from your description that this is a do-it-yourself project and not an already-made flop available for sale.

You’ll soon discover that many of your friends and family members are “pinning” as well.  They will likely start following your boards and you can follow theirs for a sharing of ideas.  Following allows you to see another user’s pins on their boards in real-time on Pinterest.  You can opt to “follow all” or select individual boards that are of specific interest to you.

For many, Pinterest is an exciting alternative to a traditional filing system.  It is a great way to organize what interests you so when that rainy day arrives, you have a wealth of ideas ready to keep the troops entertained, fed or ready to take on your next home project.  It can be your ultimate answer to, “What should we do today?” or “How can I better organize this?” and the list goes on and on.

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