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Pinning your hopes on the next big thing

I met a futurologist once who was deeply embarrassed about his job title, but provided a fascinating hour-long chat on trend-spotting.

He said identifying the next big thing was as much down to probability and predictability than a sixth sense. You look at current trends and how they are evolving for an insight into what might happen next.

I likened his role to BBC’s Tomorrow’s World programme, which served up a tantalising glimpse into the future that in hindsight was not always very accurate. But he shook his head and claimed to be far more conservative in his predictions than the BBC show ever was.

I was reminded of that encounter during the last few weeks as I took a look around Pinterest.

It is relatively new on my social media radar, but the site is actually two years old. Not exactly the new kid on the social media block then, but still one with a relatively small community of followers compared to other sites.

Pinterest allows people to create a series of pinboards for areas of interest where they pin relevant snapshots with commentary to serve as both a reminder for later reference and also as a tour guide for visitors to learn more about each object.  And just with other social media platforms, there is now a clamour to find out how businesses might make effective use of Pinterest.

With an estimated 7.5 million unique visitors already pinning content, the audience is not great compared to the major social media players…yet. But the potential for Twitter-like growth is massive and certainly there has been more of a buzz surrounding Pinterest in the last six months.

One of the reasons for the slow burn is Pinterest’s invite-only policy. You have to request permission to join and wait patiently to be accepted – this alone is enough to put many off – but that is one of the reasons interest is growing.

Once in you get to invite others to join you. It isn’t a new ploy, but it is certainly an effective one in drumming up enthusiasm and that all-important buzz.

Some companies are already making use of Pinterest – the likes of Whole Foods amassing a growing following – as they spot a way of creating brand awareness and promoting their products.

Crucially, Pinterest is already available in different formats. As well as exploring the site on my laptop, I’ve downloaded the Pinterest app for my iPhone. Getting such things right at an early stage will be very important to Pinterest’s future success.

Is Pinterest the next big thing? Probably.

Will it eventually be overtaken by something else? Predictably, yes.

Is that any reason not to explore it in more detail? Absolutely not.