You must have heard a lot about Pinterest over the last few months…

Like all other ‘up and coming’ social networks it took me a while to warm to it but I LOVE it!

The company recently received $27 million in venture funds and the site’s popularity has gone from 1.2 million users in August to over 4 million today – Crazy numbers huh.

Of course like any new social site, there’s always the question: “How does it work?” Have no fear, soon-to-be-Pintrest fan, we’ll show you the ropes.

1. What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a place to organise and share online images that you like, love or just find interesting/inspiring.

Once you upload or share on Pinterest these images become known as Pins. People can then place these images on customized, themed Boards – you can create boards for anything you like. I have 5 boards at the moment; Life, Love, Heaven, Favorites and Beauty. I have a mixture of my own images and other peoples images that I have ‘re-pinned’.

How do I pin stuff I hear you cry?

Pinning is easy-peasy with the official Pin It Button. A simple drag-and-drop browser extension. When you come across an image you like, just click the button and select the corresponding picture. Assign the pin to a Board, add accompanying text, and you’re done, simples.

If the Pin is something you want to buy or look into a bit more its worth including the price in the description and it will attach to the Pin for easy reference. If you find inspiration on the go, take a picture with your iPhone and add it to your Boards with the mobile app. (Sorry, no Android support at this time.) You can also Repin posts from other people. I am a nosey parker so I love looking at other peoples pictures!

So check it out, at the moment you need to be invited to sign up – You can do this on the site or chances are you already know a Pinner who will gladly send you an invite.

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on to the serious and logical stuff now…

2. What is Pinterest For?

While there’s nothing wrong with just pinning pictures of cool stuff all day, Pinterest can be a really valuable tool for people with a specific purpose in mind.

For example, many brides-to-be have replaced bulky three-ring binder wedding planners with the simplicity and portability of a Pinterest account. Some people create a Board for each room in the house and then pin decorating ideas for that room. Artists use it to organize inspiring images for their work, so like an online mood board that everyone can see – yes I know what your thinking, and I agree, its COOL!

Also, Boards can have multiple contributors – so collaborating with co-workers/friends etc on a project is easy with everyone’s ideas and inspiration in one place.

3. What’s the Social Angle?

Like most things, Pinning’s more fun when you do it together. To find other Pinners, access the Everything drop-down menu and filter Boards by category. When you see a good Pin, leave a comment, Like it, or Repin to one of your own Boards. If you find a Board that’s especially interesting, follow its updates, or head to the Pinner’s profile and follow all of her Boards. Like Twitter, it’s an open network, so follows don’t require permission, and you don’t have to follow anyone back. So basically, just share the love!

Check out the Popular button to see what pins are trending at the moment. It’s a great way to find new content and to find Pinners who share your interests.

and finally…

Most Pins are photos, but you can pin videos, too (it just gets cooler and cooler) Hit the Videos button at the top of the page to see everything from movie trailers to sewing tutorials to the latest viral videos. <---- love this. Pinterest might seem like a natural place to promote your small business, but do so with caution. It's frowned upon to spam your Boards with nothing but your own products or projects. If you do want to promote your brand you I would say that you need to contribute more to the community if you want to stay in its good books, Use this opportunity to build your brand by linking and connecting to people who share the same style, or by pinning images that inspire your company's work. You can use Pinterest for self-promotion, just do so creatively and not to spammy. nobody likes a spammer. Sensible stuff done, Happy pinning!