The Pin That Ate Manhattan

I’m one of those anomalies of the Internet – a devoted male Pinterest user with absolutely no interest in recipes or wedding planning. I’m an illustration and design nut, and I happen to love the way the site’s interface helps me keep a visual archive of artists and images that catch my eye over the course of any given day. (I also use it to keep a running list of books I read and movies I watch.) I’m not an obsessive pinner, but I probably post between six and 10 images a day onto one of my 20 or so active boards.

Being a proud resident of Brooklyn, I have a board devoted entirely to New York City imagery. About 41 weeks ago, I pinned a vintage photo from Flickr of Times Square in 1971.

Vintage Times SquareIt’s a cool image with an unexpected view of an iconic landmark that’s changed severely over the past forty-plus years. That being said, I didn’t think much about it for months after pinning it.

Then, sometime in November of 2013, somebody found it – probably during a search for images of Times Square – and repinned it. This happens to me pretty frequently, as stuff I pinned a year ago or more gets rediscovered by two or three people who share it with their own followers.

But this time, something different happened. The original repin was followed by another, then three more, then a dozen more. Before I knew it, with absolutely no encouragement from me, the image was repinned over a hundred times.

I thought that was strange enough, but it’s still not over. Every week or so since that day in November, the image has been picked up yet again, setting off another wave of repins. At the moment, it’s up to 356 and counting.

For anyone still skeptical of the power of Pinterest, this small story points to an interesting truth: The images placed there are always available to be revived and reshared. Just because something doesn’t make a splash immediately, doesn’t mean it will never find an audience (interest can build over time).

For brands and individuals who are interested in making an impact, the lesson seems clear – just keep pinning. Each pin you add to your own visual archive is a new chance to connect with people over time, just as this image of Times Square still has the ability to strike an unexpected chord more than four decades after it was taken.