May 8, 2013

L.L. Bean's board a hit on Pinterest

By Eric Russell
Staff Writer

L.L. Bean owns the most followed board on the social media website Pinterest, according to a recent study.

click image to enlarge

This screen image shows L.L. Bean's "Woodland Creatures" board on Pinterest.


NEW YORK - Don't worry, Pinterest fans: Your sprawling virtual pegboards of wedding dresses, handmade jewelry, craft projects and food porn haven't changed dramatically. They're just easier to manage.

The popular link- and photo-sharing website has rolled out an update offering people simpler navigation and new ways to arrange their boards to fit their needs. Although the haphazard spirit of Pinterest remains, the site is much less overwhelming.

Although it is not a replacement for Facebook or Twitter, and doesn't pretend to be, it is a beautiful and vast world with more than 25 million users around the globe.

For those who have never used Pinterest, the free site lets people "pin" pictures they want to share from other websites onto online peg boards. You can choose to share the boards with just a few close friends or the entire Pinterest world. Others can comment on the boards and pins, "like" them or repin items on their own boards.

Pinterest's recent redesign is intended to cut down on clutter and make the site easier to manage, without drastically changing its look. The new look continues to evolve. Most of the changes are very subtle, and some have been tweaked or reversed already.

One of the most noticeable changes so far is Pinterest's move to larger pins, so you get four rather than five items per row. The site looks cleaner and less overwhelming because you don't see as many items on the screen at once. Much of the text previously found on Pinterest boards is smaller or gone. Menus have been streamlined.

What impresses most about Pinterest -- and also what may drive visitors crazy -- is its vast variety. Some boards are very artistic and personal, while others are more practical than pretty.

Filtering boards and pins by topic, such as "Art," "Food & Drink" or "Geek," is now easier, too. Instead of one long list dropping down from the middle of your page, the categories fall from the upper left in three shorter columns.

Pinterest has also boosted its search capabilities, so that when you start typing something in the search box located in the upper-left corner of the page, a list of suggested words appears below it. That's helpful if you don't know exactly how to spell something.

But some popular features have also been eliminated. Gone is the site's "originally pinned by" feature, which showed which user was the first to pin a certain item. But Pinterest notes that many users have requested its return. Don't be surprised if it does.

-- The Associated Press

But the followers of the L.L. Bean board known as Woodland Creatures aren't following for the company's merchandise, which includes clothing and outdoor gear. That's because the Woodland Creatures board doesn't feature merchandise. It contains photos of cuddly bears, loons, deer and other wildlife common in Maine.

Laurie Brooks, senior public relations representative for L.L. Bean, is in charge of managing the 24 Pinterest boards that bear the Freeport-based company's name. Most boards, she said, are specific to L.L. Bean products, but Woodland Creatures is different.

"The way it started was, we had a fox den outside our corporate offices, next to the parking area. And employees would see these baby foxes playing," Brooks said. "That got us thinking about what other kinds of animals you can see in your backyard in Maine."

So Brooks created a Pinterest board to highlight those animals. Some of the wildlife photos are submitted by staff members, and others come from customers. The rest are re-pinned from other boards by Brooks.

In the 15 months or so since the board was created, it has attracted about 4.7 million followers, according to Mashable, another social media site. The other top five Pinterest boards, according to the study, are managed by Jetsetter, an online vacation planning site; Nordstrom, a clothing department store chain; Everyday Health, a health website; and Lowe's, a major home improvement chain.

Here's how Pinterest works: Photos are posted by a board's owner, such as L.L. Bean. Other users follow that board and "pin" certain photos to their own board. Once a photo is pinned, everyone who follows that user will see it and where it came from. Discussion often follows.

Many users rely on Pinterest to share or search for craft ideas or recipes, but the boards aren't always used for such practical purposes.

Brooks has a simple answer for why Woodland Creatures has taken off in the year or so that it has been active: "Everyone loves adorable animals," Brooks said. "I try to find the cubs or babies."

Although the board does not feature or advertise specific L.L. Bean merchandise, Brooks said the pictures do contribute to the company's overall brand.

She said Pinterest is one of a growing number of social media websites that help drive traffic to the company's own website. L.L. Bean is among the best-known Maine businesses around the world, thanks in large part to its widely distributed catalogs.

This is not the company's first encounter with viral fame. In December, a Cape Elizabeth woman created a Tumblr page titled "Your L.L. Bean Boyfriend," featuring photos from catalogs of men modeling L.L. Bean clothing, with captions of things they might say.

In one post, one male model wearing an L.L. Bean flannel shirt is shown with the words, "I just saw a Groupon for scuba diving lessons. What do you think? We could do them together and then go for a week of scuba diving in La Ceiba."

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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