Becca Bijoch of Minneapolis hates to cook. No, she loathes it.
"I'm horrible at it," she confesses.
But she recently spent a Saturday whipping up one soup recipe after another. Her inspiration? The Pinterest bulletin board site.
This popular social network lets users "pin" photos and videos they find online to the virtual equivalents of corkboards. Such pinning has become a passion for millions of Pinterest users, each of whom can create a variety of boards aligned with their interests, beliefs and goals.
Bijoch, for instance, had the goal of making soup.
So, to give herself a boost, she found a variety of recipes online and pinned a picture from each recipe to one of her boards. When she was ready to get cooking, she needed only to click one of the photos to pull up the recipe on its original cooking site, such as bettycrocker.com or skinnytaste.com or shape.com .
But Bijoch uses Pinterest for much more than learning to cook.
In the evening, she'll roam fashion boards created by other users to get outfit ideas for the next day. On weekends, she explores home-decorating boards to get project ideas for her home.
She also pins items she plans to purchase soon. She loves that these visual bookmarks link back to the original shopping sites "so I'm able to buy, buy, buy."
Even those who "have no intention of planning a wedding, making a recipe, crafting or shipping" can enjoy Pinterest, Bijoch said. "It is visually stimulating. Scrolling through it is a delightful way to spend time online."
The 2-year-old site has seen explosive growth, especially in recent months. It grew to more than 11.7 million unique monthly users as of January, according to the ComScore online-tracking service, and doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon.
"Pinterest's traffic charts aren't hockey sticks," said business-tracking firm RJMetrics, in a reference to slow growth that suddenly spikes to resemble a hockey stick on a chart. "They're rocket ships."
This growth is being driven largely by women, who are using the site far more than men, according to ComScore. Pinterest users are a devoted bunch, spending on average nearly 16 minutes per visit on the site, the firm said.
"Pinterest is a great example of what works well in digital and social: Do one thing, but do it really well," said Craig Key, associate media director at Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency space150.
Why has Pinterest caught on? Key has a few theories.
"People love sharing great content," he said. "A strong visual is more powerful than text. Pinterest brilliantly translates something analog, a corkboard, into a digital format. It's a corkboard where you can invite friends to collaborate."
Mary Lower of Maple Grove uses Pinterest to post photos of faraway places she'd like to visit with her husband, Christopher; to clip items from magazine sites the way she does with physical magazines; and to get child-friendly recipe ideas for her three kids.
This weekend, she said, she'll try to make a sandwich that looks like the Tow Mater character from the movie "Cars."
She's even learning about the style preferences of her 19-year-old niece, who lives in Washington, D.C.
"She loves silver rings as much as I do," Lower has discovered. "All those gifts I've given her have paid off."
KSTP-TV news anchor Vineeta Sawkar gets scads of home-improvement ideas on Pinterest, including how to "rearrange our back closet to better accommodate my kids' hockey gear."
While at the supermarket, she'll fire up the Pinterest app on her iPhone to get cooking inspiration. "I often surprise my kids at the bus stop with creative Pinterest snack ideas."
Bethany Gladhill of St. Paul loves that she can "find crafty ideas without having to visit a million craft-mom sites. I have a million good ideas now."
Gladhill, a consultant specializing in historic preservation, nonprofits and arts management, is even thinking about how Pinterest can add pizzazz to what she does on the job.
Brands on Pinterest range from the Gap and Whole Foods to the HGTV cable channel and the Mashable tech site.
Creative Kidstuff, the local chain of toy stores, was nudged onto Pinterest late last year by its Minneapolis-based public relations agency, Lola Red Public Relations.
Bijoch, who works on that Lola Red account when she isn't at home cooking soup, said posting Creative Kidstuff gear on Pinterest "is driving traffic and sales to the website" while indirectly helping its Facebook and Twitter communities.
The firm now has a dozen boards ranging from "get crafty" and "too cute for words" to "Creative Kidstuff team favorites."
The Twin Cities-based Heavy Table food site recently noticed "an uptick of activity on Pinterest linking to our content out of the blue," said Aaron Landry, a site producer.
"We decided to have a presence on Pinterest, led by one of our photographers who is addicted to the service herself," Landry said.
Though "we don't see a ton of traffic to our site from Pinterest yet, we are certainly noticing an upward trend, so we're keeping our eyes on it closely," he said.
Key, of space150, said "Pinterest is on our radar, and that of every other marketer worth a shake."
Julio Ojeda-Zapata Reach him: email@example.com or 651-228-5467. Follow him: ojezap.com/social.
What is it? Think of Pinterest as a bulletin board site with the virtual equivalents of corkboards for posting, organizing and sharing content you find online.
How does it work? Create "boards" on the Pinterest site, and then "pin" interesting photos or videos to your boards from various websites. Think of it as visual bookmarking to save stuff you want to look at later. Items on a board typically link back to their sites of origin.
You can create multiple boards, each focused on a topic that interests you, and rearrange your boards however you like. You can also browse boards created by others. Once there, you can like items, comment on them and "repin" them to your boards.
Pinterest offers a directory organized by subject so you can zero in on boards you are bound to like. Once you find such boards, you can "follow" them to keep up with new items. You also can follow a Pinterest user and all of his or her boards.
Why should you care? Because of Pinterest's popularity, it's a good bet people you know are on it. This is a new and novel way to interact with them.
Pinterest is also a good way to organize information - recipes, craft ideas, home-improvement strategies, books and movies to check out - for future reference.
Where is it? Pinterest.com
Copyright 2012 TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press