Pinterest is the newest site in the growing army of social networks – in fact, it’s the third most popular network, behind the old-timers (i.e. created before 2010), Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, knowing that doesn’t really help anyone looking for more information about how to use this place of personal pinning.

That’s why we decided to ask Pat Sloan, a D.C.-based quilter extraordinaire, about how she’s using Pinterest.

Why Pat?  Well, she runs her own quilting and fabric business with just one other employee – her husband.

She does all the blogging, email marketing, “Facebooking,” and pinning by herself, and has 8,000 Facebook fans, 8,000 subscribers for her email newsletter, and nearly 2,800 followers on Pinterest.

That’s more Pinterest followers than The Humane Society of the United States and McDonald’s.

Pat’s Pinterest Page is more organic, local, and personal than bigger organizations and that’s something that seems to flourish on Pinterest. So I talked with her about her pinning secrets.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Tell me a little bit about the business.

Basically, my job is as a designer in hobby industry of quilting. We have designers at all levels and all types. I create patterns, write books, and design fabric for quilters.  I also teach workshops. Plus I have a fun and casual radio station I host for American Patchwork & Quilting magazine, the premier magazine in the industry..

I’ve been in business for twelve years full-time with my husband,  just the two of us!

When did you start using Pinterest? Was it for personal or professional use at first?

Quilting and everyone who quilts, is very visual. When Pinterest started, it was closed, but I knew some artistic people who were pinning. Someone I knew sent me an invite and I jumped in and started messing around to see what it was all about.

It’s been about a year and a half since I started. When I created my first boards, there wasn’t a lot going on.  There were definitely no big corporate boards or presence. It was all what the average person created-  beautiful collections in their boards, pretty small time.

I don’t hire anyone to do any of my social media, so everything is my personal style and my personal interests. I love creating boards (and working on Facebook and Twitter) and since I enjoy it so much, that means it’s not hard.  It’s really my fun!

Pat says Pinterest is like building your own magazine with “your own curated board.”

How do you use Pinterest?

At first, I was just clicking and pinning pictures from the people I followed. And I followed everyone who had images I liked. It’s like a Google Image search, but it’s curated by individuals with their own style. Since a person curates their own board, I find that if I like their board, I want to see all they do.  It’s similar to getting magazine issues, reading blogs or watching a TV show… if you like the content, then you want to follow them.

When you follow someone, you see what they’re pinning and then you can see who their friends are too. It’s basically a little bread trail of pretty pictures. Sometimes I follow through to find new and interesting boards I want to know about.

I mostly use Pinterest to collect images I find inspiring. I’m so visual – I love colors and shapes and forms and designs – I collect  boards of clothing, hairstyles, make-up, interior design, gardens, and of course lots of quilts. All images that have a big visual element.

What would you say is the most important thing for new Pinners to keep in mind?

You have to be sure that you link to where your pinned images originally came from. That’s a big thing. People share images, but they won’t have them properly linked to where it came from. That means people can’t go find it, so that’s annoying all around.

I think you should collect and build your boards around your passions. If you like to cook, put things on there you want to make, want to buy, or have made. That’s why I follow someone’s board – it’s something that interests me, not just a bunch of random photos.

How have you used it in tandem with email, Facebook, and Twitter?

I put a link on my blog to my Pinterest page, and it’s also linked on Facebook.

When I have a new radio show, books, or fabric coming out, I’ll talk about it and include Pinterest as my place for sharing.

People who hang out at Pinterest may not go on Facebook – in business, you have to be everywhere, but customers aren’t everywhere. As far as using the Pinterest comment feature… There are a lot of people who have a lot of comments on their Pinterest posts and interact that way, but I don’t generally use the comment area there.

Being a two-person business means it’s hard to juggle everything. I love Pinterest, because it’s interesting to me personally. It’s fun, but if you sell something like fishing equipment, you may find that you don’t have an audience there… so it could be a real drain on your time to build boards nobody follows. Each business has to decide what works for them.

How do you come up with new material to pin?

I repin a lot. I do more repining than uploading, although I do pin my own personal quilts and business item. Sometimes, I’ll be other places – like reading somebody’s blog  – and I want to save it in my folder, so then I will pin from the blog I’m looking at,  because I  want to make sure I can find it again.

Pat often repins designs she finds interesting – creating a community around the content.

For me, it’s like building a magazine with your own curated board, but I think people are using it a lot of different ways. I  know other business are putting up all the items in their store, but in my community we use it more to keep track of things we like.

Has Pinterest generated a lot of business for you?

I’ve connected with a few people because of my pin boards. I might have gotten business from it, because I do put up new things from my business, but that’s all part of the social cycle – it’s not like I’m Macy’s and put a picture of a sofa up there and then I can see I sold fifteen of them. My boards are more about community.

Do you think Pinterest has lasting potential? Why or why not?

I don’t think it will fade away, but I think it will probably change. It’s so new and everything changes. Right now, it’s very hard to find the original source of an image and that is a problem they are working to solve.  The problem of referencing the original photos is a big deal and I know they are aware of it.

Overall, though, I do think it has very lasting potential. I love the visual effect of it, and a lot of big businesses now are putting their time into it and they’re getting some great results, because it’s a unique way to showcase their products.

What do you think of Pinterest – do you have any secret Pinning strategies for your business?