Lately, it’s been hard to miss an article published about the photo-sharing, pinboard platform Pinterest and its popularity. People love it and Internet Marketers love it. But what about other new, emerging social media? If you haven’t heard about it yet (not at all related to Pinterest), then now is the time!

Pinwheel is a new social media start-up by Caterina Fake, the co-founder of Flickr, another tremendously popular photo-sharing social platform. Pinwheel was just announced by Fake in February and is still in invite-only private beta mode. It takes a different approach to sharing, although not original (similar ideas were attempted by at least two other startups circa 2006 and 2009 from what I can ascertain). Pinwheel’s central idea for the user, like those before, is to find and leave notes around the world on a mapping platform (Google maps, to be exact), but Pinwheel has many things going for it that the others did not, and let’s face it, timing is everything!

Pinwheel brings it all into one platform. It combines elements from our most popular social places on the web from Foursquare, Twitter, Google reviews, Craigslist “missed connections” (not that I actually use this), rental and property listings like Hotpads, crowd-sourced knowledge like Wikipedia, Pinterest and more. You can follow “sets,” which can be thought of as following a pin board on Pinterest, follow people, even places, and through doing so find new information, learn, search, document and discover. The combination of its familiarity and newness could be the recipe for success.

The top 5 reasons why Pinwheel has potential:

1. Simple, Intuitive user experience. This is a given for any successful social media platform, let alone digital or web interface. It has to make sense for the user. You’ve only got 3 tabs to choose from in Pinwheel and everything you need can be found on the homepage when logging in. There’s “Home”, “Leave a Note” and “Big Map” and search functions by either location or topic. You know exactly what you can do and how you can do it from the beginning.2. Customization. This is the overall value that users will get from Pinwheel:  the ability to post private, public, friends-only, and specific individual posts. This allows people to customize the app in the ways that are most useful and meaningful to them – the real value to the user. And they will. People are already using it in a variety of ways including documenting ancestry, reviewing restaurants and businesses, listing the best places for hiking, listing properties for sale, detailing events, logging historical facts, planning trips and more. For me and many others already using Pinwheel, I can tell that it makes a great geo-journal of sorts, chronicling my travels and memories with a note and a favorite photo. You can track and tag these different posts with “sets”, like “Eurotrip 2006”, “Favorite Spots”, “Places to Travel,” “Restaurants to be Rated” and whatever else you can imagine. People can follow your “sets” and you can follow theirs. Once the platform opens up to the public, I’m sure its uses will go far beyond what we can imagine now.3. Social, Local, Mobile. The future of the web is all about social going local, through mobile. Pinwheel is the very definition of this trend, undoubtedly the future of where internet marketing and the web are going. Its mobile app is still in development, but once released, Fake expects that it will become the “primary experience” for users, the “perfect social object,” like a “Flickr for places”. But, really, it will become whatever the user wants. If you want notifications from only three of your friends – you can set them up! If you simply want to use Pinwheel to write reviews for your favorite restaurants, making them visible to a specific group, go ahead! This is the social aspect of Pinwheel that I think will fuel its engines.

4. Sponsored Notes. Businesses can leave location based advertisements and offer deals, much like in Foursquare, but this includes everything from local realtors putting up listings for rentals and homes for sale, to special deals at local restaurants and bars to restaurants perhaps mapping where they get their products and ingredients, which would work well for a local, organic restaurant. The value for the business and for the users is there. Seeing how Pinwheel will decide to show or not show these sponsored notes to specific users will be interesting.5. Value for Businesses. The value Pinwheel holds for businesses is the ability to become a part of users’ social story or experience. It’s not just 1 to 5 star reviews from patrons or check-ins documenting how often they’ve been there, it’s their experiences, memories, special events, a moment in time…Where someone proposed, reconnected with an old friend, had the best night of their life, holds their dearest memory. Businesses, I believe, will have a huge opportunity to make their customer’s stories a part of their own – and the story is straight from the user. I must say, it is pretty neat to go places to record a memory, whether for yourself, your friends or the public, and see the special moments that others have also had in those same places.

Of course, Pinwheel and its possibilities are still in their infancy, but it will be exciting to see what happens as the platform evolves and user experiences and interactions grow. For example, I am curious to see how Pinwheel will have ways of filtering through the notes on the map. If I go to a location, like a restaurant, and it has hundreds (or even thousands) of individual posts, how will I be able to sift through them? What if I just want to read the reviews, or look at notes from my Facebook friends?

Having used Pinwheel, the platform is incredibly enjoyable already, so I imagine that it will only get better, especially once the mobile app comes out. The major hurdle for Pinwheel, as for all new social applications: is it just another social media platform that we will only consider adding to our bundle…or will everyone jump in and participate?

If you are interested in joining in the private beta mode, you can go to Pinwheel.com and sign up for an invite.

Tags: networks, pinboard