There are slews of apps and websites to help you make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two mondo-consumerist U.S. holidays.
But Pinterest, the out-of-nowhere social network that became wildly popular this year, may offer some of the freshest approaches to online gift-giving this season.
"This holiday shopping season will mark a turning point for Pinterest," Julia Boorstin wrote on a CNBC blog. "The social scrapbooking platform valued at $1.5 billion isn't making money itself yet. But it's been helping retailers connect with customers since it launched a year and a half ago, and now it's actively trying to help brands cash in. And this all-important shopping season companies are increasingly using it to drive online sales."
Here are five ways you can pin yourself to a more productive (and gift-filled) holiday.
1. Create a secret wish list: On November 8, Pinterest updated its site to allow users to create up to three private pin boards. You could use one of these to pin images of products that you'd like to receive during the holiday season, and then you could share that page with a couple of relatives. Since posts on Pinterest link back to the website where you found the image you're sharing, it makes it easy for Mom or Dad to find exactly the item you're looking for.
The downside: This exercise in "give me this!" pinning could be a turn-off for family members who want to be more creative -- or for people who have only a vague idea of what gifts they would like to receive.
"Whatever you pin appears to refer to specific brands, colors, or size, even if that's not what you intended," writes Jill Duffy for PC Mag. "Pinterest works wonderfully for sharing images of the exact tennis racquet you want, but isn't as good for convincing your family that any old tube socks will do."
2. Pin boards with gift ideas for others: If narcissism isn't your thing, you could use private Pinterest boards to make visual lists of the gifts you'd like to buy for friends or family members. Since Pinterest allows only three private boards per user, it might be smarter to make one board with gift ideas for everyone on your list. Download a browser extension for Pinterest that lets you share a photo to your board in a couple clicks.
"This is one time I wish Pinterest offered more than three boards, as having one for each person on your holiday list could be most useful," writes Scott Kleinberg for the Chicago Tribune. "And if Santa uses Pinterest, this could change everything we know about making the list and checking it twice."
Using Pinterest's mobile app, you could take these lists with you to the store. Or, of course, you could go all Cyber Monday on it and buy the goods online.
3. Get "30 Days of Pinspiration": In a blog post on Tuesday, Pinterest announced a guide to the holidays called "30 Days of Pinspiration" (not "perspiration," but we know you were thinking it, too). It works sort of like an online Advent calendar. Over the next month, the company will unveil "a series of holiday boards from people, businesses, non-profit organizations, celebrities, and more," it says.
"From what to cook and how to decorate to ways to give back and health tips for the new year, there's a little something for everyone."
Day 1: Thanksgiving traditions from Katie Couric. Follow the project at this site: http://holidays.pinterest.com.
The switch seems to be effective for websites. In a blog post, Pinterest said that Allrecipes, a cooking site, saw 50,000 recipes and 139 mililon impressions in a three-month trial period. Several retailers have set up Pinterest pages in time for the holidays. Among them: Gap, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Shopbop and Etsy.
Many of these pages highlight women's apparel and accessories, which makes sense since most of Pinterest's users are female. But there are dude-specific boards too, including Dudepins and Manteresting.
The Verge and Mashable, technology-focused websites, also have a robust set of gadget boards that may help you shop for that tech-head on your list.
5. Snoop on family members: Finally, and maybe this is an obvious one, but if your family members are active on Pinterest (or Twitter or Facebook), you could snoop through the products they've posted about to get ideas for gifts that may be appropriate.
If your loved ones aren't freaked out by this invasion of their public-private life, they may thank you for it later.