How to Investigate Individuals and Companies Using Pinterest
SMI’s Social Media for Investigations Series:
Pinterest for Investigations
There is a consensus among investigators that social media has become an
invaluable tool for online investigations. Most are familiar with the big
hitters such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but where does one go
when the major social networks are not coming to the surface during an
Pinterest can be an excellent tool to gain access to your subject’s social
media presence, online activities, travel, and even daily movement.
The following is an investigator’s guide for using Pinterest as a tool for
Intro to Pinterest
Pinterest did not arrive onto the social networking scene until its debut in
2010. In only a few years, Pinterest went from its initial 5,000 members to
70 million “pinners” and now has more active users than the popular
professional networking site, LinkedIn.
The Pinterest language is easy to learn. The following is a brief list of
Pinterest terms that will be useful to know for navigating
this site and this guide.
An image that you can upload and add to your
account to show your friends or save for later.
Typically this image has a link attached to it that
will take those who click it to a different website.
For example: A common pin includes an image of a
meal. Clicking on this pin typically takes you to
the recipe for the meal.
A Pinterest user who creates pins
Pinning an image that was originally pinned by someone
Pinners organize their pins into boards (similar to a
ﬁle) that typically have a theme. For example:
Restaurant review pins could be all saved onto one
board called “Restaurants to Try.”
You can “follow” pinners and/or their boards or be
“followed” by other pinners.
How to Set Up an Account
1. Go to Pinterest.com
2. Choose to sign up through Facebook or an email account
3. If you choose to link your Facebook account with Pinterest, Facebook will
give the necessary information to Pinterest.
Hint: See privacy settings to choose whether or not you want your Facebook account
publically available to other pinners.
4. If you choose to sign up through an email
account, you will be asked to enter your
name, email address, password, and
5. Start Pinning! You can either re-pin
from the newsfeed that you will see
upon creating an account, or you can
create pins of your own.
How and Why to Use Pinterest in Online
Pinterest can be an invaluable tool when investigating a subject online. A
big plus to beginning your online investigation with Pinterest is that
Pinterest does not require you to have an account to search the site.
Anyone is free to search 70+ million Pinterest users, but once you have
your subject’s Pinterest account, what do you do with it? The following are
just a few ways to successfully use Pinterest for online investigations.
Pinterest Links to Other Social Media Accounts and More.
More than 9 million pinners link their Pinterest page to their Facebook
account. Pinners also have the ability to link their Pinterest account to their
Twitter page, personal website, Flickr account, blog, etc. All of these sites
can be accessed through icons and links on a Pinterest page.
YouTube accounts can also be found through a Pinterest page. Every video
on Pinterest is provided by YouTube, and therefore can be traced back to
the individuals YouTube account. YouTube accounts are connected to
Because Pinterest accounts are more often public and searchable than
other social media accounts, Pinterest can often be the clue that one needs
to open up a subject’s online social media presence.
Most Businesses Now Have a Social Media Strategy
And that social media strategy often includes a Pinterest account.
Pinterest is an excellent marketing tool that allows customers to follow
their favorite businesses and share their favorite products.
This becomes valuable to investigators when one has the opportunity to
ﬁnd a person-of-interest’s online presence through their place of
employment or known business ventures. If the subject of an investigation
is an employee at a company who uses Pinterest, the chances are good that
the subject follows that company’s pins.
There are two ways to locate the subject of an investigation through their
business’s Pinterest account:
1. Every Pinterest page will have a searchable list of followers as well
as a list of who the business itself follows. Search these lists for
Hint: Typically the “Following” list of the company will be shorter than the “Followers.” Start
with the “Following” using a simple Ctrl F search of the screen.
2. When you click on a board posted by the business, you can see who
is following that board. This is a separate, and often shorter, list
To access this list click “Followers” in the upper right-hand corner of
Find the Holy Grail of Online Investigations: The Username
One often overlooked characteristic of the Pinterest page is the URL. URLs
contain the username that was entered by the account holder. This
information is crucial to an online investigation as people often use the
same username for all of their social media accounts. One search with a
good username can pull up social networking accounts, dating sites,
classiﬁed ads, gaming accounts, anonymous blogs, and much more.
To ﬁnd a subject’s username in the Pinterest URL, navigate to the pinner’s
proﬁle page and use the information provided in the URL.
Pinterest Maps Movement, Literally.
Pinterest has recently added a location capability that allows users to add a
speciﬁc location to each one of their pins. After a pinner adds locations to
their pins, they can then generate a map which displays the locations of all
of a board’s pins.
700 River Ave
Pittsburgh, Pa 15212
From the pinner’s perspective they are simply sharing their favorite
restaurants, night spots, travel destinations, etc.
From the investigator’s perspective, you can actually track the movement of