Today in the Harvard Business Review, I invite companies to meet your Pinterest customer — me! I’ve been using Pinterest for over a year, after I was introduced to it by Samantha Lefort, a talented designer and Emily Carr University alum. My experience using Pinterest over the past year provides a snapshot of how companies can use Pinterest to connect to their customers in the year ahead.

My year on Pinterest has also left me eager to see the platform evolve so that it can become even more useful to brands, organizations, bloggers and Pinterest users. Beyond the much-discussed possibility of rolling out some kind of branding feature  that would reflect the emergence of brand pages, Pinterest can and should develop new features to make the service even more useful to pinners, bloggers and companies. On my wish list:

  • Better tags:  A month after I signed up, Pinterest phased out its separate tags (keywords) field in favor of Twitter-style hashtags you can include in your pin’s description. The result? Very few people tag their pins, so it’s a lot harder to form spontaneous collections across boards, spot interesting relationships among pins, or discover pinners with interests like yours.
  • RSS feeds: Pinterest’s only RSS feeds are for individual users, so there is no way to follow the latest pins from across the site, or from individual boards. Per-tag and per-pinboard feeds would make it possible to track the pins that interest you in a news reader like Google Reader, and to be more selective about which pins you showcase on your own blog.
  • Social widgets: WordPress bloggers can use a Pinterest widget to embed their latest pins in their blogs, but Pinterest will be a lot more useful to businesses once it offers a socialized widget that shows site visitors what their friends are pinning. Imagine visiting Etsy and seeing the latest Etsy items your friends have pinned, or visiting Design within Reach and seeing what your friends are drooling over. I’m guessing lots of retailers would pay to have this kind of social targeting for their sites.
Developing features like these — features that would make the platform closer to the norms of other social media sites and the expectations of social media users — will help Pinterest sustain its remarkable growth. I hope Pinterest users will continue to suggest ways the platform can improve the service it offers to both organizations and users.