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There's been a lot of buzz lately around new social media networks focused on content curation.

Pinterest, a virtual pinboard that lets you collect and post your favourite things on the web, is driving the most interest. But others, such as Buyosphere, an online shopping destination based on community recommendations, are gaining traction.

To say Pinterest is growing quickly is an understatement. According to a report from Shareaholic, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined. It recently became the fastest website to attract more than 10 million unique monthly visitors. Time magazine named it one of the 50 best websites of 2011 and Techcrunch named it the best new startup of 2011.

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Interior designers are sharing images that inspire them, and the DIY crowd is sharing a never-ending supply of new projects to try out.

Brands such as Whole Foods Market have jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon, creating visually appealing pinboards on topics ranging from desserts to vegetables and holiday dinners.

Buyosphere, founded by Canadian Tara Hunt, is focused more on actual purchases. It provides a "questions" forum for users to ask the community about products they're thinking about buying, as well as a "discover" space for users to share product recommendations or their latest wants.

Both sites are celebrating online content in a personal way, allowing users to filter the sometimes overwhelming Internet experience and keep tabs on the latest trends by simply following like-minded groups or individuals.

Brands have an exciting opportunity to capitalize on these new consumer touch points and be involved in the dialogue. These types of sites generate buzz with high-value potential and drive significant amounts of traffic back to a brand's website, which can lead to sales.

There are a few caveats if brands want to take full advantage, however. With more people being driven back to your site, it becomes imperative that it can handle the traffic, is constantly up-to-date and has e-commerce options that are up to industry standards.

These networks and others like them also place a heavy importance on design, which will force brands to revise their content-creation strategies to ensure people continue to share.

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In most cases, you will need compelling, high-quality images with more nuanced branding, if any at all, to attract attention. Quick how-to visuals replace in-depth instructions, and creative uses of products or problem-solving ideas are shared more than straight product shots. A picture of your company's latest end table is okay, but a picture of your company's latest end table featured in a local designer's latest project is great.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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About the Author
Social and Earned Media Columnist

A combination of entrepreneurial spirit and timing led Mia Pearson to co-found North Strategic, a communications agency built on the belief that social needs to be integrated into everything you do. A serial entrepreneur, Ms. More

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