How to Not Suck at Pinterest
Stop pinning food. And wedding dresses.
Hello. I’m the person who fixes people’s Pinterest accounts all day. Nice to meet you.
Okay, here’s a more in-depth explanation: I’m a copywriter who specializes in Pinterest for businesses. I teach people regularly how to use this fantastic social media tool to better improve their business’s reach and speak more directly to their customers.
What’s that? You didn’t know copywriters could specialize in Pinterest? Oh my, we’re going to have a talk.
Pinterest is an extremely unique social media network in that it operates more like a search engine than an algorithm-oriented network of posts.
Yes, Pinterest does curate posts based on what they believe you’ll like based on past preferences. But Pinterest has taken a stance far different from that of, say, Facebook. They’re not interested in creating a Like Machine run by robots. They’re far more interested in building a “human indexing machine.”
In short, Pinterest isn’t interested in tricking people into liking certain pins. It’s the same attitude Google took with the Panda update—pins that are clearly NOT SPAM will do well, as well as those that are deemed safe by common-sense spam bots and humans alike. Their most recent acquisitions have been of a search engine, an image search-based shopping site, a service that suggests images based on words typed, and a personal article indexer. They’re not messing around with search.
And why would they? 87% of all Pinterest users claim to have bought something based on having seen it on Pinterest. They’re twice as likely as the average consumer to start planning Christmas shopping early. The users of this platform come to it with an eye to buy. Compare this to Facebook and Twitter, where the idea is “connecting.” Pay no attention to all the ads blocking the pictures your Aunt Sally just posted.
All this to say: If you own a business, it’s really important to not suck at Pinterest.
1. Think hard about what actually makes sense for your brand.
Oh my god. If I have to lecture one more brand about why they don’t need a wedding board, I’m going to scream. Ditto with typography. Ditto with Millennial Pink Anything.
Not to say that going with the most popular pin types on Pinterest is a bad technique. The crucial factor is whether it rings true to your brand. If you’re a food blog looking to get Pinterest traffic with your wedding board, you’re going to look clueless. Unless it’s for wedding food… that’s resonant to your audience, and a unique subject to book!
2. Make sure your boards are sorted properly.
This is one mistake that astounds me. But it pains me that I must repeat it: When you build a new board on Pinterest, it should be properly formatted.
Let’s take a board of mine, all about outdoor haunted house decorations:
There are only three factors that really matter on this board in terms of SEO: The name, the description, and the category. If you want an appealing cover image, fabulous. But we’re focusing on the top three here.
Your board needs a title that makes sense. Don’t get fancy. My board could have been better with a title like “Outdoor Halloween Decorations,” since that’s what most people might search for. But long titles are cut off on Pinterest are the epitome of an amateur move. So I went with “haunts” as a second keyword, a term used by the DIY haunted house movement that may also catch peripheral Halloween traffic.
Notice how many keyword combinations I have in the description: Haunted house, DIY, DIY tutorials, inspiration, outdoor, Halloween, Halloween project. I constructed these in a sentence format so that it wouldn’t look spammy or tryhard. Take notes.
Finally, pick a category. This does matter. Selecting a category raises your chances of showing up if someone if browsing by subject. You also want to give Pinterest every incentive to recommend your board when people pin similar content to yours.”
3. Make sure your pins don’t suck.
Death to hashtags. Go on, fight me.
Here’s when you should use a hashtag: When you’re holding a contest. That’s it. You can tag a Pinterest account with the @ symbol, and you can spell out “grain free” using whole words like an adult. Without a hyphen, by the way. You want to make sure you’re showing up for people whether or not they’re using a hyphen.
I understand how hashtags started showing up on Pinterest. It’s fun to start a community around a keyword, and they’re really fun on Twitter and Instagram. But content isn’t as fleeting on Pinterest as it is on both Twitter and Instagram. You want to make sure people find your Grain Free Rice Krispie Treats recipe even when #grf no longer means Grain Free. You have to play the long game with your pin titles and descriptions.
Doubly so if you want to sell things through pins or plan to use Rich Pins. Get your head in the game, people.
4. Populate your boards (i.e. pin enough so you can be found period).
“My boards aren’t gathering me any traffic!” A client may say.
“Well, how many pins are on each board?” I ask.
“Well, there’s one with 742 pins. But the rest have about 10–20 each.”
This is where I shove a Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin in my mouth to keep from saying, “Are you freaking serious?”
Pinterest boards need to be full of pins for the content within the account to be found. More than this, pinning evenly is key to not being flagged as spam. As well as, you know, looking like you’re trying to blend in when you’re really scamming for Pinterest traffic.
There’s no accepted standard, but this is the number I’ve seen work for Black Bow clients consistently: 15 boards at 35 pins each. Once you hit those numbers, things really start to take off. Your content is likely diverse enough to attract genuine interest, you’re involved enough to not look like spam, and you don’t look like a dog in a pinner’s costume. So to speak.
5. Pin consistently.
This is the simplest step to undertake in this list, but also the one that I see people trip up on most.
“I don’t have time to pin every day!” People have whined to me.
“Then why are you on Pinterest?” I wanted to roar back.
I’ve managed accounts for dozens of people, a job I love. I love that I get to help people build and maintain a presence on an exciting social media network. But the sad truth is that lots of people are just too lazy to reap the benefits of Pinterest. You know how many pins per day you need? Four. That’s it. Four well-curated, on-brand, non-sucky pins are all you need. Every day. Just four and you’re golden.
If you want to use Tailwind or a curation tool, fine. But don’t come crying to me if you accidentally put a pin with a hashtag into your rotation and now it’s on all your boards (you think—where did it set to go, exactly?). Or if Pinterest shuts you down because your high rate of pinning looks like spam. Or if the traffic to your account is down because your pins are all directed out to your website. All of theses are risks you take when you employ an internal tool to Pinterest use.
Look, Pinterest isn’t that hard. Most social media work isn’t hard if you have an education in copywriting and/or branding. Basic SEO knowledge helps, but you don’t need to be extensively trained in it to do well.
The brands that are successful on Pinterest are consistent and pay attention to detail. It’s about do things right every time you try to do them. The best part is, it’s never too late to correct your mistakes.
Need help fixing your Pinterest account, or marketing your big strange idea? Contact Brit on her website, Black Bow Communications.
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