Why you can’t afford to ignore the power of Pinterest…

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: April 5th, 2015 In: Writing & blogging help

Many people rave about Pinterest.

It’s certainly great for planning and research. But how can it help you promote your blog or business?

I’ve carried out a one-month experiment using Pinterest to attract readers to  this blog. The results have been astonishing – I’ve had the highest month of  traffic ever since I started the blog 16 months ago.

Yet I only had 160 followers on Pinterest (compared to thousands on Twitter).

If you’re a blogger, you sell on Etsy or other auction sites or work in an area where visual images are important (plant nursery, garden design, florist…), Pinterest is a natural fit.

STUNNING colour for your GARDEN borders

Pinterest has very easy-to-read analytics – apparently this is my most popular pin -it appeared in my post on Colour Combos for Your Garden. According to Pinterest, more than 20,000 people have seen it.

So what’s so  good about Pinterest?

Pinterest is an online ‘board’ to which you ‘pin’ pictures that interest you. People use it to find things they like, and then to keep a record of those finds.

All other social media is about interaction with other people.

Pinterest is about stuff. Planning a new kitchen? Create a Pinterest board called ‘My New Kitchen’. When you see gorgeous kitchen units, flooring, worksurfaces etc online, ‘pin’ them to the ‘My New Kitchen’ board. This keeps all your online kitchen research in one place.

If you are researching a new planting plan, for example, there will be pictures of the various plants side-by-side so you’ll be able to see how they work together.

When you actually come to decide on which units or flooring you’ll buy for your kitchen (or which plants you’ll order for the border), there’s a good chance you will buy something you pinned from the board.

Ruth Soukup of the Elite Blog Academy describes Pinterest as ‘the most powerful marketing tool ever’. Social media expert Peg Fitzpatrick says that ‘pins last a  long time – 3.5 months after first being pinned, they’re still getting traffic.
Compare that to 20 seconds on  Twitter.’

plant pot strategy

And this is my 2nd most popular pin, linked to my post on How to Turn Your Patio From Blah to Fantastic

And Pinterest sells

Unlike most social media, Pinterest leads to sales. Twitter  and the others (LinkedIn, Facebook etc) are about information and  relationships. Pinterest is about finding and sharing beautiful images of things.

Home decor and DIY are its most popular areas, both of which include  gardening.  Statistics from Piqora says that 50% of orders come approximately  2.5 months after first pinning.

I can’t find a reliable statistic for how many  Pinterest users in the UK buy as a result of finding something on Pinterest, but in the US 47% of online buyers have bought something they saw on Pinterest.

my 3rd most popular pin

I was interested to find out that this was my 3rd most popular Pin. It seems much
less practical than some of the others. It’s linked to my post on planning your garden jobs the Great Dixter
way.

And Pinners love gardening…

The top Pinterest interest categories are homes, beauty, weddings and food.

Both homes and food include gardening. Among the top 10 brands on Pinterest, gardening is included in four of them: Home & Garden TV, Better Homes & Gardens, Whole Foods and Apartment Therapy.

If you’re a garden designer, garden blogger, specialist nursery or a garden centre, Pinterest has to be worth taking seriously.

But it doesn’t have the same community feel as other social media, because it is so focussed on images. It’s also difficult to find pinners that you like – alot of the images are just not my style. But Pinterest has an algorithm like Facebook, so it is getting better. There are more things I like on it these days.

12 super stylish ideas for pots

This is what Pinterest analytics calls my top ‘Power Pin’. That means that it has the highest combination of re-pins, likes and clicks through to my website. This is  linked to my post on Francine Raymond’s container gardening.

 So how does Pinterest work?

Pinterest is a online pinboard, which people can share.

If, for example, you’re planning your container plants for the summer, you can put ‘container plants’ into Pinterest’s search engine. Lots of pictures of container plants will come up. You can scroll through them and pin the ones you like the most onto your board for inspiration.

My planting plan for the main border

You can make this board ‘private’ if you like, so only you can see it. Or it can be ‘public’, which means that other people looking for good ideas for their planting plans may come across your pins and pin them onto their own board. Still more people – who are following them – see your pin, and re-pin it onto their boards. And so on…That’s why someone like me, who only has 130 followers on Pinterest can reach 20,000 people with just one pin. (That doesn’t mean 20,000 people click through to your website, though – much less buy from you!).

What do you use Pinterest for?

People getting married create boards for their wedding – venues, food, the dress, the decorations etcetera.

Garden designers use Pinterest to create a mood board for their client. Garden planner and renovator Posy Gentles uses Pinterest to create boards for planting schemes – it makes it easy to show a client what the plants you recommend actually look like – and look like together.

Many designer-client boards remain private to the two of them, so you don’t have to worry about people seeing work in progress. I also find Pinterest very useful for storing articles I want to read later – for example, my How You Really Write a Blog board is like a drawer in a filing cabinet where I’ve saved useful posts.

editorial portrait by Richard Torble

Editorial portrait of me by Richard Torble. We planned our photo session using Pinterest. We got the idea of putting a chair in an unexpected place – the garden – by going through Pinterest photos of people and seeing one of a girl on a chair in the middle of the road.

Portrait photographer Richard Torble uses Pinterest to establish what feel a client is looking for – when he photographed me recently he created a Pinterest board that only he and I could see. We both pinned photos we liked onto it and it helped inspire the photos he took.

Ballerina in garden 2014

Some Pins have text on them (eg Ten Best Tulips). But plain photographs can work just as well. However, check how they pin from your website onto a Pinterest board – you may need to think about publishing them in a different size, as long thin photos work better than square ones on Pinterest.

What’s really popular on Pinterest?

Overall, ‘homes’ is the top Pinterest category and the other biggies are food, fashion, beauty, self-help, DIY and craft. Gardening is included in many of these categories, and is also in the Top 20 Popular Categories in its own right.

how to use PINTEREST

If you’re planning a border or a garden design, you can put together a board on Pinterest to see what the plants look like – and look like together. It’s much easier to see where the gaps are.

Is Pinterest easy?

The basics of using Pinterest are very easy. You sign onto Pinterest.com.

You will be asked whether you want to create a personal account or a business account. If you are using Pinterest to promote anything, choose the business account.

(If you already have a personal account you can switch it to ‘business’ easily.) A Pinterest business account can benefit from more Pinterest features. You’ll be able to track how well your Pins are doing, and you can even put a ‘buy this’ button on Pins that feature products for sale.

Fill in your profile with a bio and a photograph. Include a link to your website in the bio. Then create boards with names (My Latest Blog Post, Dahlias I Love, Fabulous Kitchens etc) and pin. Really easy. And free.

The Pinterest basics

You don’t have to be on Pinterest yourself to benefit from it. Make sure that your website has a ‘Pin It’ widget on it, and that individual posts or products can be shared on Pinterest. That means that people can share posts on your website on their Pinterest boards even if you are not yourself active on it.

And, of course, always have ‘share this on Pinterest’ buttons on your website. However, as with everything, the more you get involved, the more you benefit. I didn’t get many Pinterest shares from my website until I became active on Pinterest itself.

Then suddenly I found posts getting as many as 100 shares on Pinterest. That has the potential to reach thousands of people.

Pinterest can drive traffic to your blog months after you have pinned an image.

I started by using Pinterest purely to research my books – but it’s very effective
at attracting readers too.

The key to success is ‘Rich Pins’

The next step is to ‘enable your website for Rich Pins.’

Rich Pins are pins which always carry a link to your website (plus other key information), no matter how often they are re-pinned or how many times someone changes the caption. This means adding a line of code linking your Pinterest account and your website.

Pinterest will then verify that you are legitimately allowed to do this. This takes a couple of weeks. Then you are ready to go.

Pinterest suggest that you ask your web designer to do this, as it’s not straightforward unless you are quite technical.

Having your website enabled for Rich Pins means that if someone pins, say, your latest blog-post or product, then that Pin will always link back to your site, no matter how many people re-pin it.

So, for example, you have a blog called Roses For Everybody. On January 1st, you write a post about your latest yellow rose. I see it and like it, so I pin it to my ‘Roses’ board.

People on Pinterest are looking for ‘roses’ and ‘yellow flowers’ or they follow me. They find your post about your latest yellow rose on my Roses board and re-pin it to their boards.

By June, lots of people are searching for ‘roses’ or ‘yellow roses’. They come across your post on my Roses board, or on one of the other boards where it’s been pinned. They pin it to their boards. But however far it travels, it will always link back to your website, so when someone wants to buy one of your yellow roses, they know where to look. People selling on Etsy use Pinterest alot.

But that’s not the whole story…

I joined Pinterest about four years ago, because I’m also a novelist and it’s a great research tool. I was thinking of doing a novel set in the 1920s, and it was a great source of fashion images. But I didn’t use Pinterest to promote any of my work, and I was never re-pinned until I started taking Pinterest more seriously.

use Pinterest to help you plan or research work

Pinterest is also useful in planning – I use it as an online ‘filing cabinet’

So what do I pin?

Pin exciting images or useful articles from your sector.

If you’re a garden designer, pin images and articles about well-designed gardens, as well as images and posts from your website.

Create images to encourage other people to pin from your website or re-pin from your boards. Many garden designers, bloggers etc take fab photos for their websites. Which means that you can offer Pinterest users something new. Ninety percent of Pins are re-pinned, so if you are using your own original photos on your website, then this may increase your popularity.

Popular pins

I did some research on popular Pins. Images with text on them (see the picture below) tend to be re-pinned more often than plain images. I learned how to create Pinterest images from my own photos on www.canva.com. Other people use Picmonkey.

You can create pins from your own photos using Canva

I created this Pin myself (on Canva) from my own photo, adding text and a background to it.

However, some group boards (see later) forbid pictures with text. Some Pins have been just as successful without text, such as the one below. Experiment to see what works best for you. And, as with all social media, it’s important not to just pin your own images. Pin other people’s too.

Beautiful photos don't always need text on them to be successful Pins

I used this photograph of a bunch of dahlias in a post – without adding any text, and it was also successful.

Why should I pin other people’s images?

Surely you’re just promoting someone else’s business or blog instead of your own? What’s the sense in that?

Well, there is the spiritual ‘if you give something, you get more than you gave back.’

Or there is the statistic: you pin someone else’s gorgeous Pin. Lots of people pin it off you.

Pinterest recognises you as a more ‘popular Pinner’, who give people Pins they want.

Your own Pins are therefore more likely to appear higher up the feed when someone is searching ‘container plants’.

‘Give and you shall receive’ is the motto of social media. It really does work.

A Pinterest account which only features Pins from one website (yours) will generate less interest than a Pinterest board that showcases the best of what’s going on.

You get your Rich Pins – what happens next?

Once my Rich Pins were activated. I also joined several ‘group boards’.

A group (or collaborative) board is a board which invites other people to pin on it. Each group board has its own rules, and you may or may not be eligible to join (it will usually be explained in the board description).

The Middlesized Garden Group Pinterest Board

The Middlesized Garden Group Board. I’m happy to invite any gardeners or garden company who gets in touch, but no ads or spam, please, just garden pictures. And no more than 3 pins in a row. 

All group boards will require that you follow them. The advantage of pinning to Group Boards when you are starting out is that they already have a following. You can piggy-back some of that success.

Advanced tips and techniques

Many – but not all – top bloggers schedule their pins, using tools such as Tailwind. I have tried this, and it hasn’t worked for me.

The idea is that when you publish a new post, you can set up various times during the week when Pins will automatically go out to your chosen boards, including group boards. You don’t have to go to your website at different times in order to pin from it.

However, I think it’s easy to get confused. I may have set it up wrong, but when I used a scheduling tool, I found myself banned from one of the group boards (Shoot Gardening), for ‘suspicious behaviour’.

I sent a message to Shoot, apologising and asking what the suspicious behaviour had been. I was, however, too suspicious to merit a reply – I may have gone down forever as ‘spam’ in their books. I’m back to pinning manually, because at least I know what I’ve done.

Love Chic Living group board

Love Chic Living’s group board – Love Home Bloggers. Always read the rules of group boards before applying to join them, then stick to them!

Tip: When you start out Pinning for business (as opposed to using Pinterest as a planning or research
tool), joining a group board is a good way for people to find you.

Tip: Use keywords when you fill in the ‘Pinterest description’ box. If someone is looking for roses, you need to make sure the word ‘roses’ is in your caption and description. Search engines can’t see pictures (yet)!

Tip: Rich Pins only come from pictures published on your website, then Pinned, not straight from
your computer or camera.

So how do I find a group board relevant to my niche?

Aha. Not everything on Pinterest is easy.

Finding a group board, and then working out how to ask to be invited to it isn’t straightforward. I’ve looked quite hard and only found 4-5 boards I can (and would want to) contribute to. If you go onto The Middlesized Garden Pinterest profile you can find these because they have a two-person icon in the top right corner of the board

I have started a group board myself – please leave a comment below to be invited to pin to it, or email alexandra@themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk.

So what actually happens once you get Rich Pins?

In three weeks, the number of people who come to The Middle-sized Garden blog as a result of finding me on Pinterest has increased ten-fold. I had 40 visitors via Pinterest between Feb 16th and March 15. Between Mar 16th and April 15th, that climbed to 419.

Even in the past few days, Pinterest has overtaken Twitter as the main social media source of traffic. For many websites and blogs, that’s not a great deal of traffic, but it’s outstanding results for just 30 days and a small following.

Note: I updated this in June 2016: Results from Pinterest do reflect how much effort you put into pinning. Sometimes I only pin once or twice a week and Pinterest rather fades away as a traffic source. However, without spending more than an occasional 10 minutes here and there, I now have 640 followers (which is still low in social media terms) and get about 300 people reading the blog every month via Pinterest.

But social media isn’t always the main source of readers…

Social media isn’t the main way of attracting traffic to your blog or website. Most people (30%) find The Middle-Sized Garden through search engines. 28% link to me from other sites which have mentioned me. Only 23% find MSG through social media. Until now, that has been 90% Twitter. Sometimes Pinterest has outstripped Twitter – although I spend less time on Pinterest. And Twitter is also increasing as are my stats from all other sources – which may or may not be related to greater visibility on Pinterest.

So that’s it? Enable Rich Pins and people will beat a path to your door?

Er…not quite. As with anything, you always get more out of anything if you put more work in.

You will get some traffic without any effort if you have a Pinterest business account, enable your website for Rich Pins and add a ‘Pin It’ widget to your website.

You can then forget about it all. A small but steady trickle of traffic will come. It won’t change your life, but it might be useful. It will be better than nothing.

But you will get alot more traffic if you involve yourself in Pinterest and find out yourself what works for you and your sector.

Eight months later – disaster!

After eight months, I checked my stats on Google Analytics. I was hardly getting any traffic from Pinterest.

I went onto Pinterest Analytics and found that my more recent Pins were no longer Rich Pins. I discovered that if I pin from a tablet or mobile, then my pins don’t show up as Rich Pins and they don’t link back to the Middlesized Garden site.

If I pin from my desk top pc, everything is fine. I’ve notified Pinterest, but nobody seems to know what might be wrong or how to fix it. For the time being, I can just pin from my pc – but I will miss out on other people pinning from my blog via mobile or tablet. This has affected traffic from Pinterest – and I wouldn’t have known about it unless I checked my stats regularly.

So the lesson is ‘keep an eye on where your traffic is coming from’. If you have a Pinterest business account, you will be offered analytics. Use them to see what is going on. Don’t just assume everything will be alright, because things slip.

What else do I need to know?

This should get you started. It has all the tips I used when I started the experiment. If you’d like to find out if Pinterest is for you via one-to-one coaching in person, by phone or Skype, do contact me at alexandra@themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk.

Do follow me here on Pinterest, and ask to join the group board by emailing me or leaving a comment on a Middlesized Garden pin – it would be great to have you. And if you’ve found this helpful, do please share it using the buttons below. Thank you!

5 Comments

  • Nic Wilson says:

    Hi, thanks for writing this really interesting article. I use pinterest for client mood boards in my work as a designer, and do pin some of my images from the blog, but I don’t think they are rich pins. My blog has now been going 3 months and I’m going ok with my Facebook page – mydogwooddays and twitter – @nicmama, but I’m sure I could use pinterest more effectively, especially having read your post. I’d love to join the group and I’ll focus on learning more about pinterest. Thanks very much 🙂

    • I always say that if you do just one thing on Pinterest this year, it should be to make your account a Pinterest Business one, and get your site verified. Then even if you don’t have time for Pinterest, anybody pinning from your site will be publicising you. Will send you an email inviting you to pin to the boards, let me know if you don’t get it.

  • clare says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these brilliant tips, you’re very generous with your knowledge!

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