My Pinterest month, (a.k.a. “PintoMo”), has come to an end.
In the beginning, I really wasn’t sure I’d ever recommend it to writers. It seemed too unwieldy, too demanding, and too overwhelming … really, it was just too much extra work. At that point, if I hadn’t committed to “PintMo”, I would have left it behind.
However, with persistence I’m starting to find my groove and it’s getting better. The secret? I got organized and managed my expectations. Thousands of readers will not come beating down your door the minute your images appear … unless you already have them like, say, Stephen King does.
Having said that, it’s well worth noting: exactly half-way through PintMo, on November 16th, Pinterest surpassed Twitter for traffic acquisition on this blog and it now sits firmly in second place behind Facebook. That took only two weeks! (I’ve been on Twitter for two years.)
It’s hard to argue with that result. Pinterest has potential.
Images on Pinterest
Since images are the heart and soul of Pinterest, it goes without saying that learning the following is essential.
1. Make it Big
In the Pinterest world, the bigger the better … or, shall I say, the longer the better.
Scan the above image of a typical Homefeed page, and what catches your eye first? I don’t know about you, but that big long one got my attention.
It’s not necessarily the flashiest one, but it drew my eye first. Really, it’s just a long list of words.
So, will I click on it? It all depends on if the subject interests me or not, but I had to notice it first before making that choice.
The other element that’s better if it’s bigger? Text.
After noticing the long list, my eye was caught by that pin that says, “Do this, NOT that:”. In fact, I’m drawn to it more than the list, because it doesn’t look quite so exhausting to read.
2. Make it Colorful
This is the other key to getting noticed: the brighter the better.
Some say the best colors to use in a pin image are red and orange. When I first read that, it made sense … but what if everyone started using red and orange?
Regardless, it does work. My pins using those colors have done better than all the others.
If we look at the above home feed image one more time, there’s one last thing to note: photos. They add brightness and color. I keep looking at that “Breakfast Quinoa”, even though I’m not ever likely to make something like that for breakfast. But if I were, that would be the one to get my attention.
3. Choose your style
Katie Paul is an excellent example of the beauty of personal style. It’s unique and unforgettable. When I scan my home feed, I know it when I come across one of her pins. She stands out and it’s always ‘distinctly Katie’.
This is where I continue to struggle myself, not being graphically inclined, but I’m working on it and the analytics (see the next section) are helping me to see what works and what doesn’t.
Katie also offers help to those of us who are graphically challenged and I’ve provided the link below under “Resources”. (I’ll likely go there myself!)
4. Brand it!
This quote pin did particularly well for me.
Pinners seem to jump all over a good quote. They also seem to like roads: two of my best performing pins contained pictures of my road. Coincidence? Maybe … or maybe my road is just really cool.
Thankfully, I branded them, which isn’t that hard to do when you’re getting an image ready to pin. In my trusty PaintShop Pro, my website URL is a layer I can add with a simple click. (For more about PaintShop Pro, along with other possible tools, check out my second “PintMo” post. Again, they have a 30-day free trial.)
Getting Pinterest Traffic
Images grab attention, but here are some other things that will help drive that attention to your website/blog.
1. Setup your account as a business account
If you have a personal account, you should convert it. What difference does it make?
You can then do three fundamental things: confirm your website URL + gain access to Pinterest analytics + use rich pins (see #2).
The website URL sits at the top of your profile page and looks more legitimate.
Using the analytics, you can see the when/what/where of your pins and really get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. I know where I get the best results and, going forward, I can factor that in to my social media strategy.
In the image below, for example, I can see activity from this website. Each impression represents a time when the pin appeared on a Pinterest home feed, category feed and search result. Here are my top pin impressions in November:
Now the challenge is to increase the impressions and get more clicks and repins. The analytics will help me figure that out.
2. Rich pins
Rich pins add your information to pins made from your website. It’s automated branding—and that’s a good thing. Pinterest even provides a guide to help you set them up.
This is how last week’s “pinnable” appears in Pinterest as a rich pin (note this was also my top pin for impressions) . My logo, website name, and the title of my post all appear ‘auto-magically’.
3. Create a schedule
The super-pinners who are finding huge success have, in some cases, created quite an intricate schedule for pinning. They don’t just pin from a blog post once and move on; they cycle through and spread out their pins to ensure maximum, continuous coverage.
It takes time to develop something that works for you. I’m still working on it, and that’s where expectations come in; when you’re first starting out give yourself the time and patience to get it together!
Community on Pinterest
Community, plus what I cover in the two sections above, all combine together as the three most important elements in finding success with Pinterest.
I know, when I first started PintMo, I wasn’t too crazy about what appeared to be a lack of connection. It all just seemed like a sea of disconnected images.
But there is one, and I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting a couple of really great writers. What changed?
I started to leave more comments on images.
If something strikes me, I say so. If I have something to add, I do.
In other words, I don’t go crazy with it and I hopefully add value rather than simply saying “Great!” or “Love this!”. It’s all about showing interest and making the effort, just like starting relationships in the face-to-face world.
Not everyone will respond, which is just as well because you’d be spending all your time writing Pinterest comments. But, those who do may be of ‘like mind’ and might even become a part of your writing tribe, and we all need one of those.
2. Private Messages
Pinterest has a private messaging tool, which is helpful when you don’t want to comment on a specific pin but you want to reach out to a fellow pinner.
I’ve used it to ask for advice from a “super-pinner”, to thank someone for inviting me to their group, and to invite others to my brand new group: “Reinvention”.
That’s something I’ve learned: don’t wait for someone to find you. Reach out.
3. Group boards
Group boards are so important to your Pinterest experience. I can’t emphasize it enough. Join them and create your own.
When someone follows you or one of your boards, they’ll get your pins in their home feed … along with who knows how many other pins.
But in a group, the field is more focused. You have much more of a chance of finding your audience and they have more of a chance of finding you.
Some group boards are better than others; follow a board and try it out first. See what the content is like and how active everyone is, especially when it comes to repinning. You also don’t want to be the kind of pinner who drops your pin in there and leaves. For every pin you make, you should try to repin at least two others.
Which is why you should join the boards that really resonate with you. The members need to participate if it’s ever going to work, and you won’t if the stuff that’s in there doesn’t match your interests.
As I mention above, I also created my first group board, “Reinvention”. Through that board, I’ve already connected with a couple of great writers, and it’s still quite small. It’s a start and I’ll continue to work and learn about promoting it, finding members as I go along. (Feel free to join … if it resonates!)
Managing Your Time on Pinterest
It’s not as easy as you might think!
Pinterest is both engaging and super-distracting. (The puppy pictures, recipes that include chocolate, and “bears that act like humans” distract me most.)
It’s also possible that, as a writer, you are facing a very steep learning curve when it comes to creating pinnable images … never mind learning to navigate the platform, create your boards, and connect with fellow pinners.
1. Make Templates
I can’t stress this enough. The only way I’ve been able to create so many images in a reasonable amount of time is to have templates.
Not just Pinterest, but Facebook, Twitter … all of the social media platforms … have image specifications. To be effective, you need to work within their guidelines and that’s a lot to remember.
Once you’ve created a template, it’s something you can use and reuse just by replacing the old content with the new. Who wants to reinvent the wheel every single time?
As I’ve said before, the layering tool in PaintShop Pro or PhotoShop does the trick.
But, if you don’t understand what that is and you have no desire to learn, PicMonkey and Canva are two really good alternatives. (I do a little of everything; I used Canva for the Elizabeth Gilbert pinnable shown above.)
However you choose to go, templates are a huge time saver.
2. Simplify and Automate Your Process
The templates, the schedules … they hint at this key idea: simplify and automate.
My only caution: don’t overuse them. They have a place, but they’re not everything.
Some of my best results come from making comments, replying to the shares of others and sending private messages. That’s something you can’t automate.
3. About those 15 minutes …
This whole month has been one huge learning curve for me about time management, and that says a lot coming from a former project manager!
Early in November, I came across the advice of a few “super-pinners” suggesting all I needed was 15 minutes a day to see big results. I’ve also read that about Twitter … is there something magical about 15 minutes?
Who knows. All I do know is I’m still waiting to get it down to 15 minutes.
I’m a veteran “tweeter” and that part is true: all I need there is 15 minutes on a quiet day. Though, I’m also only posting around 140 characters in a tweet.
Images are a bit more challenging. Even when it comes to sharing other people’s pins, it takes me a while to curate them properly. And then there’s the time it takes to create the images for my own pins, though the templates I’ve created do help.
All of this is to say: over the course of a week, I spent closer to six hours on Pinterest-related work in the beginning and four hours later in the month. That’s more than 15 minutes a day.
Pinterest vs Twitter & Facebook
As a seasoned Facebook and Twitter user I couldn’t help but compare them to Pinterest and, while there are many obvious differences, there are a couple of things that I wasn’t aware of until I got started using all three at the same time.
1. Pins have more staying power
Pins don’t vanish with time in quite the same way.
On Twitter, your tweet literally flies away at the speed of seconds. Either people catch it or they don’t, so you’re left with two options: accept the randomness or keep tweeting at strategic times throughout the day in the hopes that it will be seen by the “right people”, get liked and maybe retweeted.
Twitter gets pretty noisy as a result; everyone is clamoring to get noticed.
Facebook is flighty as well. If you post something and get crickets, no one will ever see it in their feed. Popularity is what gives it visibility – a weird sort of catch-22 really, because how else will it get popular unless it gets visibility?
With Pinterest, on the other hand, even as one of my posts on Twitter or Facebook has long fallen down the black hole of social media obscurity, my pins continue to be repinned for days after I initially pinned them. I’m still learning how it works, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when I get the notices.
2. It’s not always easy to share good content
I don’t know whether it’s the nature of the content I read or what, but many of the articles and posts I want to share don’t even include the “Pin” button in their social sharing options.
I also like to read posts using the Feedly subscription service but, while Facebook and Twitter are options, Feedly does not include Pinterest in its available sharing tools.
Add to that, many of my favorites don’t use “pin worthy” images.
This frustrates me. Their content is fantastic … and it’s likely completely missed on the boards.
Writing Tools & Ideas on Pinterest
I’ve always been a research fanatic. My bookshelves tell the tale, as do my Evernote, Scrivener and Feedly files. It make me wonder whether it’s a good thing that I’m excited about the research potential of Pinterest.
Remember what I mentioned about the analytics above? They also show you what people are interested in reading.
For every post of my own, I probably pin at least ten others and the topics of those pins cover a wide variety of things in which I’m interested. The analytics tell me how well all of my pins are doing, so I can see which of those topics is most popular.
I don’t advocate always writing simply what others are reading—we have to exercise some creative license and not be driven solely by the market—but we also must be aware of trends.
Writing is both an art and a business.
2. Finding Ideas
You can browse your home feed, what’s popular, what you’re curious about, the group boards you’re on … pretty much anything will do.
In the image world, Pinterest is a gigantic library of the weird and the wonderful. There’s also a number of boards that focus solely on writing prompts.
It was through browsing in Pinterest that I stumbled upon the “Zola” story. (Interestingly, that was originally a Twitter event.)
3. Curation (Saving & Organizing Ideas)
Once you find the ideas, you need a place to organize and store them and the boards are awesome that way. They’re like virtual bulletin boards or filing cabinets and, over time, I can see myself taking full advantage of them as a place to store ideas for future writing projects.
As a long time Evernote user, I have to say that Pinterest is becoming a close second as a curation tool.
And here’s an added bonus: people start to follow those boards … people who are obviously interested in the same things, which means some of them will likely be interested in what you write when you use those ideas.
4. Writing Advice
Whether you’re interested in writing fiction, blog posts, freelance articles, memoir, how-to’s, self help … you will find advice on how to do it on Pinterest.
In one month, I have found close to 300 articles and infographics packed with advice and saved them on my own boards for future reference.
That means I’ve also discovered fellow writers and some have discovered me when they found my boards.
5. Story Planning
I shared an infographic a couple of weeks ago from Mandy Wallace, so I won’t repeat what she already so beautifully provides.
Suffice to say, you can get endless ideas for characters, settings and plot and then organize it all on boards for each purpose. If you don’t want it to be for public consumption, there is the option to make a board private … maybe until it’s time to release it all when your book is ready for the world?
I haven’t done this myself yet, but the boards on Pinterest may also work well as visual companions to the cork boards and folders in Scrivener.
Recommended Help & Resources
Yes, this post is long … but I’ve barely scratched the surface, focusing more on my early impressions and “beginner experience”.
What follows are a list of resources; people I call “super-pinners”. With time and considerable effort they have gained expertise … and I’ve bookmarked them, myself, for future reference.
1. Pintastic! – Elena Peters is currently offering free access, for a limited time, to her brand new course. I checked with her, and it’ll be available only until January. Her material has been very helpful to me and I highly recommend it.
2. Katie Paul has style! I’ve already referred to her above and it bears repeating. It’s not just about being loud and flashy; for the long-term, you want to have your own unique style. Katie knows how to create one.
3. Janice Wald is a blogger who has managed to build her subscriber list rather quickly, and one activity she has used to do that has been consistent social media networking. Pinterest has played a huge role and she generously shares what she’s learns with her readers. Here’s just a couple of her many articles related specifically to Pinterest:
- “How to Use Pinterest and Still Have Time to Breathe”
- “How to Still Get Massive Blog Traffic From Pinterest”
Articles from writers for writers:
4. Amanda Peterson, “Social Media 101: What is Pinterest?”
5. Peg Fitzpatrick, “How Writers Can Use Pinterest”
6. Lorna Sixsmith, “Why (and How) Writers Should Use Pinterest”
8. Joel Friedlander, “How to Use Pinterest to Promote Your Book”
9. Elna Cain, “5 Tactics to Boost Your Popularity on Pinterest”
10. Kimberley Grabas, “34 Strategic Ways You Can Use Pinterest to Market Your Book and Your Author Brand”
If you’ve read this entire post …
First, wow! Thanks for sticking with it!
Second, you may have noticed a common thread throughout: “I’m still learning”, “I’m still working on it”, and “it takes time”.
Throughout the month, I was reminded of how past projects really didn’t get off the ground before we did a lot of prep work. It’s the same when you write a novel; there’s so much work before things really take shape.
We see the flashy headlines promising big returns with “Approach A” or “Solution B” but, in reality, it’s not going to be instantaneous. It rarely is.
It’s all about time invested now for future benefit. So, now, we must choose how we want to invest it.
I’ll likely continue with Pinterest now and strive for that 15 minutes a day. It looks like it’ll be worth it.
How about you? Will you consider trying it as you build your writing life?
Are you already on Pinterest? If so, do you have additional pointers or resources to share?
As you know, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!