I also know, as my mother has always reminded me, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.
I believe I’m suffering under the weight of comparison and expectation and, really, who hasn’t when it comes to online projects?
We read stories of bloggers who achieve thousands of followers in six months and, when we don’t do the same, our confidence sags.
Before starting the “PintMo” project (see this post for a project intro), I read stories of blog traffic increasing by the hundreds, if not the thousands, with Pinterest. My paltry 11 referrals from Pinterest for the whole week … well, let’s just say it’s pretty disappointing.
But, I’ve only just begun … right?
Flashbacks to NaNoWriMo
As I wrote recently, the key to winning NaNoWriMo – for me anyway – was getting organized and doing the prep work. Last year, I had a plot, an outline, and full character sketches done before November 1st. The foundation was laid.
PintMo is suffering from a lack of that, so far. What I didn’t realize is that Pinterest, unlike Twitter, requires some ramping up time. It has a much bigger learning curve, for me anyway.
(Side note: Twitter was a breeze to get into and I know many writers favor it, so I’m using it as a point of comparison.)
I remember when I hopped on to Twitter. I was following writers, bloggers and fellow book lovers in no time, tweeting and retweeting, marking favorites, private messaging … I remember being thrilled to find so many like-minded people. They all followed me back. My network grew.
Pinterest, in contrast, is like a foreign country for me: it’s intriguing and mysterious. I want to visit the beautiful vistas, learn the culture, try the food and participate in local customs … after all, I’ve heard so many wonderful things.
But I’m a ‘newbie’ and progress is slow. I feel as if I’m in quick sand, trying to dance and barely getting one foot in front of the other.
Why is it so challenging?
I’ve scratched my head a few times this week over that one. I may be a writer, but I’m also incredibly comfortable with all things Internet. I’m a twenty-year veteran; in Internet time that’s a really long time.
So, what’s up?
First Issue: It’s All About the Image
They’re pretty to look at, but images have never been “my thing”. Honestly, in my experience, images can be terribly deceptive and sometimes lacking in substance.
But on Pinterest, they’re everything.
No matter what keywords you may or may not use, no matter what you write in the description of the image, no matter what you say in a comment.
If the image doesn’t capture the eye, forget it.
And it’s no wonder. The hierarchy is clear.
Everything on Pinterest is organized by boards. On each board is a collection of pins. Each pin is an image, with teeny-tiny text below it that is suggestively optional by its very size and location on the pin. (For search algorithms, that text is important … but for the scanner/reader, it’s not too eye catching.)
When you search by keyword, the result is a screen full of images. I work on a big screen and, when that search result appears, it assaults my visual sense.
There is no way a pin is going to get a reader’s attention if the image doesn’t jump out at them. In a mass of distracting colour, even with the best of intentions, those teeny-tiny words will not get any notice.
The solution? Everyone puts big words on the image. Words become image. Philosophers and cultural theorists could have a lot fun with that one … and perhaps they already have.
Second Issue: It’s Not Too Friendly
Maybe I haven’t figured it out yet but, so far, I haven’t found pinners to be terribly friendly.
On Twitter, I’ve made long-term connections with fellow writers. It’s been a blast. Same with Facebook.
On Pinterest, I re-pin and the result is silence. I’ve thanked a few pinners for re-pinning my stuff, but that’s where it ended. When the re-pinner is a friend, of course that’s different. But it should be noted that these are friends I met on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
I’ve searched for other writers, and I haven’t found too many yet. But then, I have to remember why I’m trying this: to find readers. So I shrug off my disappointment on this point.
There’s group boards, but I’m not feeling the “group love” the way I do on a Facebook group. It’s not always clear how to join them and, when you do, it’s not like you’ve joined a community.
I pin to the group. I re-pin the pins of fellow group members. Nothing much seems to happen after that and I don’t feel any connection with anyone.
Pinners don’t greet each other, and they really can’t … unless it’s in the form of an image.
Third Issue: Too Much Time
Honestly, the amount of time it has taken me to get set up properly is a deal breaker for me as a writer.
If I was “graphically gifted”, it wouldn’t be an issue. I can see why this platform is so wonderful for the crafty and the visual artist.
Being so inclined, I imagine those people take to it like child’s play.
I’m not one of those people and it’s likely that many writers are the same.
This week, most of my usual writing and reading time got swallowed up with learning, plus the fiddling time required to figure out image formats and to get set up properly on Pinterest.
What must you learn, just to get started?
First, there’s the image design … Where to get images you can use. What graphic software tools to use. Where to get affordable/free images and affordable/free software tools. How to use those tools. What size to make your images. What fonts to use on your images. What colors you should use on your images.
Then there’s your profile … Which image to use. What name you should use. What description you should use. How to brand the look and feel of your profile page. How to get your website verified. How to make your pins “rich”.
Then there’s your boards … How many to start with. How to label and describe them. How to organize them. How to build a following for them. (I haven’t figured that last one out yet.)
And then there’s navigating around Pinterest … Finding boards/pinners you want to follow. Understanding the “home feed” and the “popular feed”, and learning to accept that “popular” doesn’t always mean “quality”.
The feeds throw me a little. I have yet to see one of my pins on a feed and I’m not sure what that means. I keyword every pin and then search using that keyword. My pin is nowhere to be seen. I wonder … what else is out there that I might want to see, but is nowhere to be seen?
It all seems like a lot, don’t you think? And that’s just off the top of my head. I haven’t even gotten into groups yet.
I haven’t had time.
It’s Not All Bad
I want to follow all of the negative things I’ve identified above with this important point.
I don’t want to trash Pinterest.
What I do want is to create a realistic picture of what writers can expect if they want to try it.
I’m getting better with image creation. Now that I’ve figured out how to make them and created a process to save time down the road, I’m having some fun. (Though I do miss my writing time.)
I also like learning, collecting, and storing knowledge (have you seen my bookshelves?), and Pinterest is a neat way to curate information. It may even become a second Evernote for me … a social one … I hope.
Nothing is as quick as we expect
As much as we like to think that everything we do online will be magically faster than anything we’ve ever done offline, it’s simply not the case.
It will take time to build a following. A massive surge of readers is a nice dream, but it is a dream.
And, with anything new, there’s a learning curve. Some are steeper than others, but that can be reflective of where our current skills and abilities lie as much as it can be about the ease/complexity of what we’re learning.
Anyway, it’s always good to learn, no matter the struggle, right? Just think of all of those neurons shaking off the dust and growing strong.
I also remember the dark moments of NaNoWriMo, and in the end it was one of the best things I’d done for my writing in a long time.
Sometimes the biggest challenges hold the promise of the biggest reward.
Onward and Upward: Groups
I felt I had to focus on images and boards this week. Good images are clearly important if I want to get the attention of readers, and I need good boards to follow once they find me.
Over the next week, while I keep building and fine-tuning images and boards, I’m going to shift more of my focus to groups. I have a feeling they could be the secret sauce.
Janice Wald, in a post she wrote last week, “How to use Pinterest and Still Have Time to Breathe”, sings the praises of joining groups.
It makes sense. As she points out, if you’re in a group of 20,000 members, your pins could theoretically be seen by that many people. That’s pretty amazing!
I continue to hope. I continue to find the numbers intriguing.
If Pinterest is really good for writers … if it’s the untapped social media platform that will help us find our readers … I will find out.
So stay tuned and I’ll share my thoughts on groups next week.
Resources & Acknowledgements
Some generous people helped this week, either with an awesome post, a time-saving resource, or some tips to get me on my way.
Janice Wald – I have to give Janice a big shout out for her invite to her Pinterest group, “Mostly Blogging Group Board”, as well as her encouragement and help. Janice – I will definitely use your references next week when I explore groups.
Erika Madden – Her post, a sort of “everything you need to know to get started” post, is one I’ll return to again and again. I’ll be checking out her other posts for more help as well.
Image Creation Resources:
“How To Make A Pinterest Pin In Powerpoint In Under 5 Mins” (Katie Paul provides a free template for Powerpoint in this post. Very quick and very easy to use.)
YouTube video: “How to Make Images LONG for Pinterest” (A good Canva demo.)
Graphic software tools to consider, if you don’t already have a favorite:
- Adobe Photoshop Elements: This is the most commonly mentioned software. They offer a free month trial, and then it’ll cost you $99.99 US to purchase.
- Corel Paintshop Pro. No one talks about this one, but I’ve been using it for years and I love it. They also offer a free month trial, and as of this writing it’ll cost you $69.99 CDN to purchase. (Right now, that’s just over $50 US — half the price of the Adobe product.)
- Canva is a very popular online tool. It’s free until you want to use a premium item, starting at $1 each.
- PicMonkey is another online tool. It has a free option and a “Royale account”, which they give you the opportunity to try for free first, and then charge $4.99/month or $33/year.
- Powerpoint. Yup, just plain old Powerpoint! Katie Paul demonstrates how easy it can be by video and offers a template that you can download for free on her blog (see resource links above).
Last but not least, here are my stats for the week, with a comparison to where I was on November 1st.
As you can see, I pinned over 400 pins. That’s more tweets than I have ever tweeted in a week! That number reflects pins from this website, re-pins of fellow group member pins, re-pins from the Home Feed and the Popular feed, and pins from other websites, done manually (without automated tools) in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
While I followed an additional 31 pinners/boards, I only gained 7 followers.
Most notable is the traffic number. Disappointing doesn’t quite describe it, particularly for the amount of effort and time I invested.
Anyway … as I’ve said, onward and upward!
If you’re on Pinterest and we’re not connected yet, follow me or one of my boards and I’ll be sure to follow back. Click here and I’ll see you there!
I’d also love to hear your thoughts and advice in the comments below. Are you a Pinterest fan and you want to say something in its defence? Has this confirmed that it’s not for you?