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Kindle your social media power: Pinterest explained

I’m really excited about our upcoming Making Media Connections Conference. I’ll be leading a half-day workshop on Social Media planning… covering practical  and strategic approaches to social media for nonprofits. In this workshop we will be covering the core concepts and exercises from my semester long course on social media at Columbia College Chicago. We’ll go over preparing your social media policy, steps towards creating your plan and get the big picture to help you approach the tools the right way. If you haven’t registered already, do it now!

Pinterest has gained much popularity in the past few months and will be one platform we will be talking about in our workshop. Below is a primer on the new social platform (and an excerpt from her final course essay) written by one of my students in my Social Media & PR Strategies course this past Winter. 

Hope to see you at #mmc2012!

– Demetrio Maguigad


Pinterest Explained 

Guest post by Shelby Gardner, Columbia College Chicago, Intern at Student PIRGs



Pinterest… What is it?

Pinterest is as a virtual bulletin board to categorize and ‘pin’ things that interests an individual. The Next Web (TNW) describes it as “a way for people to ‘window shop’ for anything whether it’s a physical object or an intangible object like quotes.”

To grasp how Pinterest works, you need to know three terms. Pin, Repin, and Boards.

Pin: an image added to Pinterest either from a link, a site, or uploaded image that can include captions. Repin: once something is pinned, it can be repined by other Pinterest users, a big factor that leverages the site. Board: this is where your pins are. You can have separate boards for various subjects. Users set up boards of pins that fit together. When a board is created, the user must categorize it into one of the 13 default categories. The user is free to name the board what ever they desire.

The most popular pins category on Pinterest is Food & Drink, then DIY & Crafts, and third is Women’s Apparel. However, the statistics of most popular boards are very different, with the top ranked as Remaining Categories and Home and Décor second.

The main page is where you browse pins via thumbnails, which allows top users to grow even more popular. With 32 different topic areas, users can browse everything from fitness to art and science. Users can like or comment on other pins. The average activity of popular ‘Pinners’ consists of 2,600 pins, 33 boards, and following around 400 users. Pinners can use the site to purchase things.  About 20% of users have purchased items they found on someone’s Pinboard.

15 Tips and Tricks

To help you get started on Pinterest, here are a few tips and tricks:

  1. Make sure it’s a fit with your company. Decide whether your customers are using it and what types of board categories suit them best.
  2. Add a Pin It button to your website
  3. Get visual. Bump up the quality of the images on your site. Think about developing specific landing pages for your projects, products and services that are heavily graphic oriented and Pinterest-friendly.
  4. Promote more than products. Post news and tips for a variety. For example if you sell running shoes, pin running tips or fitness workouts.
  5. Use Browser Extensions. Place the Pinterest Chrome browser extension or other browser plugins or extensions onto your bookmarks bar. Every time you stumble across something you like, you can easily click “Pin It” choose and image, and attach to one of your boards.
  6. Add Contributors to a board by selecting a Pinterest user you are following. This way a number of people can pin to a board. A good tip for customer engagement.
  7. When you choose to ‘Like’ a pin, it appears in a different feed. Likes folders are for random pins that you couldn’t dedicate an entire board to.
  8. Mentions are similar to Twitter. You type “@” infront of a user name to mention them in a Pin/Repin, description or comment. Use this to interact with others.
  9. Sell Pins by adding a “$” to the pin description and a price will automatically appear as a banner on the photo. The pin will appear in the Gifts category. Remember to link to the website where fans can purchase and remove once sold out.
  10. Create mobile pins by snapping a photo with your smart phone. You can add your location to the pin. Use this during events or on a trip.
  11. Find Pinners with similar tastes and interests by seeking out users behind your favorite pins and look who they follow. Or, browse the Popular category for trending pins.
  12. You can follow specific boards or all of them. But, only follow boards that you can relate to so your feed isn’t cluttered with irrelevant pins.
  13. The best way to get more views of your profile is to create new pins as often as possible. Fresh content is guaranteed to get more original pins. Include this in your social media plan.
  14. Search pins by site. Type in any website to see what pins originated from them.
  15. Set specific images to represent each board you can change as often as you like. Make sure it fits the topic and is an enticing photo.

Tools and Apps

Pinterest has tools and third party apps that make the experience go even further

Spinpicks: Helps discover new content and people to follow. It pulls content from different sites including Pinterest, pins from different categories and non-pins like Instagram.

Woobox: “Promotion apps to woo your fans” shows Pinterest boards and tabs on a Facebook page. It requires fans to like the page before they can access and view the boards and analytics.

PinReach: An analytic site that allows you to see activity on your profile and boards. Shows history of repins, most popular pins, and advanced analytics on your followers.

Pinspiration: Free app that allows you to run Pinterest on a Windows phone. This expands your reach and does not limit you to the iPhone.

Wisestamp: Easily add social email signatures. This allows you to embed a Pinterest account with a follow bottom in an email signature.

Pinterest Analytics

Repinly: Repinly is a Pinterest directory that makes it easy to find interesting people to follow, find what the most popular pins, boards, and topics are and see what’s trending. It also provides numerous statistics for information on how to reach target audiences. Repinly also offers an additional way to view most popular posts, breaking it down into categories, number of repins, likes, comments or the date. This allows marketers to get a sense on what content is popular and what has potential to go viral. Compare your company on personal level to other ‘pinners’. Repinly’s confounder states that once you add yourself to the directory you “ get a score based on their number of followers, pins and activity, which indicates their influence in comparison to others.”

Pinerly: Invite only. Gives users insight into the type of traffic accounts are generating. Keep track of repins and post for each pin and how many click-troughs each pin receives

Case Studies

How Lowe’s Integrated Pinterest to Their Facebook

Lowes Home Improvement integrated their Pinterest account with their Facebook Page to increase fan engagement. They allowed full functionality of Pinterest on their Facebook page so fans can pin and re-pin items without logging out of Facebook. They have boards that relate to their products like “craft ideas”, “family projects” and “outside home”. This increased their followers up to 3,000 and individual board followers up by 62%. Integrating Facebook and Pinterest increases followers, engagement rate, and visual appeal.

Kraft’s Pin& Win

Kraft used a competition with a cash reward on Pinterest as a way to engage users and increase followers. In order to participate in the competition users had to follow Kraft’s Pinterest account and create a board called Kraft Recipes Pin and Win. They would then pin their favorite Kraft recipes. The sweepstakes had a set list or rules in order to win.  This tactic guarantees that users promote the Kraft brand and engages people to their website. The grand prize of $500 is a good incentive to drive people to participate in the sweepstakes.

It was a smart move for Kraft to create a presence on Pinterest. They took it to their advantage that Food and Drink is one of the top categories and interest on the site. The sweepstakes was promoted all over the blogosphere by cooking blogs and successfully reached Pinterest key demographic of females.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is an excellent example of a company that knows how to use Pinterest. It was one of the first large brands to use the site. Whole Foods communicates its core values through it’s boards.

They use the simple and uncluttered layout to pin visually stunning images. The goal of their boards isn’t to promote its products, but to communicate the Whole Foods lifestyle to pinners that will hopefully become customers. Instead of incorporating the companies’ products in the pins, they link to blogs and social platforms that are relevant to the Whole foods core. For example, one trait of Whole Foods customers is upcycling and sustainability so there is a board dedicated to DIY projects. Individual boards have up to 25,000 followers, which shows that creating niche board topics helps attract a wider audience. It allows users to pick and choose what aspects of the brand they want to experience on the site.

Whole Foods values input from customers, they listen and add a board if people ask for it. The company interacts with their fans rather than pushing promotions on them, creating a genuine experience.


Use Pinterest as a medium to communicate with customers. On another social media platform, ask them what boards they would like to see and what you should pin. They might tell you they want more DIY videos for your product or Pins that relate to a holiday that’s approaching.

Pins help you promote your products and services, develop your brand personality and help gain exposure among the Pinterest community. Most of all, Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined. It is important that you pick quality images and properly label them.

Decide how often you are going to pin, but make sure it is consistent enough to give customers new content. The average person doesn’t check it everyday, so find a way to balance Pinterest with your other social media networks. If you pin a product, make sure to have pin button that directs users to the site to purchase item.

Pinning can be a great way to highlight aspects of your brand that may not come in mind at first when people consider your brand. For example if your company is known for its products, create a board about your charity work.

  • Become an expert. Decide which topics you are interested in, and dedicate yourself to those categories. People will be more likely to follow rich, full boards than a lot of sparse boards.
  • Connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as website to place widgets and allow for Pins to be shared across networks.
  • Use eye-catching images that represent the post. If it’s a company product, consider setting it against a white background. If it’s an idea, find a unique way to visualize the theme.
  • Strategically place Pins. For example, if you’re a company who sells products, place a how-to video next to a Pin of the product.
  • Describe content clearly. Describe to users what they can expect to see or click on.
  • Include call-to-action links, reminding users to engage with you.
  • Embed a Pin button on your website and on your blog posts.
  • Create a Pinterest-specific campaign. Take the case studies for an example.
  • Repin other’s pins and videos. Repinning is the most social activity on Pinterest.
  • Find influencers in your industry who already have Pinterest profiles, follow them, include them in your videos and notify them about it in the comments section. This allows you to reach out to brand leaders.
  • Make sure to add videos to your boards. People love visuals and Pinterest is a good place for online video marketing opportunities with the integration of the Vimeo platform. Make sure to customize the thumbnail images, don’t place all videos in one board and keep them short. If you use your own YouTube videos, tell your visitors to “pin this video to Pinterest”.

As mentioned in the Whole Foods case study, it’s important to create a variety of niche boards that fit your companies’ values. This way you can attract a larger audience. Another strategy is to be timely and add boards based on the season. This will give users new content that relates to the current time.

Stay in communication with your audiences on other platforms and create conversations about Pinterest that will generate feedback. Treat Pinterest as a place to remain authentic, share what you’re passionate about, and connect with your community rather than a place to extend advertisements.



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Category: Making Media Connections, social media, Tips, Trainings

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