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Everything New in Pinterest – Alisa Meredith
Social Agent

Pinterest has undergone a few major changes lately, and the word on the street is, quality over quantity will get you favored these days. Pinterest expert and friend of the show, Alisa Meredith, stopped by to give us the low down on all the recent changes happening at Pinterest affecting marketers, including explaining why curating boards is a thing of the past, and why ‘idea pins’ might just be your new best friend.

Rich: My guest today is a marketing and Pinterest pro who consults on projects of all sizes. Unapologetic cat lady and weekend fluid artist, she also has a new live show that airs weekly-ish and covers everything a small business owner needs to know about marketing. This is, I believe, her third time on this podcast, and she’s also spoken at my Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference in the past where she was a huge hit.

Whenever I or other agency owners have a question or need an external expert resource on Pinterest, we turn to her. Today we’ll be diving into all the changes going on at Pinterest and what you need to know to succeed, with Alisa Meredith. Alisa, welcome back.

Alisa: Good morning, Rich. Thanks for having me back. I was thinking about Maine this time of year. You know, I grew up in Maine and I get a little bit homesick September, and October it starts to fade because I know what you guys are dealing with.

Rich: Well, no, now’s the time when the leaves are changing, and people get ready for Halloween. Well, it’s funny. Because when we had a just casual conversation the other day, you mentioned that actually you used to live right around the corner from the elementary school. Right around the corner where both my girls used to go and where we used to sometimes walk them to school because it was so close. So, small world.

Alisa: Yeah. It is a very small world, especially when you’re talking about Maine.

Rich: Absolutely. Now two things about your bio before we jump into Pinterest. First is, unapologetic cat lady. And literally from the moment the camera turned on, there has been a literal parade of cats going over your shoulders, on the chair, down looking at the screen. How many cats do you have and what are their names?

Alisa: Oh no, I didn’t know you were going to ask me that. I have four. They’re all failed fosters. So I have one who, he’s the misfit, Inky. So in my last neighborhood, there was a cat lady and we decided that we would take care of this problem by trapping all the cats, having them neutered, released, and fostering out the kittens. Well, one neuter-release subject decided, no, this is good, I’m staying. So he’s still here. That’s Inky. I have Snowfy, a little, black kitty. Major character, hates cats, loves people. I have Bo, who’s the black and white who was just up here, who is scared of everything. And then there’s Sonny, who is also a real character. He’s the orange cat and he’s very loud.

Rich: Well, so far been very quiet for this podcast. And the other question I have is, you’re a weekend fluid artist. What does that mean?

Alisa: It means that on the weekends, I go up into my studio and I throw paint around. So mixing paints with various mediums, you can get some really cool effects when you blow them out or tilt them around. So that’s what I like to do on the weekends.

Rich: Awesome. Very cool. All right. So, back to the subject at hand. You and I were chatting the other day, as I mentioned, and you mentioned that there were a lot of changes on Pinterest lately. And we both know that Pinterest is not my go-to platform, personally or professionally. But I do use it. My best ceviche recipe is on there. So let’s start with that. What’s changed on Pinterest?

Alisa: Kind of everything. So this came out about maybe a year ago when Ben Silverman was on Pinterest Creater Festival – he’s one of the founders – and he said historically Pinterest has been a place that connects pinners with ideas. And so that’s what marketers loved about Pinterest is that it was really easy to get traffic from Pinterest to your site, because that was the goal, right? Show people images and get them to click and go to your site.

The focus has now changed. And what they’re trying to do is connect pinners with content creators. So it’s a little bit Instagram-y. And to support that effort, they introduced a brand new format called ‘idea pins’, which they originally started out calling them ‘story pins’. And they would say things like, “our stories last more than 24 hours” and “your story deserves more than a double tap”. So it was a real clear play into this more social aspect of Pinterest. Pinterest never was social. You know, it had a couple social aspects, but people didn’t really use them. And the only ones who did were spammy. This is a huge pivot for them, which was puzzling to me at first until I also heard I think in that same meeting, that the number of Gen Z pinners increased by 40% last year. And how do Gen Z people like to consume content. It’s entertaining. It’s a connection with people. So between that, and of course Pinterest needs to make shareholders happy, they really needed to keep people on the platform with a different kind of formatted pin.

Rich: So when I hear ‘stories’ – one of my least favorite words, by the way, in social media – just because I don’t consume them, nor do I create them. So it’s just never been really where my interest lies. But whether they’re called ‘stories’, whether they’re called ‘idea pins’, to me it’s always about short videos, sometimes images with photos overlayed. That’s the way they’ve worked on all the other platforms. How are these idea pens similar or different to what I’ve come to expect out of stories on social media?

Alisa: Similar in the types of content you would include. So yes, you are going to have videos, you’re going to have still images, you’re going to have stickers. You might add audio, you might add music. A little bit different on Pinterest because you can add a supplies list. So the idea is, because people are so accustomed to going to Pinterest finding something you want and then clicking off. What can happen with an idea pin is if you just show how to do this, people get frustrated because they’re like, I need to go get the instructions. So what Pinterest did was built into it the instructions. So you can add all the supplies that you need. Really the intent is to have all the information to do a thing in the idea pin.

So with the fluid art, this has enabled me to try out some really cool stuff. It’s harder to do with content marketing. You can do it, but I’m taking the easy way out and doing it with my fluid art. And you could literally watch my idea pin and do the thing. I gave you all the ratios, the mixing, all the materials and supplies and the colors that I use. And I even can tag products in an idea pin, which is new, which is really important because you can use affiliate links. So one of the complaints about idea pins was they take so long to make, and then I can’t even link them to my site. Well, you can link them to products. So this is great if you’re a product seller, you can like them to your products. Or if you’re in certain affiliate networks, you can start to monetize your idea pins.

Rich: Interesting. All right. So that’s definitely something that’s different. What else has changed for Pinterest, because it does seem like that there are some seismic shakeups going on over there?

Alisa: Yeah, for sure. So for a long time, the concentration was on curation. So making these beautiful boards that would be a great resource for people and sharing other people’s content. And you can still do that if you want to, but really, it’s about your own content. And it’s not about sharing that same pin over and over and over again. It’s really, most of the benefit you get is from that very first pin that goes out. That’s a huge change. You used to be able to do really, really well by just repeating the same content over and over again.

Rich: All right. So now definitely you want to create something more valuable that’s going to stick around for a while, rather than just recycle old material.

Alisa: That’s right.

Rich: So, you gave us a good example of the fluid artwork that you’re doing. But how about a different type of company? Maybe a non-maker company, or even a digital agency like myself, or a CPA. Is there room in idea pins? Have you seen ideas about how people might use idea pins that way? Or is that something that’s more set aside for, let’s call them, the makers?

Alisa: Yeah. Honestly from everything that I’ve seen and the way that they work, they are made for makers. And they’re made for retail, and e-commerce. However, marketers being clever as they are, will find a way to make them work. So the key really is to provide everything they need in that idea pin. Otherwise they do get frustrated.

So you could take a blog post and turn it into an idea pin. Now, whether you want to do that or not is up to you. But some of the benefits of idea pins are the distribution. I have never seen distribution like I’m seeing on idea pins. Of course, I’m now pinning in a different topic, but my very first idea pin is close to 500,000 impressions, it has 1,200 reactions. I’ve never seen anything like this. And because Pinterest really wants these idea pins and they want to reward that effort, they are giving them increased distribution.

One of the cool things you can see in your pin, on pin analytics, is you can see how many people went to your profile because of that idea pin. So they’re counting clicks from idea pins to profile. They’ll also show you how many followers you got from an idea pin.

Rich: Interesting, good stats. So I’m just trying to think about how… so, like I said, we both know Rich Brooks is not the world’s greatest pinner. So if I went on to Pinterest or if one goes on to Pinterest, how am I seeing idea pins? Is it being fed to me in the same way it would be when I just showed up there a year or two ago for regular pins?

Alisa: It is, it is, but it’s also being highlighted. So if you go to your app, it’s going to be on the home screen. It’s going to be across the top of your screen. You’ll see people you follow, and their idea pins are at the very top.

Rich: Okay. So it’s primarily still people who follow me are the ones who are going to see it. But do I ever just get into the feed because of hashtags or the searches that they’re doing as well if I’m creating idea pins?

Alisa: Not hashtags, but definitely keyword searches for sure. Or related things that you might have searched before that could show up in your homepage. Apparently, they’re testing or they’ve released maybe like a browse theater for idea pins. I haven’t seen that yet. Some people are like, “Oh, I want idea pins to go away. I hate them.” They’re not going away. It’s just becoming even more deeply entrenched in Pinterest world. So, you know, I understand. Like we loved getting that really easy traffic from static pins, but this is a new world which I think is a great opportunity, especially if you’re a newer pinner. Because frankly, the static pins, just regular image pins that are doing very well, tend to be the older ones and the accounts that are doing really, really well, tend to be the ones that have been around for years and years and have tens of thousands of followers. So if that’s not you and that’s not most of us, this is a really cool opportunity because a lot of people don’t want to make idea pins. You can do searches for all kinds of popular topics and there are no idea pins. So, like, do them.

Rich: Sounds good. No, it definitely sounds like an opportunity, especially if we don’t have a huge following built up already. So a lot of opportunities for businesses. You mentioned, when I asked about hashtags, you’re like, no, no, not hash tags. Are hashtags out again on Pinterest? I know, I know. This is why I talk to you, I don’t have to keep up.

Alisa: I know… in, out, in, out. They’re out right now. Yeah, it felt forced anyway. The only time I ever used a hashtag on Pinterest was when I was writing an article about hashtags on Pinterest. People do not search that way on Pinterest. Now could that change with Gen Z and with idea pins, maybe it might change again. I don’t know. But people weren’t using them. They didn’t work the way we wanted them to. So now just a sentence or two in your pin description that uses keywords and natural language, that’s going to work better for you.

Rich: All right. So if I wanted to create an idea pin around setting up Google My Business for a company, cause that’s probably the kind of pin I would make or the idea pin that I would make. I’m not going to worry about hashtags, but obviously I’m going to use words like ‘Google My Business’, ‘local search’ ‘GMB’, because even though they’re not using hashtags, there’s still a big search component to Pinterest. We want to make sure that we’re using our right keywords. Correct?

Alisa: Yes, absolutely. And another thing too, you can create an idea pin on desktop, which is probably as marketers, we’re sitting on our laptops so much that’s probably going to be your inclination. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. It hurts. It’s very clunky. There are very few options. You want to do it on mobile. So just shoot everything over to your mobile and create it there. And rather than creating a static image with the text overlay or the video with the text overlay, do it in Pinterest. They make it very easy and some of us are suspecting that it works better.

So Pinterest can read text on your image, on your pin of any kind, and they can use that to assign then these backdoor, interesting keywords to things to help your pin up here. But when you use something that Pinterest provides, and basically this is a field and an idea of a pin, visibly you see it, but is there another way, like, is Pinterest more accurately reading that? And is it easier for them to use that to categorize your pin? Could be, probably. So just, it’s really easy to make them a mobile, just shoot your videos and your images over there raw and do it there.

Rich: Alright, good advice. Tell me a little bit about Pinterest Predicts.

Alisa: Oh, Pinterest Predicts has been around a couple of years. So what Pinterest does is it looks at trends that are rising and haven’t quite peaked that they think are going to continue into the next year. So the last two years they have been right about 80% of them. So it’s funny. Like last year I could figure out which ones they were wrong about. One of them was air travel, which was, hey, we’re going to give him a pass on that because 2020, who knew. This year I can’t really tell which ones they were off on, but there were a lot they were right about. So AF flow and skinimalism, like natural skincare, different kinds of travel, like planning for travel, not actually doing the travel, but planning it. So you can get to that from Pinterestpredicts.com and you can break it down by the generation you’re targeting as well, which is really very cool.

And then like some of them, you might feel like, well, this has nothing to do with me, how could I use this? But they break it down with that in mind. So one of the predictions for this year was bland is banned. And so it was all about spice, spicing things up. And a lot of that had to do with food, obviously. But one of the examples they gave was Dawn dishwashing liquid had a series of images that showed Dawn dishwashing liquid, but next to some obviously spicy food. And they were like, so if you can’t do it directly, can you work it into your creative somehow? So these are things that they’re typically right about. So the next one comes out. December 7th, so I would watch for that.

Rich: So this is not unlike Google Trends. Google Trends is more based on search. But based on the search volume, they’re saying these are emerging trends that we’re seeing so there may be great opportunities for creating content. This is the same thing, but it does seem to come out annually and their PR they’ve got a pretty good track record as well.

Alisa: They do. And they tend to stick around longer than other network’s trends. And I think that’s because people on Pinterest tend to plan earlier, they’re saving before they’re acting. So you may get a longer run out of these trends on Pinterest than other places.

Rich: And are Pinterest Trends the same thing then as Pinterest Predicts?

Alisa: No. Pinterest Predicts is more like a set list. Like here’s what we think will happen for the year. If you go to Trends at pinterest.com though, this changes all the time. They’re going to have surging trends on Pinterest for the week, and then they break them down by categories like fashion, food and drinks, beauty, home decor, and travel. But if those are your niche, that’s okay. You can use the search bar. And it will show you is the interest over time, like Google Trends. So where are we now? Is this a good time to talk about back to school? No, we missed that. So you can watch the trends, the lines go up. And you can also use it to compare trends. So, for example, a lot of people can relate to is, should I be framing this recipe as a keto recipe or as an Atkins recipe or as a low carb? Like, what term should I use now? You can type all three in, then you can see a relative search volume, although it won’t give you the exact, and then when each is peaking.

Rich: All right. That’s definitely interesting and that sounds even more in line with the Google Trends, for sure. What’s new with Pinterest Shopping?

Alisa: Pinterest Shopping, a lot. So you can now connect your group, like your shopping feed to Pinterest, and Pinterest will create those pins for you and update them for pricing and availability. You can make ads out of them very easily, which I have heard haven’t had a chance to try them yet, but I’ve heard that those are very inexpensive, very effective. And these shopping pins, Pinterest really wants to be an e-commerce destination. So they are giving them distribution. You can do something called ‘verified merchant status’. When you have your feed set up, if you do other things like you have a domain specific email address, so your privacy policy is good, and you look like you’re on the up and up, Pinterest will verify you, which gives you a little blue check. But it also will put your pins in into platforms and spaces on Pinterest where people are likely to buy. So it’s tricky on a lot of platforms. It is super easy with Shopify. So they have an integration that takes two seconds to set up.

Rich: Nice. So if you’re selling stuff on Shopify, so this is not – and I know I keep coming back to Google – but this is not dissimilar from people who want to advertise on Google, where they’re putting up their skews and there is an API, and it’s a pain to set up the first time, but then it’s super easy once it gets set up. And you’re saying on Shopify and Pinterest working together, it’s actually a fairly straight forward thing. If you’re selling products on Shopify, it doesn’t sound like there’s a reason not to at least try this.

Alisa: Exactly, exactly. Right. Yeah.

Rich: So we’ve talked a lot about changes, and obviously you do a lot of consulting with different types of businesses on how to make the most of Pinterest. Is there anything that’s worked in the past that these days you’re telling your clients just not to bother with?

Alisa: Yeah. I think one would be making tons of pins for the same URL. A few, cool. 20, probably not cool, and possibly could get you suspended. So concentrate. As we do say, and it’s hard for even us to listen to, quality over quantity. So just make it the best it can be. And it can still last for a very, very long time. But don’t be repeating pins all the time and don’t overdo the creation, because if you go in there and you’re seeing very similar pins, one after another, that’s dangerous. Pinterest does not like that.

Rich: So what are some of the new recommendations? If you’re pulling some out of your bag of tricks, what are some new things that you’re telling people to do?

Alisa: I feel like a broken record, but it really is idea pens.

Rich: Okay. So that in 2021 and 2022, that’s what we should be focused on, especially if we’re maybe looking to increase our Pinterest activity.

Alisa: Yep, absolutely. And if you have a service business, it’s going to be harder. If you have a knowledge business, it’s going to be harder. If you have an e-commerce business, awesome. And I think a lot of people along the way of their business start to think about what can I do to my business that will be almost like a passive income. So can I start selling products? If that’s something you can do, Pinterest becomes even more important for you and, just frankly, easier to find success.

Rich: So we’ve talked a lot about what feels to me to be organic Pinterest. How about promoted pins? Is this something that you’re still actively promoting with your clients? Is this still a good place for us to be putting our advertising dollars?

Alisa: Yeah, it is. It gets more challenging. I think with the iOS14, a lot of people moved at least some of their budget from Facebook over to Pinterest. So there’s more competition. This time of year is tough on Pinterest because people’s budgets for holiday spending are going up. There’s a lot more competition. Some other things have made it tricky. Like, you’re paying for a click on a page, but it doesn’t necessarily equal a visit to your website, which is a little different from some of the other networks. So you have to watch what you’re actually paying for. But you can pretty well track what you’re getting for leads, signups, and sales. There are also some very cool retargeting options. And with that product feed, you can re target things like add to cart, which can be really, really important and cool, which is fairly new.

Rich: Very cool. So we talked about idea pins early on, and you mentioned you can put affiliate links in there. Is there a connection between idea pins and promoted pins? Can I promote an idea pin through the advertising platform?

Alisa: Not yet. Not yet, but it says, w’e’ll let you know when it’s ready’. So it’s, it’s clearly coming.

Rich: So it is in the production line, they just haven’t released. it

Alisa: Yeah. Yeah. And we should specify that you can do affiliate links, but you can also do your own. So if you have a product page, you can put your products in there as well

Rich: To wrap this up, are there any mistakes that you’re seeing with either your clients or with businesses in general, mistakes that they continue to make on Pinterest that you just wish they’d stop?

Alisa: Yes. Yes, there are. So I think one of them is concentrating spending time on things that don’t really move the needle. One of them is like we mentioned already, is curating content. Which is sharing other people’s content, thinking that that’s going to help you somehow. It’s not, so don’t do that.

I think another thing is pinning the same thing over and over, people still do that. Not paying attention to trends and not watching your analytics. So, there are people out there who are making 10, 20 pins for every article, not noticing that each one of these is getting four or five or six impressions. Like, is this time that I’m spending creating all of this actually working or would I do just as well with one really fantastic pin instead of 20 that are just okay?

But the biggest one is going to be the resisting idea pins. So there are Pinterest marketing gurus out there who were saying don’t do them, boycott them. If we don’t make them, Pinterest can’t make us make them. Well, okay. But you’re not going to win this battle. So embrace them and you will be rewarded.

Rich: Great advice. Alisa, there’s a few places I know people can check you out online. If people do want to learn more, or if they’re looking for somebody to consult with, where can we send them?

Alisa: You can send them to Alisameredith.com or you can send them to Twitter @alisammeredith or Instagram at alisammeredith if you want to see my fluid art as well, and you can DM me over there. I’d love to hear from you.

Rich: And you’ve got that show weekly-ish that people can find at Alisameredith.live, correct?

Alisa: Yes. Yes. And I’m thrilled to have reached 100 YouTube subscribers.

Rich: Congratulations, it’s the beginning of something amazing, I’m sure. Alisa, it’s always a pleasure to see you. Thank you so much for stopping by.

Alisa: Thank you, Rich.

Show Notes:

Alisa Meredith is the “go to” Pinterest expert for anyone looking to kick up their engagement and marketing efforts on the platform.  Be sure to follow her on Twitter and don’t miss her marketing show on YouTube.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.