Unlocking the Secret Power of Pinterest – Jennifer Priest
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Pinterest is an underutilized tool in your social media toolkit. A pin has a much longer shelf life than a tweet or a Facebook update. Pinterest offers search engine optimization benefits that other social media channels can’t match.
Discover how to leverage hashtags, videos, and search in Pinterest to reach more of your ideal customers and drive traffic and sales.
Rich: A craft industry professional for over 15 years, she has been featured in major publications and online by the likes of Apartment Therapy and MSNBC. Her digital marketing consulting firm, Smart CreativeSocial, has a prestigious client list across multiple creative industries. Smart Creative Social offers social media consulting services and training for creative businesses, specializing in hashtag strategy across all platforms and traffic strategies for Pinterest. Fresh from her speaking gig at The Agents of Change, Jennifer Priest! Jennifer, welcome to the show.
Jennifer: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
Rich: I’m glad to be talking to you again. So I know that you’re an expert at your craft and do it yourself stuff, is that what drew you to Pinterest in the first place?
Jennifer: Yeah, I went on Pinterest because I was trying to promote my own business and my own blog, and I had clients also who were in the craft industry – manufacturers, artists, that sort of thing – and they wanted to promote their sites and get more traffic, so it was not just for the benefit of my business to learn it, but also for these clients I had been building up since 2009.
Rich: So you were working with clients and helping them market and promote their craft businesses well before you got into Pinterest then?
Jennifer: Oh yeah, I think back before Pinterest was even a thing.
Rich: So that just became one more tool that you could use to help businesses grow.
Jennifer: Yeah. And I really enjoyed it. As I learned more about it, it just seemed like some of the lowest hanging fruit and everything is so logical on there, and it just made a lot more sense to me and I could see faster results than somewhere like Facebook or Instagram where over time we’re seeing declining referrals from those platforms. Whereas Pinterest just keeps growing year after year.
Rich: Now would you say your main use of Pinterest – both for yourself and for your clients – is it more about driving traffic to blog posts where people can get to know you, or is it more about making that direct sale, or a little bit of both?
Jennifer: I think it’s a little bit of both. Pinterest has a mission statement where they say they’re in the business of helping people discover new ideas for them to go out and actually do in their life. So people are coming to Pinterest for ideas. But, Pinterest also has a lot of data showing people are coming there to help make purchasing decisions, to plan future things that they’re going to do. Whether that’s weddings or vacations, or outfits or fashions that they’re going to be buying, etc.
And so depending on what the business is, some of the businesses we drive traffic to their blog because they have content creators that are putting that content there for them. And other clients we drive traffic directly to pages on their website or products. It just depends on what kind of resources they have available and what style of digital marketing they want to do.
Rich: If you could summarize this briefly, what do you think the big difference is if you’re coming to Pinterest with the idea of I need to market my blog post versus I need to sell product? How would you immediately help somebody on one side or the other side of that fence?
Jennifer: I feel like doing a blog post is a lot easier as far as getting people from Pinterest over to that blog post and getting them to spend a significant amount of time on your site. Because with a blog post you can tailor make that content to fit what’s going to actually convert with a Pinterest user.
So if I have a product – let’s say I have a beer – when we went to Maine there was the Maine Brew Bus and we did the tastings and all of that. So let’s say I’m a beer brand and I want to have traffic to my product. That’s going to be a lot harder to convert over, but I can create content on a blog where I can say “11 pairings for a super hoppy beer”, or something like that where I can give people a little bit more value along with packaging my sales in this delivery of value that’s going to be interesting to people.
So it’s kind of like a softer way to get people over to your site instead of just, “Here’s the #1 beer right now”, or something like that. I think it’s a lot easier to wrap your products in a piece of valuable content and deliver that via a blog and drive that traffic to Pinterest, than it is to directly go from finding the idea on Pinterest and ‘bam’, here’s a product sale.
Rich: Now Pinterest obviously has an ad platform promoting pins. Over the past few years I’ve noticed that marketers using Facebook are now spending money on Facebook ads – because of the lack of visibility on Facebook now – they’re spending money on Facebook ads just to get people to read their blog posts, not even trying to sell product. Are marketers starting to do the same on Pinterest? Are they willing to spend money to get blog readers with the hope of getting future sales, or is it still pretty much promoting your blog on Pinterest but you’re doing it with organic reach only?
Jennifer: They are using paid and experimenting with paid. I think largely the ads, if you go on Pinterest for the ads, they are for products or more for companies that are trying to create some level of awareness about their product. I don’t see too many bloggers doing that unless it’s a B2B type of deal where they’re advertising a course or some kind of tool, like Tailwind for example. That’s a Pinterest scheduling tool and I believe they have ads on Pinterest that I’ve seen.
So as far as a blogger, I think for the time investment, you could get a lot more bang for your buck by just really working on the organic side of it, optimizing your content with keywords, using hashtags, testing different visuals, versus just throwing ad money at it. Because even if you put ad money on it, it’s competing in a totally different type of environment than say on Facebook. On Facebook you’re scrolling but you only have so many things on your screen at a time. Maybe if you’re on mobile 3 or 4 things on your screen at a time max, but on Pinterest if you’re looking on desktop, you have hundreds of things on your screen, depending on how far you’re zoomed out on your browser. And if you’re on mobile you can have 5 or 6 or 7 different images on your screen competing for your attention.
So the visuals have to be a lot stronger on Pinterest, whether that’s an ad or for organic. So your ads aren’t going to be successful unless you have good organic.
Rich: Alright, that makes a lot of sense. One question I have about Pinterest is the use of hashtags. One day it seems like it’s a thing on Pinterest, the next day it’s not. What’s the current status of hashtags on Pinterest?
Jennifer: So Pinterest rolled out hashtag functionality September 29thof 2017. They basically flipped a switch and turned them back on to where they are clickable and searchable. Now Pinterest says that the average Pinterest user is using hashtags to search, but in my anecdotal research in talking to regular everyday people, they don’t really know how to use hashtags and they’re definitely not using them on Pinterest.
So I think the value in hashtags in Pinterest isn’t so much the search capability as far as anyone besides us marketers going in and clicking on hashtags. I think the value is that if you use hashtags almost kind of like its a little bit borderline keyword stuffing. Use them kind of like additional keywords that help Pinterest really understand in a very strong way what the topic of your content is about. I think that’s where the power is in hashtags. So not so much using a hashtag in the way that we would use it on Instagram – like a viral hashtag – you couldn’t use that on Pinterest because Pinterest is more about the search functionality.
So if I have a pink wall that I want to pin, I’m going to use the words “pink wall”, “pink photo wall”, “Instagram wall”, in my keyword description, but I’ll also turn those into hashtags. So it’s like this double whammy of signals, a combination of the keywords plus the hashtags, that really gives a strong signal to Pinterest about what the content is about so that if someone came on their search engine for that topic, whether they used a hashtag or the keyword, that piece of content should rise to the top of the search.
Rich: Now when you’re looking at your own analytics on Pinterest for your own company, are they giving you that kind of feedback about how people found you and whether they did a search, or clicked on a hashtag or link, or found you through some other method?
Jennifer: They’re not getting that granular with it. So you can look in your Pinterest analytics to see which pins perform the best in search and which pins get the most clicks or the most saves, which is what ‘re-pins’ are now called. So we can do that, but anything where it says these pins are kind of shooting to the top and that’s because these hashtags are performing better than others.
We don’t have that, so we can look to something like Google Analytics and set up custom dashboards to filter stuff in a much more granular way. But without the custom dashboards you can go and look at things like the traffic on your site, look at the referrals, how you’re acquiring that traffic and where it’s coming from. So you can open up individual blog posts, for example, and see that the traffic is coming from /pins/xxxx (a bunch of numbers) and that’s the URL for a specific pin. So you can see that and then you can go in and see those individual pins and see which ones have hashtags and which keywords they have, so you can compare.
So for one particular post for example, I may have 20 or 30 pins running traffic to it and I can look at all of those pins and see which ones rose to the top as far as the top traffic referrers. And then make some hypothesis and some conclusions from there about, ok, well these top 5 – three of those had hashtags, and then of those, they had these keywords in common. So there’s some element of guessing involved, and testing, and looking out for if I put hashtags on this is it performing any better. You can use UTM codes if you want to get more sophisticated and things like that to track all of that performance.
Rich: I love me some UTM codes. Now most of us know that Pinterest is great for images, but many people still don’t think about video as part of the platform. What can you tell us about using video in Pinterest and also about driving traffic to a YouTube channel?
Jennifer: So it’s very interesting because this summer Pinterest was at VidCon – which cis a conference all about videos – so of course I went to all of their sessions. So about a year or two ago they released a video functionality for promoted pins, and so they’ve been working on that a lot where if you were promoting a pin and paying ad money for it, you could use a video instead of a regular pin. And now they’ve also rolled out where you can also make it double wide. So most pin images are tall and skinny, and so now with ads you can make it go the whole width of the phone so you can capture more attention. And 80% of Pinterest users are on mobile so it makes sense that they would do those types of ads.
You can also pin videos from YouTube. The problem is when you pin a video from YouTube in that landscape format, so while you can watch that YouTube video on Pinterest, you’re getting the views counted on YouTube and they’re not going to get attention in the feed and they’re pretty much overlooked. They’ve got black bars on the top and bottom sometimes, and they just don’t seem to perform as well.
So what Pinterest did at VidCon is they announced that now you can upload videos directly to Pinterest without doing promoted pins. And it seems like this is something that is rolling out to a select few accounts. But the one commonality that I’ve seen is that everyone that does have the ability to upload videos without it being a promoted pin has paid for an ad in the past. And so this is just my hypothesis, but I think doing a promoted video pin is one way to unlock that functionality to be able to do videos without paid.
So what I recommend doing instead, and what I’ve really seen some good results with is taking a screenshot of that video on YouTube. And keep in mind you can do this on Facebook as well with your Facebook Live’s, your Facebook videos, your Instagram videos, you can do the same thing.
So take a screenshot of it and make sure you’re capturing those player controls – the pause button the progress bar, the YouTube logo – so that it looks like a video. And then I put that at the top of a 2:3 ratio graphic, so 1,000 pixels wide by 1,500 tall. That video screenshot typically takes up the first 1/3 or first half of that pin image, depending on whether it was a square or a rectangle video. And then the bottom I just fill with color, or you can add another image if you’re going to make it a collage, and turn that into a long pin image. And I also put a giant ‘play’ button right in the middle of the video screenshot, so a circle or a square with that triangle right in the middle. So that then people know what that means, so they know to click it and they know they’re going to be getting a video.
I also put a call to action on the pin with an arrow that says “video tutorial”, or “click here for the ‘how to’”, or “watch the video”. And those are converting so much better than video pins are. And within my YouTube Analytics on my channel I can see the spikes in views every single time that I am pinning a piece of content in that way.
Rich: Alright, so a couple questions. When you say “converting better” when you’re doing it this way, how are you measuring conversions? Did you mean click throughs, or is there something else going on?
Jennifer: I’m looking at clicks.
Jennifer: So I’m trying to drive traffic. And then wherever I’m driving to I feel like that almost starts a new instance of the test because now there’s all of the variables on that platform that determines whether they convert to whatever I’m doing. So whether I’m dragging traffic to a retail site, then I feel like things turn off and it starts over, and now it’s the retail site’s responsibility to make sure that it converts. If I’m sending them then to a Facebook Live, it’s then my Facebook Live’s job to convert them to purchase the course or sign up on my list.
One of the things that’s really nice about doing this with Facebook Live is you can drive them over to view that video on Facebook Live, and now you can hit them with retargeting ads on Facebook. So you can actually get new people coming and seeing your content on Facebook without seeing the Facebook ad. Now they’re pixeled, you can retarget the people that viewed 90% of the video, it’s a much better way to get that free traffic over to Facebook.
Rich: Alright, hold on one second, you said something. Ok, so the Facebook Live video. You’re talking about doing a Facebook Live video, but then when I’m done with it then you’re creating a pin for it to drive traffic to that video, is that what you’re saying? Or are you saying scheduling it so people can see it while it’s actually being recorded live?
Jennifer: I am sending traffic to it once it’s been completed.
Rich: Ok. So Facebook Live, recorded. Perfect. I just wanted to make sure I understood that. One other thing I wanted to ask you about is, when you’ve got a video up at YouTube that you’re trying to drive traffic to Pinterest, are you just doing one pin or are you doing multiple pins over time to stay in front of people and drive new audiences to that video? Or is it basically just no, we only create one pin per video?
Jennifer: So the way that I first make the choice about what pieces of content I’m going to do this for is I look at my top performers, and then I look at what overlaps my goals going forward. And part of that is because I have a lot of different types of content.
If you were a product manufacturer – for example I have a client like this – they look at their top performers, well 30% of those are products that are discontinued because they were a partnership with a particular retailer. We don’t want to promote that going forward, so we’re just going to look at the top traffic from videos – for example – and then overlap with our goals going forward. And then what we do is we implement what I call the “fresh pin strategy”.
So the rationale for that is Pinterest has an engineering blog on Medium. And on that blog they share all kinds of really amazing insight into how the algorithm works, and what tools they’re using, and what things they’re doing. And back in February of 2018 Pinterest announced that they were investing in a couple different AI platforms, one of which was called Pixie, to identify fresh content on the platform.
In subsequent months I have seen Pinterest speaking at conferences and Facebook Live videos with their partners, and this term of “fresh” keeps coming up. So I read through that article and looked at the engineering information they had and determined that of course ‘fresh” is good, but what do we do with existing content that we have. And so we can present it in fresh ways by having new imagery, new descriptions with different variations of keywords, and new hashtags. We can also pin those to new boards as well.
So what I advise my clients to do is when you’ve identified those top pieces of content that overlap your goals going forward, that you then create 10-24 pieces of content for that post or that video. And by pieces of content I mean long pin images.
If you have Photoshop open or Canva and you’re making these graphics yourself, it’s not much more time to create 20 of them versus 3. The same as if you have your graphic designer making these, you can tell them I need these 10 pins and each one is going to have this title. You give them the title so that they can figure out what the focus of each pin is going to be, and then they can just create them. So it’s not really that much work when they’re already in there in that mode of creating them. Then it gives you this bank of content that you can then roll out over time or over the next year.
So if you’re doing 10 pins for a video, you might roll one out every 5 weeks. If you’re doing 24 pins, you’ll roll 2 out a month. And what that does, by stacking these essentially, because once you’ve rolled out 2 this month I don’t stop rolling those out next month. Those number 1 and 2 are still going, number 3 and 4 get added next month. And so it’s this volume of pins that are kind of activating Pinterest to recognize them as fresh. We see a bump in traffic and then over 6 months – which is the half-life of a pin – the traffic tapers off. But because we’re adding new pins each month, we’re kind of reactivating that freshness factor. And so in volume we’re getting a lot more traffic going to that post.
And the other thing that’s really cool is in the Pinterest feed, somebody may have seen your pin and not clicked it the first time. They see the fresh pin and that triggers some interest in them and they click it again. Or, they see the original pin, they click it, they see the next one and they lick it. So you just keep driving traffic to that same post because they don’t recognize it necessarily as exactly the same piece of content.
Rich: And that actually reminds me back in the day when I was much more active on platforms like Twitter – in terms of promoting blog posts and just blogging more often – I’d often come at the same blog post from 2 or 3 different angles with different quotes or whatever it would be, and it sounds like a similar plan.
My questions to you are, first of all does that create any sort of…are you deluding the value of the pin by having other pins pointing to the same URL, or does Pinterest not seem to care about that?
Jennifer: Pinterest doesn’t care that you have a lot of pins linked to the same URL. What they’re concerned about is that you don’t do things that are spammy. So you want to space these pins out at least a day apart. So I wouldn’t go and say I’ve got my new pin and I’m going to go and pin it every 15 minutes. So you don’t want to do something that a human wouldn’t actually do on Pinterest. But I think if you space them out where you’re pinning, I think that’s ok.
So I would definitely go look at the Pinterest community guidelines, read through those, they’re written in plain English not legalese. Just kind of digest those and think what does that mean to me and how can I use this for my business. Pinterest is cool because multiple pins are going to the same link, but they just don’t want it to be something where you’re pinning the same image 40 times in a row with nothing else in between. And you’re not creating value for those people that are following you, and you’re not adding additional value to the site, you’re just spamming it.
So kind of the same issue that Twitter had experienced where people were just saying, well a tweet lasts 8 minutes so I’m going to tweet the same thing every 8 minutes. We don’t want to be doing that. We want to space things out and think of the experience of our viewer, our customer, who’s following us. We want to make sure that we’re delivering to them value and not just saying, well these are my top 5 posts so I’m going to slam the platform with those. You need to put other content between those.
Rich: Ok. And you’re using a tool like Tailwind to schedule all these out? I’m sure you’re not going in there every day or so and doing it by hand, correct?
Jennifer: Yes. So I am using Tailwind to do all of my scheduling, and I want to disclose that I am a Tailwind Ambassador, I’ve been an Ambassador for them for a few years because I really do believe in the tool and I think it’s the best one. The thing that I like about whether you use Tailwind or any of the approved scheduling tools, you definitely want to make sure that you are checking Pinterest and make sure that you’re using an approved business partner tool.
The thing I like about that is they can save you from inadvertently having spammy behavior. So if you were to manually pin, you’re going to say, “I’ll pin 30 things a day”. And you sit down and you pin those 30 things in succession. That could set off the alarms over at Pinterest and possibly get your account suspended. Not because you’re doing something necessarily spammy, but the behavior of pinning in rapid succession could set those off. So a tool like Tailwind allows you to space your pins apart from another so that it doesn’t appear that you’re just trying to spam the platform.
Rich: So it protects you from yourself.
Jennifer: Yeah, pretty much.
Rich: Alright. Jennifer, this has been great. Very helpful stuff as always. Where can people find out more about you online?
Jennifer: You guys can find me at smartcreativesocial.com, and I have free resources and other things, courses, etc. Bu that’s the hub where everything is located.
Rich: Awesome. Jennifer thank you so much for coming by and sharing your expertise with us.
Jennifer: Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me, it’s been a pleasure.
Jennifer Priest loves to teach entrepreneurs, bloggers, and other business owners how to leverage the power of Pinterest to drive more traffic and interest to their websites. Check out her website for free content her blog, and other tips – including her course.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he has added “author” to his resume with his book!