A Blogger’s Guide to Pinterest Marketing
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If you’re a business owner, chances are you’re already using Facebook ads as part of your marketing strategy. And the last thing you probably want to do – or have time for – is add yet another social platform to your repertoire. But don’t overlook the many benefits of Pinterest and what it can do for your business.
Pinterest offers an abundance of benefits for businesses, and the best part, it doesn’t have to be just content that you’ve created. You have the opportunity to build relationships with influencers, re-pin older content of yours that did really well to keep it alive and get more new eyeballs on it, schedule pins all at once to save time, and don’t forget the benefits of group boards, where you can collaborate with others. A tweet has a limited shelf life, but a pin can last forever.
Rich: She’s a food blogger, photographer, and consultant. She started her food blog, The Little Kitchen, in December of 2009. But she continued to work a software engineer job before transitioning full-time entrepreneur in 2012. She shares recipes that are accessible to the home cook on food blog, and loves helping bloggers and small business owners on her other blog, juliedeily.com. She has spoken at the Mediavine Conference, as well as the BlogHer and TBEX. And if her URL didn’t already give it away, I’m very happy to introduce Julie Tran Deily. Julie, welcome to the show.
Julie: Thank you, I’m excited to be here.
Rich: So how old were you when you fell in love with cooking?
Julie: Oh gosh, that’s a funny question. I don’t know when I fell in love with cooking, I’ve always just loved food, that’s what it was.
Rich: Was your mom or your dad just an excellent cook?
Julie: My mom cooked Vietnamese food growing up all the time and I loved it, I did help her in the kitchen. But I have this joke – it’s not really a joke because it’s true – I say I love to cook and I love to eat, but my mom who is very traditional tells me I’m supposed to say I love to cook because I love to cook for my husband.
Rich: That does seem a little old fashioned.
Rich: So you got into cooking, you found a passion there. When was it that you said, I should be blogging about my passion?
Julie: So I actually went back and looked, it was 2008/2009 I was following food blogs and I was emailing my sister who was in college at the time and I was telling her, “Look at this recipe on this one blog, I want to start a food blog”, and I kept saying it for probably about 6 months over email to her. And she told me to get off my ass and just start it. So if your baby sister tells you, while she’s in college and you’re working full-time in the corporate world, to get off your ass and do something.
So I started my blog within 48 hours, never with the intention of going full-time or being an entrepreneur. I always thought I’d have a corporate job at the company I worked for, and I loved programming, It’s just that I got laid off in 2012 from my job and I really wasn’t going to even venture into doing it full-time either. I had friends and family encourage me and say I know this is what you want to do deep down. So it was one of those things where I know some people really want to quit their job and be an entrepreneur full-time, it wasn’t always my dream job. It’s become a dream, it’s great. It comes with challenges and I love it, but it wasn’t that path that I was trying to take. I thought I was going to retire from software programming, that’s what I thought.
Rich: That’s interesting. So at some point along the line when you were doing all this blogging, you discovered Pinterest. And obviously Pinterest and food go hand in hand. But what was it that drew you into using Pinterest on your site?
Julie: I listened a little bit to your chat with Alisa (Meredith) the other day, and like you said and what Alisa said, it’s very much a visual platform and food is a very visual medium, people get drawn into food photos. And I remember people talking about it on Facebook, actually. It’s funny that’s what happens, on one social media platform we’re talking about another one. And I think you could get invites, I don’t know if you remembered when Pinterest started. And I just said I’m new at this and I’m just going to play around with it. I loved the idea of it being a virtual corkboard, you can pin anything on a board but you’ve got it on your computer and you can download the app and you can see it on your phone. Not only different kinds of recipes, but you can organize your wedding, my sister has done her daughter’s birthday parties. So that’s what drew me into it because I also thought that I could organize other things, not just promoting my food blog. And I still use it for personal purposes, too.
Rich: Well tell me a little bit about how do you approach Pinterest when it is about promoting your own blog and your brand.
Julie: So for a long time it was just pinning from my site, and also just pinning from other blogger’s sites. I think that everyone has a different approach for their account. The way I approach it is I actually do want to gain followers on Pinterest because I want my pins to go further just because of my software background. Pinterest did implement an algorithm for their main feed. It used to be that you’d pin something and if someone was on the site and following, they very most likely would see it in their feed because it was deciding what they were going to see on their feed. So now there’s an algorithm and you know when someone is going to see the pin.
The creepy thing is I have some pins that were pinned some years ago that still have a lot of traction in Pinterest. So part of my strategy is to look into Google Analytics and to see how much traffic I’m getting from Pinterest and other social sites, but also which pins are giving me the most traffic. And then also looking at Pinterest Analytics, and I also use Tailwind and I look at the analytics in their also.
Rich: Alright, let’s talk in pieces. So you’re in your Google Analytics and I assume you’re going into the social section that tells you where your traffic is coming from. You see Pinterest and then as you dive deeper into Google Analytics it will actually separate it by pin.
Julie: It will tell you exactly the pin. And what’s great is you can see who pinned it. I’m finding a lot of the traffic I’m getting from my site is not just from the pins that I’m pinning, it’s from other people – most likely readers or other Pinterest users – that are pinning that pin from my site. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to be getting the traffic just because I’m pinning from my site. So you you’ve got to see where, just because of the algorithms, someone could have 200 followers and still bring you a bunch of traffic when they pin from your site. And that’s kind of the exciting part of that, you don’t know where it’s going to come from.
Rich: So when you’re looking into Google Analytics, you’re able to see not just which pin is doing it but who pinned it as well. So that might give you some sense of who to pay attention to on Pinterest. How might you use that information once you start seeing in Analytics who are some of the users are that are driving traffic onto your site?
Julie: So you can actually click on and it will bring you directly to the URL that pin that’s bringing you the traffic – I’m looking at 5 or 10 – and then you can click over and see who it is. And I don’t have a ton of time so I don’t delve deep, I will comment and say “thank you” for a pin that’s brought a lot of traffic over time. I used to be able to do that more often, but what I usually do is really pay attention to that pin and actually re-pin that pin. If that pin is bringing traffic, re-pin it to one of your boards on Pinterest to kind of keep that pin alive, so to say. That’s my strategy for that.
Rich: Alright, so I happen to have been looking at your website before the call, beautiful photos, delicious sounding food. I think one of your recent posts was lasagna rolls, is that possible?
Rich: Ok, so we have lasagna rolls up there. So I just want to walk through this. So you post that to your blog and then you go ahead and pin it. But then somebody else – let’s say Rich Brooks – comes along and I pin it to some board I have. If that’s both the same page but if people click through on your pin and people click through on my pin – even though it’s going to the same article – Google Analytics is going to look at it as two different sources within Pinterest and then you can click backwards to find out who actually pinned it that’s sending you the traffic. Am I getting that right?
Julie: Yeah. And I can even share examples of the Pinterest URLs. Each pin has its own URL, it will say “pinterest.com/pin/xxxxxx (numbers)”, and so it actually brings you to it, and when I click on it, it kind of shows their face and the username and the person who pinned it.
Rich: Interesting. Alright, so basically if different people are pinning the same content from your website it’s still going to create different pins within Pinterest. And then what you may do is go to some of the most valuable pins from other people and re-pin that content back onto your own account just to give it a longer life.
Julie: Yes, exactly, you got it.
Rich: So you mentioned you’re really busy. You’ve got at least two blogs that you’re doing, how much time do you spend on Pinterest each day doing marketing and promotion?
Julie: Oh gosh, that’s a good question. I’m on and off Pinterest, I don’t just sit there for an hour on it. I sometimes will bring up the app and I’ll live pin. People call it live pinning because a lot of us use schedulers like Tailwind. It helps you create a queue based on if pins do well, and sometimes you want to pin 15 times a day. I do have someone who helps me every so often keep my pin queue full. But if I see something on Facebook or Twitter or something that catches my eye, I’m going to pin it.
One of the things I forgot to go into deeper is that I want people to follow my Pinterest account and see me as a curator of great food content, and then obviously other content, too, not just food. So I want to give them a reason to follow me, it’s not just me promoting myself over and over again and owning my posts. So that’s why I do share and pin from other sites, not just mine, and I do about 60-80% of others and then the rest are mine.
Rich: Ok, well that definitely makes a lot of sense. So obviously we talked a little bit about using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog – which is critically important – but you’re also positioning yourself as an authority, a curator, and using the 80/20 principle in terms of sharing from other things.
And just to recap further, the other thing you’re doing is you’re using an app – Tailwind – to kind of have a minimum amount of activity time throughout the day on your account, but then you’re live pinning basically as you see stuff that you think is worth sharing organically.
Julie: Pinterest likes you to actually be active on Pinterest and use the tool.
Rich: Very selfish of them.
Julie: Like Facebook wants you to stay on Facebook, too. We want people to stay on our sites, too, so I get it, they’re trying to run a business.
Rich: So you mentioned that you’re on Pinterest for personal reasons as well, so it’s sometimes tough to say when am I actually working and when am I actually just relaxing. But how much time do you spend on Pinterest, or is this a thing that you do where you go through Pinterest – you probably have people and boards you follow – how much of that is re-pinning stuff to add to your own pinning queue?
Julie: It’s probably the least amount of time. I’m usually pinning if I’m on someone else’s site already or I find something in a news article or I find something on Facebook, and then I’m going directly to their site and pinning directly from their site. So I’m actually pinning from other people’s sites more than I’m actually pinning from the feed.
But I do like to go in there and see – especially people I’m following – and they’ve changed different things where you can actually see a live feed, and I haven’t really tried it out yet. And there’s obviously the algorithmic feed and then also re-pinning my own stuff. I feel like it seems kinda funny to say it out loud but I re-pin my old stuff and my older content and my new content over and over again.
Rich: So when you say you “re-pin” it – because I know that’s a common phrase – are you saying that if you have a blog post for pork dumplings form a year ago, you pinned it then but are you saying you might come in today and pin it again? But when you say “re-pin” it, do you mean that you go back to the blog and pin it from there, or do you mean you find the pin on your Pinterest board and then click the “re-pin” button?
Julie: So there’s a couple of ways that people do it. So yeah, when you say “re-pin”, you’re actually pinning another pin. It’s not really pinning a pin because – I’m going to go technical here – if I’m pinning a pin and then when I click on the link. Because when you click on the pin on Pinterest, it brings up the whole entire pin, it says who saved it, what board it’s on, and then it has a caption if they created it. And if you click on the image or you click on the “visit” button, it will take you directly to the site or the blog. So if I pinned a pin, it would actually take me back to Pinterest.
So I’m saying I’m “re-pinning” because I’m actually going to the actual pin and pinning it again. And that’s some of the metrics that you see on Pinterest. I don’t know if you really want to go into that because it’s all kind of confusing right now and some of the analytics are not working for me when I go in there. But it used to be you could see a total number of re-pins on that original pin. Like I told you, I have some pins that never made sense to me. A long time ago when they first started the algorithm, it would be someone who had like 25 followers and they had 2,500 re-pins. So 2,500 people saw that pin in their feed and thought this was a great recipe and re-pinned it and put it on their board.
So that’s kind of what I mean about re-pinning and yes, I do go back to those pins from a couple of years ago – even 2 weeks ago if it’s doing really well – if it’s bringing me traffic. I want to further it along in the algorithm and say “Yes, I want more people to see it”. Because those are actually the ones that do better for you, give you more traffic, and have more eyeballs on it than a brand new pin on a site. Unless that account has a lot of activity on it already. Some amazing Pinterest user that has 2 million followers and they just happen to come on my site and pin it, it will probably do really well. But I really want to help it along if it’s already doing well. Does that make sense at all?
Rich: Yeah. And it sounds almost vaguely similar to when I’ve got a blog post that maybe did really well but it needs to be updated. I’m not going to write another blog post on email subscription rates, I’m going to take the old one, update it and refresh it a little bit, and put it out there and promote it again. So somewhere in the Pinterest algorithm they must be saying that, that there is activity around this pin. And rather than just start from scratch, it makes sense to build on your previous success.
Julie: And I want all the pins that I pin on my account to do really well. So I want to pin great content but then I also want to re-pin the pins that are already doing well, too.
Rich: Ok. So tell me a little bit about group boards and how you’re using those. Actually, first start by just explaining to the people at home, what is a group board, and then tell us how you’re using it.
Julie: So a group board is any board can become a group board if you add somebody to it or if maybe someone else invites you to their board. And I have a bunch of group boards that I run myself that are based on my account. And then I’ve also been invited to other group boards.
So they do really well because when I’m pinning to that group board, if they have a larger following than me, then it will be seen by more people but also it will be seen by different people. And also in turn, if I have a group board and other people are on that group board and they keep pinning to it and there’s more activity, that board just keeps doing better. It’s like the more you pin the better it is, and the more you pin great stuff the better it does for your account and all of your pins. It’s just like the tree that keeps giving fruit.
Rich: Do you find that you get invitations? Recently I just cleaned up a lot of my boards and I saw that I must have been invited to some group boards, I don’t remember accepting them, because these were kind of low quality boards. Of course I unconnected myself from all of them, but can people add you to boards without your explicit permission?
Julie: So they can add you without your permission and invite you, but you have to accept the invite. So maybe you accidentally accepted the invite. So over the years I’ve had a lot of invitations, and if I just don’t know because some boards have a problem with spam because of too many contributors, and honestly I’m very fortunate to have a good following on Pinterest. So I get a lot of emails asking if people can join my group boards, and I think I answer less than 1% of those emails. If I don’t know them and I don’t know what kind of content they’re going to be pinning and I’m not sure if they’ll be spamming, I honestly don’t really reach out to people and ask them for something if I don’t know them in that way.
I find it’s like sending that pitch and asking for something without having that relationship first. So I just don’t answer a lot of them just because I don’t have a lot of time and I just feel like I’m not going to add someone to my group board if I don’t know them. And that’s just how I run my account. There’s a lot of people who have group boards where they have several hundred contributors on them, and they tightly control it.
And then there’s a whole thing of Tailwind Tribes, too. It’s kind of like group boards but not really. You’re sharing stuff together on Tailwind and then you’re re-pinning that stuff. And that’s a whole other exciting part of Tailwind that I keep dipping into and then realize I don’t have time, and then I dip back out of. But it’s another way to grow your account and to grow your blog using Tailwind, and Pinterest, and group boards all completely in different ways. I feel like I’ve totally rambled.
Rich: No, no, no. But I will try and recap this for my own sense, because I’m also looking through your boards right now and I’ve lost all track of time.
Julie: So a lot of people say you shouldn’t have that many boards. There are so many different schools of thought with Pinterest. And not to brag, I have 133,000 followers on Pinterest and I’m going to leave my 100+ boards alone. Some people say delete your boards or whatever, and I have a lot and some of them don’t have that many pins but I just can’t seem to feel like I can part with them because some of those boards have 40,000 followers. I just clicked on one that only has 17 pins, and it has almost 50,000 followers on it. So I don’t want to lose that.
Rich: Right, exactly. What I found is like, there’s usually more than one school of thought and there’s usually both sides may be correct. Also the other thing is I think a lot of people who are active on Pinterest are people who are very organized. So the idea that you have 100+ boards kind of makes their OCD overreact and then they have an opinion on that. So that could just be the situation, too.
Obviously you’re very successful with this so I wouldn’t probably change anything, and what I always tell people are best practices don’t always equal best results. So you can listen to what the experts say, but ultimately you have to measure yourself. And judging by your numbers you’re kicking buttover there.
So the group board thing, this is more about a public approach to co-marketing. And it sounds like the Tailwind Tribes is a little bit more obscured, perhaps, because you’re kind of working together in this place on Tailwind and then bringing this success over to Pinterest. Is that right or am I misunderstanding what’s going on with the Tribes?
Julie: Yes, you’ve got it. So you can share a pin. If I was working on it, I would go into Google Analytics or my Pinterest Analytics and figure out which of those viral pins are giving me the most traffic and share those on Tailwind Tribes. And what I do like about it is it shows this little virality score inside there. So there are some Tailwind Tribes that say viral pins or highly successful pins, just to keep making them more successful.
Julie: So it’s like a different kind of sharing group. There’s all different kinds of Tribes, I’m in a few different food ones, but I seriously have not looked at them in months. But it’s a great tool.
Rich: Right. And outside of Tailwind in other parts of the internet, there’s always been these groups – sometimes ad-hoc, sometimes planned – where it’s like you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Or let’s start sharing each other’s content and get it out there and this is going to help us all grow. So I’ve definitely seen that in other places so it’s not surprising that it’s successful using the Tailwind app.
Any other tips or tactics that you’ve discovered of late, or just favorites of yours that you’re not seeing other people necessarily use as much?
Julie: Well I think a lot more people are using this now that hashtags are back in Pinterest. There was a time in the beginning where they let you use hashtags and then Pinterest told us that hashtags don’t really matter so don’t use them. And now Pinterest is really using hashtags again. I just noticed today when I was pinning on Pinterest, what I do is I actually have a little bookmark tool in my browser in the two browsers I use. I use Chrome and Safari. So I just hit this little “P” button and whatever site I’m on it will actually bring up all the images and I can pick whatever image and I can add my caption.
I noticed when I started typing in there – because I add captions to it – and a lot of times just out of habit I will mention the blogger or pinner that I’m pinning, and people have told me they get an alert. Today I noticed when I was typing a hashtag, a little menu started popping up and it was kind of like Google search, it started completing it for me. And the hashtag is actually telling you how many pins. So I started typing “#chocolate”, and it was telling me how many millions of pins there are of chocolate on Pinterest.
Rich: And chocolate milk, and chocolate this, and chocolate that, I’m guessing, too?
Julie: Yeah. And so it’s telling you how many while it’s doing it. It kind of feels like using hashtags on Instagram, the same kind of thing. So you see a lot of the social media platforms borrowing from each other and I think that’s a very useful tool if you’re doing searches for what kind of keywords to use in my Pinterest caption or what hashtag I should use.
Rich: So when you’re seeing those numbers, if it’s like Instagram, those are the numbers of other people who have used that hashtag, other pictures that have used that hashtag. It doesn’t necessarily tell you if those are being searched on a lot, although the assumption would be that there’s going to be some sort of connection between the two, correct?
Julie: Uh huh, that’s what I’m thinking.
Rich: If you saw two things and one was “chocolate shake” and the other one was “chocolate milkshake”, and one was significantly more popular than the other, would you choose the more popular one because more people are using it, or would you choose the less popular one because maybe you would stand out a little bit more? The big fish in the small pond category. Or would you just say it doesn’t matter, I’m just going to put it in the most appropriate category, or use both?
Julie: I’d say appropriate category is both, depending on what it is. Because chocolate is such a broad category you kind of want it to get out into chocolate land because there’s so much chocolate. But then you kind of want to be specific, too. I’m seeing bloggers use anywhere from 5-10 hashtags in their caption. I just don’t want it to look super spammy but I’ll use a handful.
Rich: Makes sense. So bringing this back to the whole blogger thing, because that’s where we started from, what are you doing to prepare images on your blog so that they’re more pinnable? Because I know that for awhile we weren’t paying as much attention to this on one of our blogs, and a lot of times what people were pinning was Pinterest just pulling a quote with Arial text on a blue background or something like that. So are you spending time preparing your images so that they look gorgeous in a pin?
Julie: Pinterest loves vertical images. I’m sure you noticed that. It’s funny because when I started food blogging my pictures were awful, terrible, really terrible. I laugh at it now. Sometimes when I’m speaking about food photography I’ll show a picture from my first blog post and it was pretty bad.
I used to only prefer to shoot horizontal and I made myself shoot vertically, and now I’m just so used to it that I have to make myself shoot horizontally, too.
Rich: So you’ve got some beautiful photos of food, I know that almost all of us take pictures of food. Can you just give me a tip or two about how I can make my pictures look as good as yours do?
Julie: Well thank you for saying that. I actually love shooting in natural light. I say always edit your photo, either by using an app on your phone, it always probably needs to be brightened up and add a little contrast. And really just paying attention to the details of what you’re trying to shoot, and making sure you’re paying attention to all the corners, and don’t have anything that’s really distracting. y early photography was like, oh I just left the paper towel in there. I think a lot of people are trying to take a nice photo but don’t really think about the composition and what is actually in the frame. If you’re taking a picture of food at a restaurant, maybe you need to move that glass, or your glasses, or move that other phone out of the way. Pay attention to what you’re composing in your camera right there.
Rich: Awesome, I’ll definitely work on that. Fantastic. So this has been great and you’ve got a couple blogs out there, and obviously you’re active on social, where can people find you online?
Julie: So my blog is The Little Kitchen and you can find me at thelittlekitchen.net, and on Instagram and everywhere, it’s thelittlekitchn. There is no “e” in “kitchen”, so it’s “kitchn”. And my other blog is juliedeily.com and I’ve got a free video course on how to organize my contracts when working with brands, and that’s juliedeily.com. I’m also on Instagram at JulieDeily.
Rich: Perfect. And I should just say that thelittlekitchen.net has the “e” in it, it’s just on Pinterest, correct, that you drop the “e”?
Julie: All my social media. And it’s Twitter’s fault because they only let you have 15 characters and that’s 16 characters all spelled out. So I wanted it to be easier so you can find me everywhere at “The Little Kitchn”, missing the “e”. And then yes, you have to spell it all out for the actual blog.
Julie: A little confusing.
Rich: No worries. Julie this has been great, thank you so much for your time and expertise today.
Julie: Thank you so much, Rich.
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Julie Deily transitioned her tech background and her love of food into a successful blog, thanks in part to leveraging her Pinterest expertise and creating pins that have actually grown her business and generated leads and traffic to her sites. Definitely check out her Pinterest page for inspiration on the kind of content and photos that will help your business grow.
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 just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!