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How to Pin Like a Pro – @simplepinmedia
The Agents of Change

AOCP-Pinterest-Kate-AhlWe all know by now that Pinterest has proven itself as more than a wedding planning and DIY platform. More and more businesses are seeing the power of using Pinterest to market and grow.

By following a few basic “rules”, you can effectively locate and market to your audience using Pinterest. Making sure you know your audience, create visually appealing content – both original and curated – make sure your boards really show who you are and you are categorizing them well, pin with some amount of frequency/regularity, and most importantly look to other pinners for inspiration. These are the “commandments”, if you will, to successful Pinterest marketing that will help you grow your small business in a steady way.

Kate Ahl is a Pinterest pro, turning what started as a personal interest in Pinterest into a business where she helps take the mystery out of Pinterest marketing, and allows her clients to sit back and relax as she puts into place strategies to grow followers and increase page views.


Rich: Kate Ahl is the owner of Simple Pin Media, a Pinterest Management company. They help bloggers and business owners using Pinterest to boost their business. Kate also interviews those using Pinterest in creative ways each week on The Simple Pin Podcast. Kate, welcome to the show.

Kate: Hey, thanks so much for having me.

Rich: I’m really excited to talk about Pinterest because it is a sore spot for me, it’s not necessarily something that I am naturally good at. I’m not going to blame my gender on it, but I’m glad to have you on the show for sure.

Kate: Good, so glad you didn’t, because there’s lots of men on Pinterest.

Rich: Yes, I’m sure there are. So first of all, what drew you to Pinterest? There are certainly a lot of platforms out there what made it a good fit for you?

Kate: I think honestly it was just timing. I had been working with a blog for a while as a contributor and I was also doing Facebook management, and at the time it was late 2013 when Facebook changed their algorithm. So bloggers really got a lot of free traffic and so then that free traffic was no longer there. But Pinterest was a really valuable source of great, free traffic.

So we kind of hopped over there and I had been already using Pinterest personally, but had not figured out a way to use it for business. So I think it was kind of a natural progression of following the traffic of social media, and I just landed on Pinterest and figured out a way that bloggers could use it specifically to boost their business. And that was really how I fell in love with it and just ‘landed the story’, if you will.

Rich: Ok, sounds good. Now we all use it, hopefully – now that Pinterest isn’t just for recipes and wedding planners anymore – but sometimes it feels like a stretch for other businesses. So if we’re a business that maybe isn’t a typical Pinterest business, how would you suggest we get started in the first place? And if you need an example of a business, I’m happy to give one. But if you have some examples from the people you work with who use Pinterest in creative ways, you can certainly use that as well.

Kate: Actually I’ll use one that somebody actually called about a couple weeks ago, and it was somebody who does social media management for a paver company. You know, the rock pavers that you put on your driveway or landscape with. And they were trained to branch into how to creatively use Pinterest. One of the things that we kept talking about was we could potentially use it as a place to showcase how you would use these pavers, how can people use them in their day to day projects. And that’s really what you want to think about with Pinterest, how does my product fit into other day to day or a future use. How can I show that I’m useful, helpful, inspirational, and I have value. And I think regardless of your business topic, you always want to think through that.

So if you do web design, how can I showcase my designs, or how can I help somebody to achieve the design they want. It’s really kind of niching it down and digging deep into the mind of your target person, and giving them more of that.

Rich: You know, I like what you had to say there. It’s about how is my product going to be used day to day or what’s the future use of that, and I think that’s pretty helpful to. Even somebody in B2B like me can find something, and the website design example certainly lends itself to it obviously, but it might be more of a challenge to talk about Search Engine Optimization, for example. But maybe if I could create tips that would then be pinned/shared in a post in a graphic way, that might be something that somebody is going to put that away for a rainy day, so to speak.

Kate: Absolutely. And I think it’s important to remember that Pinterest is a really powerful not only place for cataloging ideas, but it’s a search and discovery network, it’s a place where people go to look for ideas. And some of those ideas that are put on Pinterest also cross over to Google. So if I’m doing a Google search about something and somebody has titled their Pinterest board exactly what I’m searching, that will be indexed by Google. So we have to remember the two kind of crossovers, so you can find them on each other, of that makes sense. So that’s also important.

Rich: So I’m thinking that let’s say we’re a local ice cream shop, and besides obviously pinning up all of our flavors, we might also create a blog post about the 10 best ice cream stores in Maine. And of course I wouldn’t put anybody near my particular store, but I’d certainly put my store in there, and so if somebody was searching for “ice cream in Maine”, then maybe my pinboard – if I’m using the term correctly – would appear in a Google search result.

Kate: Exactly. And then you could also expand on another board about travel tips in Maine, or travel tips in a specific city in Maine, or put places to visit. You really just think the topic, but think also about your surrounding; how do you find good ice cream in Maine, how do you find good ice cream anywhere, how do you know if an ice cream shop is junky, what do you look for?

Rich: Right. All right, so let’s say that you’ve sold me on Pinterest and I’m going to use it for my company, whether it’s web design or a conference or ice cream. Could you walk me through what are my daily activities that I’m going to take care of on Pinterest, what should I be thinking about? I know what I need to do on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn, but walk me through a day of Pinterest activity.

Kate: Ok, so let’s say for example the conference idea, and let’s say you have all the content created on the site that you need, and you would hop on over to Pinterest and you would first – before we start doing daily activities – you would want to make sure that you have boards that are appropriate for the topics that you know your people are going to be searching for, or people that you want to reach are going to be searching for.

So as an example, let’s take a basic blogging conference or maybe we take web design – what are they searching for and what are their key terms – and you have boards that are titled that.  Well then you want to take some of the content that you have on that conference website and you would want to pin daily. And for a lot of people they get stuck on what the correct amount I need to pin everyday to my board, and there isn’t really a set target number but I would suggest being consistent. So let’s pick five.

You’re going to pin five pins a day. They are going to be 2 from your website, and maybe 3 from other people’s websites. Or you could do 3 from your website and 2 from others. Again, the ratio is not hard and fast, the important part is that you’re pinning to your boards the content from your website to Pinterest consistently in a non spammy way. So you’re not just pinning out the same thing all the time so that you can get more page views, but that you’re pinning things that are helpful, that are useful, and that are targeted to who you want to find it.

Rich: All right, just to pause you for one second. That brings up a couple questions I have. One is, how important is timing, can I pin five things in a row and then come back the next day and do five, or do I have to spread these out over the day?

And the other thing is, a lot of people may only have 10 pages on their website, so if you’re pinning 3 things a day, aren’t you going to run out of content pretty quickly?

Kate: Yeah, that’s a really good point. So I would say first, as far as the timing, timing has changed a little bit. Pinterest used to be a chronological platform, but then it moved to be the “smartfeed”, is what they call it, it’s kind of jumbled. So you might pin five things in a row, but if I follow you, I could see it right now, or I could see it in 10 hours or I could see it in 2 weeks. Pinterest is going to leak it out into the system based on what people are searching for, based on how relevant it is timing-wise. And so you’re welcome to just pin 5 in a row and timing isn’t as relevant as it was anymore. Some people will tell you they do prefer to spread them out over the day, but again, if you have a hundred followers, ten might only see it right away and ten might see it in 2 weeks.

So the other portion of your question was talking about content and running out of content, and I think that’s a really valid question and that one is sometimes hard for me to wrap my brain around because I do work with bloggers who create ridiculous amounts of content. So if I was somebody who created maybe 1 or 2 pieces month, you can even dial that down to maybe pinning one of your pins once a week, or let’s say you create it today and you have three Pinterest boards that fit this topic. So let’s say it’s “how do I increase conference attendance”, and you have 3 specific boards that that pin could go on. You might pin it today and maybe then again next week and the week after that. You could pin 2 a day, it really doesn’t matter how often you’re getting your content out there, just that you’re consistently doing it.  Whether it’s once this week and once next week and once the following week. Does that make sense?

Rich: It absolutely does make sense, yeah. Because there are definitely people out there who are not creating content as regularly as some of the others, so I want to make sure that they’re taken care of.

It also sounds to me like I should be creating boards that match up with my site navigation. And this may not be a one to one, but certainly if I’ve got a section on “services”, if those services are important enough for me to create pages around them, then they’re probably going to be important enough for me to create boards around them as well, correct? 

Kate: Absolutely, yeah, I would say that I always look at – in addition to your navigation on your site – what are the keywords that people are finding you for. What’s the things that they’re searching for and they end up landing on your website? That’s also very important because you want to try to rank on Pinterest as well for those keywords, too. And so there’s definitely a lot of crossover.

Rich: Yeah, I’m thinking about and article that I wrote on hashtags, which has just been crushing it for months on my website. We don’t really sell hashtags, surprisingly, but I am wondering like maybe that would be something around – maybe it’s too narrow a topic, maybe not – but something on hashtags would certainly help elevate that as well.

Kate: Yeah, you could easily title a board, “the best ways to use hashtags”.  What’s really interesting is that Pinterest doesn’t really support hashtags, it’s one of the few platforms where hashtags doesn’t really work well on, and Pinterest discourages the use of hashtags over there. So that is kind of a pretty cool topic to think about creating a board around.

And I will say this, too – because I want to make sure this is addressed – is a lot of other people just think I can pin any image. And the image is really king on Pinterest, so it’s important to address that you need to create a proper Pinterest sized image.

Rich: And so were talking about for the content we’re creating. So if I wrote a blog post, I should have a proper Pinterest sized image so that somebody can pin it, correct?

Kate: Correct.

Rich: So what is that proper sized pin?

Kate: It actually just changed yesterday. The ratio is 1-2-8, so there is a lot of math and calculations and your listeners will have to Google this to get the exact dimensions for their website, but a good dimension might be like 600×900. That’s really huge, and  lot of website owners are like, that’s gigantic. So there is a way to hide that image by putting a specific code in your website – or using a plugin like Social Warfare – will allow you to hide that in your blog post so that when someone hits the “pin it” button, it will pop up for them.

Rich: Maybe I misheard you, you said the size is 1-2-8. Did I misunderstand what you’re saying, because it sounds like 3 dimensions?

Kate: Yeah, it’s a weird dimension. So I’ll get the exact one to you. You have show notes, correct?

Rich: Alright, so if you send it to me, we’ll put those in the show notes. But a good ration you were also saying is like 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels tall?

Kate: Yes, exactly. That’s a really good one right there.

Rich: Ok. And just if you’re playing along at home and you don’t know how to do that – and I want to talk about the Social Warfare thing in a second – you can also upload that image at 600 wide, and then use WordPress to shrink the image. That’s not the best way to do it, but it is a way to do it.

Kate: It is a way to do it, and you can use tons of free software programs like Canva or PicMonkey that you can easily do that to and change the dimensions. So know that those are out there as well.

Rich: You mentioned Social Warfare, so I’ve heard that it was something that seemed to be bubbling to the surface at Social Media  Marketing World. Is that a plugin that you use and like?

Kate: It is. I love it, I really, really love it. I only have Pinterest images on my content on Simple Pin Media, but I know a lot of my users are on Facebook, so I want to give them the opportunity to have a Facebook image. So what I’ll do is I will use the Social Warfare plugin to upload the Facebook image into the backen of the post. And then when somebody clicks to share on Facebook, it uses that image instead of the Pinterest image that you would see.

And the reverse can happen also. So if you get a lot of Facebook traffic and you only want a Facebook post, then you can hide the Pinterest image. Does that make sense?

Rich: Cool, absolutely. Because on Facebook the images tend to do better when they’re on horizontal, with Pinterest it’s the opposite.

Now we actually do that, we did that before Social Warfare, so I’ll have to check out that plugin, we just use the open graph. So we use an AOC blog and podcast – you’ll see yourself –  in a vertical promotional image. And then if somebody goes to share it on Facebook, we serve up the Facebook version instead using the open graph. So I’ll have to check out Social Warfare as an alternative, too, so thank you for that tip.

Kate: Yeah, it’s good for non-techies like myself.

Rich: There you go. So we’re talking about our daily activities and we’ve posted 5 things. Oh, I had one other question – man, I’ve got a lot of questions today – is there a Hootsuite for Pinterest if I do want to spread out my posts over time?

Kate: There is. I’m not sure if Hootsuite is an approved Pinterest API scheduler – because Pinterest does have these “approved” API schedulers, but you can use Buffer, Tailwind, Viraltag, and there’s a few others, and I’ll get the Pinterest link for you of all the approved API schedulers. And that saves a ton of time, especially if you’re going to pin one per week and you don’t want to remember all month long, you can schedule that out and be done.

Rich: Absolutely. I’m sure it’s great also for agencies who are working with a lot of different clients, as well, to make sure that that’s all taken care of.

Alright, so we’re posting 5 things a day – or whatever the number is for us – what else should we be doing during the day?

Kate: One of the biggest things that I encourage people to do is go follow other people that you respect or maybe you want to notice you or you appreciate their content. Pinterest is a platform where it’s very communal; it’s kind of this sharing of other people’s stuff. You want to share the love if you will. So if there’s somebody that you really want to support, follow them, and then share some of their content, go ahead and pin some of their stuff. Because it will show up in their notification feed that you have pinned it or that you have followed them, and it’s just one more way to get noticed.

Rich: Alright, so this is kind of like influence and marketing on Pinterest, where we’re going to find the big fish -so to speak – people we respect, and we are going to pin and share their material, in part because we like it, and in part because we want to get noticed by them.

Kate: Sure. And always remember that. I think of Pinterest boards as this place to curate these ideas for your ideal person. If your ideal person was going to come up to you and say they’re looking for all these kinds of resources, you can tell them to look at your Pinterest board, you have collected all of the best of the best and you can go there and trust anything that you read there.

Rich: All right, good to know. Now what’s the difference for those of us that don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest, what’s the difference between “pinning” something and “sharing” it, or is it the same?

Kate: It is the same, and actually they just changed the term to “saved”. So, talk about confusing.

Rich: So I’m looking at somebody else’s board, I like something they have, I go to your board and I like something that you have up there. Maybe it’s something that you created, maybe it’s just something that you pinned from somebody else’s site, and I go ahead and I just click on the pin there and suddenly you see that activity on your board, and I pin it to a board of my own, correct?

Kate: Yes, correct. Now you’ve “saved” it.

Rich: All right, I “saved” it. So are there other things we should be doing in our day-to-day activities on Pinterest?  We’ve talked about the pinning; we’ve talked about the saving, is that basically the gist of it or is there more to it?

Kate: Yeah, that’s basically the gist of it; it is pretty simple. There’s not commenting on Pinterest, it’s super, super rare. So sometimes you’ll get a comment and it’s hard to distinguish if it’s spam or if it’s legit, because just don’t see it very often. But other than pinning and following, there’s not really much else.

Rich: All right. Well what can we do then to build an audience on Pinterest, especially if we’re just getting started? And maybe the other part of this question is, what does an audience look like on Pinterest? On Facebook I’ve got people who “like” me, I’ve got people who i’m friends with, on Twitter I’ve got followers, but what does that mean on Pinterest to build an audience, or is that even a legit thing to care about?  

Kate: I think that’s kind of tough because Pinterest is so unique in the sense that their smartfeed is a mix of who you follow, and also this thing called “picked for you”, which are pins they pick for you based on maybe people you don’t follow. So it’s really hard to target an audience based in these are the people that always come to my page like you would on Facebook or Twitter.

What Pinterest gets more thinking about are who is the person I’m pinning for all the time. This person/audience might not necessarily always see my pins, but I need to always have them in mind. And that’s a really weird mind shift when you come from Facebook or Twitter. You’re not getting instant interaction either, and it’s this kind of long-term growth over time. Which is again, hard to wrap your brain around.

Rich: Well I like the idea of “who am I pinning for”. We’re curating content with our own and other people’s, to really create this amazing board for somebody we may not have met.

Kate: Yes.

Rich: And so I guess we’re creating these boards and in part what we’re trying to do is get in front of people so that they start either following their boards or following everything we do so that we appear in their smartfeed.

Kate: Yes, correct. And then they land on maybe a pin that you’ve pinned and they click through to your website, and then they end up discovering more about you as a result of that. And that actually can happen with somebody who’s not following you because you maybe show up as “picked for you” in somebody else’s feed based on what they’re searching. So that’s why those search terms on what you title your post and what you title your boards on Pinterest are really important, because that’s how Pinterest says, “Fred over here just searched about hashtags, so I’m going to show Rich’s post to him”.

Rich: That makes a lot of sense. So what are we looking at from a time commitment, it doesn’t seem like we need to spend a lot of time on our boards.

Kate: You know, you don’t need to spend a lot of time, and I would say initial set up is what’s difficult. And you can have from anywhere from 10 to 50 boards, which is a lot in the beginning. I would never suggest somebody just get onto Pinterest and start 50 boards, but you really want to set up a good foundation with at least 10 boards that communicate who you are. That if I landed on your boards, I would know exactly what Rich Brooks is about, I would know about your conference, your company and I would be able to clearly see that based on the titles of your boards.

So that really is where the hard work comes in, is being very strategic about focusing on who I’m pinning for. But then once we get into the day to day, it’s really not as much as it is the initial setup.

Rich: So how do we know if we’re successful on Pinterest? What should we be measuring, are there KPI’s that you work with on your clients, like are there things that you say they need to pay attention to, but we don’t need to pay attention to that?

Kate: I would say a lot of people put an emphasis on follower numbers, and we don’t put a huge emphasis on that. Mostly because what we’ve learned over time is that the higher the number of followers doesn’t always translate to more page views.

And page views would be our second one. Are we actually getting traffic from Pinterest, are people clicking on our pins and clicking through and sticking around?  So those are kind of the two big ones.

Beyond that, I would say that people look at bounce rates, because Pinterest traffic is pretty clicky, they stick around for maybe 30 seconds, so how can we really get them to stick around for longer, to read a bigger post, to hang around and do this DIY project – that’s not really a good example – but that whole idea of perusing our site and clicking on other things.  So our biggest metric that we use is mostly page views. Are we getting clicks from Pinterest?

Rich: And page views obviously on your own website, not on your boards on Pinterest. Just to clarify.

Kate: Correct. And there’s a few places that we look for that, Pinterest has it’s own set of analytics when you become a business account. It will give you three places – for profile, your audience, and your website – and what activity is happening on all of those. And then we also look at Google Analytics to look at what’s our overall page views compared to Pinterest page views, and then what’s the percentage of social traffic, and then what pins in specific are driving the most traffic, because that’s really important to look at as well.

If you all of a sudden have a viral pin that’s sending you 1,000 page views a day, you want to know what that pin is because you want to make sure that the post that they’re landing on is optimized and tells the traffic what to do with the post and where to go and who’s important.

Rich: Awesome. Wow, this has been great. We barely even covered the basics, so we’re definitely going to have to have you come back and talk about some of the more advanced tactics that you’re employing on Pinterest. But this has been a great place for me to get started and learn a lot about how I can be using Pinterest for my own business. And hopefully our audience got the same out of this, too.

If people want to dig deeper and don’t want to wait for the next time I have you on my show, where can we find you online?

Kate: You can go to simplepinmedia.com, and I have a blog there where I write weekly updates about what’s going on on Pinterest. And then I also have a weekly newsletter that I send out on Wednesdays, and the Simple Pin Podcast just started a couple weeks ago, so you can listen over at iTunes as well.

Rich: Very cool, loving the podcast. All right, well Kate, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Kate: You’re welcome.

Show Notes:

  • If you’re looking to use Pinterest to help grow your business, check out Kate’s website, podcast and blog for helpful information to get you started.
  • Follow Kate on Twitter and tell her Rich Brooks sent you!
  • If you have found the interviews and topics in this podcast helpful for your business, then hurry and get your tickets to the Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference, happening on September 23, 2016, and get inspired by experts speaking on the topics of search, social and mobile marketing. Let them help you take your business to the next level.
  • Correct dimensions for Pinterest images:
    • Pins in feed: 238 pixels x adjusted to height.
    • Expanded pin size: 735 pixels x adjusted to height.
    • Pin boards complete size: 238 x 284 pixels.
    • Cover image: 217 x 146 pixels.
  • Approved API schedulers for Pinterest: Buffer, Tailwind, Viraltag, Ahalogy, Curulate, Sysomos, NewsCred, Olapic, Percolate, Salesforce, Spredfast, SprinklrAOCP-FB-Kate-Ahl