If you’ve mastered one social media platform, it’s an easy trap to believe you’ve pretty much conquered them all. There are a few overlapping best practices, after all, between sites like Facebook, Instagram, and even YouTube.
And then Pinterest came along and threw a wrench in those plans.
Pinterest is a popular and valuable channel for almost any small business, though makers and marketers alike are often puzzled by Pinterest because it's so different than more conventional platforms.
In this starter guide, we’ll outline all of the fundamentals of using Pinterest for marketing, including how to set up your profile, how to optimize your pins, how to advertise on the platform, and last but not least, how to measure your results.
What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a social media platform that lets users (“pinners”) save pins that contain links, descriptions, and images onto different boards for later use. These boards can be secret (hidden) or public.
Users can create Pinterest pins by uploading images and links manually, stumble across pins they want to see in their feed, or find pins they’re looking for via search. The latter two are great opportunities to market to future customers.
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Pinterest is designed to store ideas and inspiration in a way other social media sites aren’t. Users are encouraged to organize what they find into different board names for easy navigation, and most pinners are primarily on Pinterest seeking and saving what they want to see; they generally don’t care if other people see what they've tagged or archived, because it’s just not about generating discussion or exchanging information.
Think internal vs. external motivation. It’s why Pinterest has the option to create “Secret” boards, which are private and can only be viewed by specific individuals you add to them.
Why is Pinterest marketing valuable?
Data from Pinterest.
To start, Pinterest currently has more than 250 million active users. While this number isn’t quite as big as other social networks, it’s still substantial, especially when you consider the exceptional selling power of Pinterest.
Pinterest can be a marketing powerhouse for online stores. Users buy products they stumble across on Pinterest organically at a much higher rate than the average social platform, and that’s partially because Pinterest users are proactively searching for things rather than just reactively scrolling through a feed.
If you’re wondering why creating a Pinterest marketing strategy is worth the effort for your online store, check out the following statistics:
- 98% of people report trying new things they discover on Pinterest, compared to 71% on other platforms
- Pinners are 39% more likely to be active shoppers than non-pinners; when they shop, they spend approximately 29% more than those who don’t use the platform
- 93% of pinners have used Pinterest to plan for, research, or make purchases
- 80% of Pinterest’s traffic comes from mobile users
- 40% of users have a household income of more than $100k per year, giving them substantial spending power
When specifically considering Promoted Pins, note that according to Pinterest, half of pinners have made a purchase after seeing a Promoted Pin (including yours truly), and 61% of users say they’ve discovered new brands or products thanks to Pinterest ads.
What types of businesses should use Pinterest?
Many businesses have the potential to get meaningful results from Pinterest, especially online stores selling physical goods that can be photographed.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies in general have a much easier time on Pinterest than business-to-business (B2B) companies, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for the latter to get traction on the platform. Ultimately, whether or not Pinterest is a good fit for your business will depend heavily on whether or not your target audience overlaps with their existing user base.
Let’s take a closer look at who typically uses Pinterest today.
Who uses Pinterest?
Women have historically used Pinterest more than men, and with greater frequency. While that’s still mostly true, the number of men on the platform is growing quickly. Women now make up 70% of the platform’s users, and men make up the remaining 30% of users. According to Pinterest, currently more than 50% of new signups are men.
There are, of course, certain groups of users you’ll likely have an easier time finding on the platform. Take a look at this info provided by Pinterest:
- 60% of Pinterest households have children five years old or younger
- 50% of Millennials use Pinterest monthly
- 66% of women between the ages of 25-54 are signed up on Pinterest
- 40% have household incomes of more than 100k annually (a statistic important enough to mention twice!)
The household income statistic is crucial because it suggests Pinterest attracts users with a higher disposable income. This is reflected in additional data from Pinterest for Business which shows that “pinners” are more likely to spend (and spend more) on everything from food to luxury goods.
Set your Pinterest profile up for success
The first step to marketing on Pinterest is setting up an effective profile. Your profile lays the foundation for the rest of your marketing, and you’ll save a lot of time getting it right now versus trying to “fix” everything later.
Make sure you set up a business account for your store instead of a personal one—this will give you access to Pinterest analytics and other advertising tools exclusive to business profiles. If you already have personal profile and have followers and content saved to it, you can convert it to a business profile here.
The information you need
When creating your profile, keep your branding consistent with your site and other social media profiles. Match your username to your other usernames on sites like Facebook or Instagram if possible. You should also use the same logo for your profile picture as it will make your business easy to recognize.
If you need to update any information, click on “Settings” to edit your profile.
When you’re editing your profile settings, you’ll see the option to add “Featured Boards.” These will show up above the rest of your boards, giving you a chance to highlight important content you want to point people to.
Featured Boards also help you create a more vibrant profile, though note that you won’t be able to add featured boards until boards have been created, so you may need to circle back to this after you’re up and running.
Once set up, your profile should look like this:
Organizing your Pinterest boards
Board organization is key for several reasons, one being that if you break boards down into niche subsections you’ll get more followers. Here’s why:
- You’ll be optimizing for more keywords users are searching for, which makes you easier to find
- Niche interests get a lot of attention on Pinterest, so niche boards will be more relevant to members of your target audience
- Users are able to quickly see what your board is about and if they’re interested
Use separate Pinterest boards to market different types of products and to different audiences. You can also create sections, which are essentially boards-within-a-board to make organization easier.
Want to see how this might look in practice? A jeweler could organize their Pinterest into the following boards:
- Birthstone Jewelry, with sections for each month
- The Meaning of Gemstones, which contains blog posts and on-site resources about the symbolic meaning and history of different types of gemstones
- Engagement Rings, with sections sorted by style
- Men’s Watches, with sections for different brand names
Take keywords into consideration
We’ll talk about keywords several times throughout this guide because they’re an essential part of marketing on Pinterest—and that’s all because of Pinterest’s search feature.
Pinners commonly use the site to research buying decisions, and even to make direct purchases. You want to make sure your pins are showing up when they’re looking for products like yours. A good way to do this is to optimize for different keywords within a single pin.
Let's say you sell a subscription service for dog toys, like BarkBox, but for the purpose of this example we’ll make up a name and call it WoofCrate. You might have a description that reads something like the following:
“Have dog toys delivered to your door once a month and spoil your pup with gourmet dog treats. #WoofCrate #Dogstuff.”
Hashtags on Pinterest give you an additional way to add keywords you’re trying to target. Include at least one hashtag in your main description, and two when it makes sense.
💡 Tip: If you aren’t sure what keywords to target, one strategy I like to use is to go on the Promoted Pins creator and use their keyword suggestion feature. You type in a general keyword you’re trying to target and they’ll provide similar suggestions with an estimation of how many searches they receive per month.
What content should I share on Pinterest?
There are various types of content that perform well on Pinterest, so we’ll take a look at the different formats and how best to use them.
Note that all pins must link to another site and include a visual component, and all links should point to the most relevant page. You typically want to avoid sending people to your catch-all homepage.
Product pins, a subset of Rich Pins, contain pictures or videos of specific products, which then take users directly to the site to purchase. These are among the most popular types of pins, and they’ll be what gets you the best ROI, easily.
Blog posts and content
Blog posts have the potential to do very well on Pinterest. You’ll want to keep best practices in mind for your main image, which includes using text on the image itself (tools like Canva can help) and writing a description that explains why the article is worth readers’ time.
As infographics are inherently visual, they fit right in on Pinterest. Make sure your infographic meets the standards that work best on the platform, or it could show up as too small to read.
Videos are becoming more popular on Pinterest, and you can import videos directly from YouTube if you’ve already built up a channel there. Autoplay videos are currently only for Promoted Pins, but if you’re able to offer value to pinners, you could build a following with video content. Tutorials and DIY videos generally perform well on Pinterest.
How to get your Pins noticed
What your pin actually looks like will determine whether pinners notice it in their feed, and if they decide to see what you’re all about.
There are established practices to follow to boost performance of your pins; while there are exceptions to some of these rules, they’re good ones to stick to for the most part.
The colors you use (and how many you use) in your pin matters. A study from Curalate found:
- Images with multiple dominant colors have 3.25x more repins than those with a single dominant color
- Very light and very dark images are not repinned often; shoot for a middle-of-the-road saturation and brightness
- Red-toned images perform higher than blue-toned images
What types of content
The types of content you post in your pins matters, too. The same study from Curalate and a similar study from Pinterest found that:
- Images with less than 30% whitespace or background performed better than all other pins.
- Brand images without faces received 23% more repins than those with them.
- You can include text on the image of a pin, especially to establish context, but it should be minimal and the color should contrast with the rest of the image.
- You can create a pin that consists of several images, which should ideally be stacked vertically. Pinterest recommended using no more than four images per pin.
Size and dimensions
When you’re in the Pinterest feed, you’ll notice some pins jump out at you while others blend in. Color and content definitely affect this, but the dimensions of your pins can play a crucial role, too.
Pinterest’s own best practices recommends you aim for taller pins, with the maximum aspect ratio being 1:2.8.
Text on Pinterest: What part does it play?
Visual content on Pinterest will always take center stage. Users are, after all, presented with a swath of images all squished together, and they scroll until something jumps out at them.
That doesn’t mean text is never useful. Quite the opposite: While the visual part of a pin will catch a user’s eye, the description can determine whether or not they decide to click. Just as important, it can help the right users find your pins.
Users will never even see your image if you don’t have the right keywords and copy to tell them (and the Pinterest algorithm) what you have in store. Pin descriptions, board descriptions, profile descriptions, and board titles should all creatively include keywords for that very reason—but avoid writing copy that looks and feels like low-effort keyword stuffing.
For best results, your pin descriptions should:
- Be front-loaded: While pin descriptions can contain up to 500 characters, users will only see the first 75-100 characters unless they click. Put the important stuff up front that establishes context and value to increase clicks.
- Read naturally: Keywords are important, but you don’t want to sacrifice creativity or overwhelm users. Pin descriptions that are nothing but a series of keywords can be off-putting and will discourage people from engaging with you.
- Sell the pin: Users can see that ridiculously cute t-shirt your store is selling is their style, but a description that lets them know it’s premium organic cotton and that you’ll donate a portion of the proceeds can be what tips the scales and encourages them to purchase. Again, Pinterest is visual, but compelling copy will always matter.
Switch it up: Collaborate using group boards
If you've already created boards on Pinterest, you may have noticed the ability to add collaborators to them. Using this strategically can yield great results.
To use group boards to your advantage, you can:
- Create a board with other influencers or industry experts, “hosting” the board on your profile while they share their expertise. This works well with both niche influencers who reach members of your target audience, and broad-appeal influencers with large audiences.
- Create a private board with individual customers, where you can share ideas. A shop that makes custom designs or does engraving work could share different examples of what they can do on a private board.
- Ask customers to pin pictures of their experience with your business. You can offer incentives for this, like a Pinterest contest with a potential prize at the end if their post gets the most repins from other users. To get started, you can reach out to customers over email and send them a link to the board.
Adding a guest collaborator is easy. On the group board, click the grey icon next to your logo. You’ll be able to invite specific users by the email address associated with their Pinterest account.
Promoted Pins: Understanding the basics
Promoted Pins are Pinterest’s system for advertising. They run in an auction-style where advertisers bid to have ads shown to their target audience.
With Promoted Pins, you can pay to have your pins show up in users’ feeds when they’re browsing, or in their search results. Promoted Pins can include images or videos, and look like regular pins with a small “Promoted” tag on the bottom.
With Promoted Pins, you can optimize for different types of goals. Your objectives will determine the user actions you pay for, including:
- Referral traffic, where you pay for clicks.
- Brand awareness, where you pay per 1,000 impressions.
- App installs, where you pay for clicks to the download page.
- Brand awareness through video, where you’re charged per 1,000 impressions. One important note: these videos will auto-play in the user’s feed.
With the Promoted Pins system, you can set daily and total budgets. You can choose if your ads will appear in searches, feeds, or both. There’s also the option to schedule start and end dates for each campaign.
With Promoted Pins, you have the option to create custom audiences from email lists for retargeting, and you can use demographic and location targeting.
Interest targeting and keyword targeting, however, hold more value than they’re typically given on other platforms. Choosing the right keywords is essential to ensuring your content pops up in the right searches organically, and the same is true for ad targeting. Choosing the right interests will help Pinterest place your ads with users who are most likely to be interested in seeing them when browsing.
Placing your ad in search results is a valuable opportunity. You’re getting in front of a high-intent audience and users who are actively seeking out information. It’s like Google Adwords, but with a frequently-purchasing audience and flexible, high-impact visuals.
No other social media marketing activity gives you this kind of advantage. If your audience is on Pinterest, it’s worth testing out Promoted Pins with some of your ad budget to see if it works for you.
Make the most of Pinterest
Pinterest is unlike any of the other social media platforms, because users are equally motivated to save items for themselves as they are to share them with others.
It has exceptional selling power, particularly for ecommerce. To succeed on Pinterest, have a deep understanding of the customers you're trying to reach, stay consistent with your pins, profile, and boards, and keep up to date on best practices and changes occurring to the platform. Happy pinning!