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:Marketing / Social media marketing

The complete guide to using Pinterest to grow your business

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I’ve been blogging for nearly 3 years, and for the entire time I’ve been singing praises for Pinterest from the mountaintops.

So imagine my embarrassment when I realized I was using it all wrong.

I was utilizing group boards, using BoardBooster, and creating vertical pins, so I thought I had it all figured out. While those tools are great for growing your Pinterest account, they’re just that: tools. And if you aren’t using your tools correctly you might as well not be using them at all.

Over the past month or two, I’ve made critical changes to my Pinterest strategy in order to grow my account and increase qualified traffic. Through these strategies, I’ve begun to get as many repins, followers, and click throughs in a week as I was getting in a month before.

The beautiful part? I’m not spending hours every day on Pinterest. I’ve been able to see massive growth by making small tweaks in my strategy that add up to no more than twenty minutes of work a day.

Better yet – I’ve done a lot of testing and trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t. I’ve experimented with colors, pin orientation, featured images, and language so we can get the nitty gritty of what Pinterest advice we should actually be listening to.

But before we get into that, let’s make sure we have the basics covered.

Setting up your Pinterest account

Elements every Pinterest account should have

As I’m writing this, Pinterest has just unrolled a new layout feature and you know I’m all over it. The old layout highlighted your “about me” section, whereas this new layout allows you to choose five boards that you can highlight to scroll above your other boards. This leaves you with four key elements to your Pinterest account that you should refine from the get go.

Your display name 

If you notice my display name, you’ll see that it’s not just “Morgan Timm.” I’ve got Morgan Timm | Business Blogger to help make my account more searchable.

By putting what you specialize in directly on your display name, you can show up in the search results when somebody is searching for someone just like you.

You can see here when you search “Business Blogger” into the search bar or Pinterest, I come up in the top row because I’ve got “Business Blogger” right in my display name.

In fact, everyone who shows up in the first few rows has some combination of the words Business and Blogger in their username.

With that said, if you don’t have your specialty listed, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for people to find you. In that case, you are relying on your “about me” section and the content you’re pinning, while missing out on a powerful (and easy to implement!) strategy.

Your profile image 

In my profile, I have a clear picture of myself that is also used in graphics on my sites so I’m easily recognizable. A lot of people opt for using their logo, but it’s harder for your target audience to connect with a logo than it is with your face.

Even if you’re in business with a partner, consider using a picture of both of you, or choosing someone to represent your social media and use a picture of them.

Furthermore, make sure that the image is clear, high quality, and embodies an element of your brand that you want people to connect with. My brand is bright and cheerful, so my image is in front of a hot pink wall with a big smile on my face.

Bonus: The eye is drawn to colors that stand out, search for the term you’re adding to your display name and see what color palette is the most common. If you can, choose an image that will stand out from the other users so people are more drawn to you and likely to click!

Back in the Myspace days your about me might have covered what your favorite TV shows and sports teams were, but in the days of using social media as an entrepreneur, you need to cover what benefits you’re going to provide your audience and a call to action.

Your featured boards 

Here is Pinterest’s newest feature, and one that many of the early adopters aren’t doing right. You see, these are the boards that your audience is going to see first and the ones that they are the most likely to click.

You are given the opportunity to hand select what your audience sees first on your profile, so we are going to make sure you’re choosing boards that:

  1. Bring your traffic
  2. Get your product in front of your audience
  3. Represent your brand

You can do this by creating a board that only features your own content. I have two – one for each of my blogs. That will leave you with four more board options. What to consider here is your brand, and where else you share the majority of your own content.

I post a lot about Instagram, so I have my “Instagram Influencer” board as one of my featured ones, as well as a blogging and entrepreneurial goals board.

If you’re a healthy food blogger, for example, you’ll feature a board with only your own content, and then four boards that you pin your recipes to often.

The key is to make sure that the chances that people will see your content and click over to your site are high.

Your boards

Most people use Pinterest to get fashion inspiration, recipes, and wedding planning advice. Us online entrepreneurs, though, need to be a bit more focused.

Utilize Pinterest’s private board feature and make any boards that aren’t on brand private. If you’re a food blogger, you don’t need your audience to see your fashion boards or extensive collection of memes.

This tip is sort of a “do as I say, not as I do” piece of advice because my two blogs are in very different niches and I run only one Pinterest account so I do have business boards and fashion boards.

But at the end of the day: I’d see greater growth and have a more targeted audience if I ran separate Pinterest accounts for each of my sites.

Ok, so what next?

The basics are covered, and maybe you’re getting a little board. No worries, this is where the real strategy starts coming into play.

We could just pin sporadically to targeted boards and hope for the best, but we’ll be better off being strategic.

Good strategy = greater reward in less time. Yes, please.

Creating pins

This is going to be the most time-consuming part of this entire process, you need a solid foundation to go on before you can start making your Pinterest run itself.

The quality of your pins will directly impact how much engagement and clicks they get. When I started blogging I was terrible at designing graphics, and even now I’m not great. This means I hire graphics out half of the time, and the other half of the time I make my best friend reassure me that my pin looks fine 8 times before posting it.

You may have heard these tips before, but here are a few things to consider when creating your pins:

  • You want long vertical images like this
  • Images with text do better than images without text
  • Use high-quality photos – either yours or free stock photos
  • Only brand it a little – a tiny logo is great, a big text block claiming copyright isn’t
  • Utilize padding and white space, more on that here
  • The meta description of your image matters for SEO purposes, more on that here

Your pin description 

Pinterest has a SmartFeed meaning that people will see the best pins above the newest. This also means that it’s important for Pinterest to think your pins are great.

That means they should link to a reputable site (aka yours) and have a detailed description that includes:

  1. Keywords that your audience is searching for
  2. Several sentences to stand out, entice, and be found more easily in the search
  3. A call to action, such “click through to read the full post!”

You can increase your SEO in your board descriptions by using the words your audience is searching for.

Creating & populating your boards

Before anything else, you’re going to need boards with content. Create anywhere from 5-15 on brand boards (don’t use cutesy names – be straightforward for SEO purposes) and pin at least twenty high-quality pins to each.

My best advice is to follow a handful of leaders in your niche so that your home feed will be populated with high-quality pins. As tempting as it might be to follow your favorite Aunt Hilda, you don’t need her natural arthritis remedies clogging your feed.

Once each board has twenty pins, advertise your Pinterest account on your other social media. A quick tweet saying, “You think I’m fun here, come check me out on Pinterest!” with a link and a Facebook post linking to your profile will help initiate the flow of followers.

From there pin regularly every day until you’ve got 50-75 pins on each board, and then we’ll make the magic happen.

What should you pin? 

When you’re initially populating your boards make sure that you’re pinning a healthy mix of your own content and content from other sources. You’ll want to make sure every single pin that makes it onto your boards is beautiful and leads to high-quality content. Anything less and people may unfollow your account and you’re losing out on your target audience.

People have all sorts of ratios they swear by as far as how many other peoples’ pins you should pin for every pin of yours, but I wouldn’t waste time over thinking that so long as you’re not only posting your own content or not only posting other people’s content.

Loop your pins   

Remember that program I mentioned earlier? Boardbooster? Yeah. It’s a pinner’s best friend. It takes your account and keeps it active all while giving your pins the greatest visibility.

The site is a little old fashioned looking, but don’t let that discourage you – it’s actually straight magic.

Personally, I find looping to be the most useful tool, and you’ll find that in the bottom of the “tool” tab in the menu.

From there you’ll click the “add boards” button and choose which board you’d like to have pins looped to. A menu will pop up, and here is what you’ll see:

You can see what I select for each option, but now I’ll break down what each one means.

Status: This one is simply asking whether you want this board to be looped or if you want to pause it.

Frequency: How often do you want boardbooster to repin? Personally, I don’t see any point in doing one or less a day.

Time settings: The basic will suffice – you can get very technical with the advanced settings but in the long run, it won’t make a noticeable difference if the rest of your boardbooster account is set up correctly.

Pins per day: Here you choose how many pins you want boardbooster to pin to your boards a day. The more unique pins that already exist on your boards, the higher this number can be. I say 3 pins per 100 unique pins is a good call until you are looping around 10 a day.

Spread between: If you know when your audience is active, this is a great way to pin when your audience will see it.

Pin on these days: Pretty self-explanatory – I loop errrrrrday.

Pin selection method: I’d recommend either “random” or “oldest to newest.”

Include pins: Tall pins = superior, so if you’re creating your pins correctly I would recommend selecting tall pins.

Automatic deduplication: This will delete your pin with the least engagement after a set period of time. This keeps your board from having 20 copies of the same exact pin while helping boost your engagement numbers.

Run deduplication: Here is where you choose how often you want boardbooster to delete the underperforming pins. I would let your pin have at least three days to gain momentum before having boardbooster delete.

Protection for viral duplicates: This means if both of your pins have a ton of repins it won’t delete them. I have this on for all of my boards except for two that I don’t want any duplicates in at all.

Protections for pins with comments: Pinterest’s commenting system is weak, especially if your account has a lot of engagement, so I don’t worry about comments too much as I usually miss their notifications regardless.

What else does boardbooster do? 

Boardbooster is a great tool, and while I do believe that their looping tool is their best feature, there are a few other honorable mentions:

Campaigns are a newer feature that boardbooster has unrolled, and it allows you to take pins from one of your boards and add them to a group board that you are a part of. I recommend choosing a board that only has your content on it, and scheduling to pin to a popular group board.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that mosts group boards have some sort of rules, so be careful that you’re not breaking them. Whether you’re only allowed to pin new content, or three pins a day – make sure to respect the rules so you don’t get kicked off the board.

If the rules of one board don’t work for you, go ahead and move on to the next.

The scheduler tool allows you to create a secret board full of pins you can schedule to pin onto a public board. I find this to be an inefficient use of time so I don’t schedule my pins, I just pin directly to the public board, but there are plenty of people who find this tool to be useful.

The group manager is a godsend if you have group boards. It allows you to see if people are following your rules at a glance. You’re able to see how often your contributors are pinning, if their pins are duplicated, and what the average engagement is.

Pinterest upkeep

At this point, your Pinterest is essentially running on autopilot. Now you just need to make sure that you’re getting fresh content onto your boards to keep things interesting.

There are four ways you can go about doing this:

  1. Schedule time every week to pin to your boards. You can spend 15 or 20 minutes adding new posts onto your boards to keep things interesting.
  2. Pin every (good!) article you read. Every time I read a great blog post (or write one myself) I’ll pin it to relevant Pinterest boards. It only takes a few extra seconds and doesn’t feel like I’m going out of my way.
  3. Open your boards up to contributors. I’ll go into detail a bit later in the post – but group boards are a great way to get your Pinterest running itself.
  4. Hire a Pinterest manager. This isn’t a thrifty option, but if you truly want your Pinterest account to run itself, this one is for you. You can check VA groups on Pinterest, but be warned that this can get pricey.
  5. …or use a combination of a few of these. Personally, I use tactics 1 through 3 on my own Pinterest account, and I’ve found that it works like a dream.

Opening group boards

If you’re looking for massive growth quickly this is the option for you. Open up your popular boards as group boards and they’ll populate themselves with a ton of great content and you won’t have to think about them.

To open them up as group boards, first invite biz friends who you know will only pin quality content and then you can edit the board description with group rules and how to apply. Include your email and instruct people to make the subject line “Pinterest Group Board Request.”

From there don’t open your board up to just anyone who asks. Make sure that you check out their account and their own boards first to see what type of content they are pinning. If the content isn’t great, don’t assume they’ll make an exception for your boards.

For the people who do post great content and you decide to invite, send them a quick email outlining the rules. Maybe you only want people pinning 5 pins a day so they don’t spam, or you have a very specific board and only want them pinning relevant content. Make them aware of that and let them know people who don’t follow the rules will be removed.

From there? Watch your boards populate themselves with great content. I do a sweep maybe once a month to make sure everyone is following the rules, and I’ll remove anyone who isn’t.

You can open up as many or as few boards as you’d like, but the more you open the quicker your account will grow.

Tracking growth

It’s fun to grow, but it’s even more fun to know how much your growing so you can pinpoint exactly what is working for you and your business.

In our Pinterest resource bundle, you’ll find a graph where you can chart your account growth, success of individual pins, and traffic from Pinterest.

Use this to experiment – make two pins for one post or product and see which one is performing better. Then ask yourself why. Once you start understanding what works for you, your brand, and your audience you’ll be able to more effectively predict success.

Other things to consider

Pinterest is the #2 traffic source for Shopify and it can work as a top-funnel way to pull people into your email sequences AND you don’t have to spend money as you might with Facebook ads.

Think about it, if someone likes your pin, it could lead them directly to your sales page or lead magnet where they’ll enter their email address.

As Melyssa says, “Pinterest is crazy effective at capturing new subscribers and putting them into your automatic sequence.”

Leverage Group Boards

We talked about opening your boards up as group boards, but consider joining other group boards, too. This will help put you in front of an entirely new audience while still targeting your niche. That’s powerful.

Using keywords, you can search for boards that are relevant to you. You’ll be able to tell it’s a group board by the two-person icon. There will be directions for joining or you can email the board creator.

As you start to build your Pinterest following, make sure to track how your boards are performing. As in content marketing, it’s equally important to be data driven on Pinterest. Don’t be afraid to leave boards that aren’t producing results. Your time is better spent elsewhere.

Consider Promoted Pins

You can pay to promote pins on Pinterest and it turns out to be much cheaper than Facebook ads.

Pinterest is a search engine, so you’re targeting keywords that people are searching for, not just someone’s assumed interests (like Facebook ads).

These pins work as highly effective top funnel email gatherers.

Watch your business grow

The beauty of Pinterest is that once you’ve got your systems into place and your account running you’ll automatically start seeing more qualified traffic being sent to your website.

The worst trap to fall into, though, is to set up BoardBooster and never touch your account again. Make sure you’re pinning all of your new content and every now and then adding fresh outside content to your boards to best leverage Pinterest’s power.

Author: Morgan Timm, Morgan Timm is a content marketer with a background in blogging and social media. She runs Mostly Morgan, a life and style blog that reaches an audience of 40,000 people monthly.

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