Pinterest-ing Research: The Lost Days

Small bloggers need to get to know their communities on every platform where they play.   This is why some of the best advice is to start with only two or three platforms (certainly no more than that) when beginning that search for an audience.  Twitter, well, I know that territory very well.  Blogging platforms?  I know WordPress (Blogger, a bit. I started on Blogger). Pinterest is the next platform I want to discover.

While I’m working to make my past blog posts “pinnable” (last post), I’ve jumped on Pinterest and started following people–and boards. Sometimes, social media demands we become stalkers, er, researchers. 🙂 The Twitter community is not the same as the blogger community, though there is a Twitter community devoted to blogging. It’s the same with other platforms. But the rules will be different, the social “moves” will be different. How you play the game is different.

But the first problem is understanding the landscape.  I have spent about three days looking at Pinterest, reading about Pinterest, and trying to figure out what I need to do to market on Pinterest.  It’s been a lot tougher than I thought.

Comparing Twitter and Pinterest

I’m reasonably good at social media. I’ve done research on it for over a decade.  I’m handy with technology.  I guess I expected Pinterest to be more like Twitter, but with pictures.  Or some kind of Google/Twitter mashup. Oh, I was so wrong.  Pinterest is more like an urban jungle of ideas, lost roads to temples of knowledge in a post-Apocalyptic database, side quests to commercial content marketing ideas, and constant, unrelenting, eye-popping pictures.

Platforms themselves offer different ways to interact socially–but many of the basic “social moves” are pretty universal. We follow each other on blogs, on Twitter, and on Pinterest. We like (or heart) things. But Pinterest has a few other moves.

How Pinterest “Works”

I’m getting so much out of this post from on marketing with pinterest.  I don’t think I can improve on her explanation of the metrics of Pinterests pins and re-pins:

You post an image to a board, where other people can browse, see what they like, and either like it, or pin it to their own board. This image links back to the webpage that you pinned it from, and most people will click through and read the post. If the image is an infographic, and all the information they need is on Pinterest, then they probably won’t bother so much. Hold a little something back (although Pinterest does make long images very narrow when you click on them).

So lets say I pin something to my board, and it gets repinned 10 times. That counts as 10 repins for my pin. If someone takes one of those repins and repins it again, that does not add towards my total number of repins, because it was pinned from another source.

To make my boards popular, I need to find good content pins. I will lose out out if I only pin my own stuff. So, I have to go find good pins and make good boards. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? OMG.

Finding Good Pins: The Search Function

In Twitter, you follow people–and you receive their posts.  Twitter also serves up promoted content, and the content those you follow retweet.  In Pinterest, you’ll receive the feeds from those you follow but also the most popular repins  that relate to your interests.  There are also “promoted pins.” Much like Google, the Pinterest algorithms make decisions about what’s hot and what we want to see.

When you do a search on a topic (as I did on “beginning blogging”) you’ll get the top repinned items. Things that have been around for a long time have had more times to get repins, so the top posts we see when we search–may be old.  But Pinterest helps out by breaking down the topic into digestible pieces.

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This kind of grouping helps us to quickly cut down on the information overload that is so typical of Pinterest.  

Pinterest will often suggest popular sub-categories for us based on our search.  This may be a good guide to words I might want to use in my posts, to encourage the algorithm to group my post appropriately. “Young Women” for example, is kind of an outlier — but this is all about a very popular set of niches — the lifestyle blog, the mommy blog.

Micro-niches Provide Focus

My micro-niches are blogging for home business, small brick and mortar business, Youtubers,  and other small bloggers.   I look for pins that will help them in social media marketing for those small niches. I have heard it said time and again that we need to focus hard only on ONE small niche especially if we’re small ourselves. Don’t work for the entire planet!  But in the beginning, we usually have a number of candidate audiences — and we’re not sure which one is going to really work for us.  I thought that keeping these four personas in my mind would help me to determine what makes a great pin. Note that “other small bloggers” is a catch-all micro-niche.  If we do that,  opening up a catch-all so that we end up trying to please everyone, well, that can make us scattered and unfocused.  I try to keep my focus on first three micro-niches which are more specific.   But when dealing with the jaw-dropping amount of material in Pinterest, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

When doing this research on Pinterest, I was quickly overwhelmed by this too-large number of personas I was trying to serve.  With Twitter, the Twitter algorithm limits the amount of content that you see–and I don’t get overwhelmed easily.  With Pinterest, the amount of material is stunning.  

Getting started in the Land of Too Many Pins

First thing, I signed up and followed some of the more popular boards in my niche interests–as suggested by Pinterest as I began setting up. Going through those boards will get us the pins ranked from the top (usually the oldest!) to the bottom.  I looked at lots and lots of pins.  While reading their content, I thought I would ask myself, “Would my fantasy customers read this?  Would they get anything out of it?   How would this material serve their interests, needs for information, and also their need for entertainment?”

We won’t know what makes for a great pin until we’ve seen lots of dreadful ones.  

Popular, bad pins exist. The visual on the front of it may be appealing, but it’s the content beneath that matters.  The pin may once have collected a large following but others are going to catch up.

I took a good look at some of the top pins in my niche, blogging for beginners,  and discovered that the top post was — dreadful.  It was good advice, but it was covered up with spammy ads — distracting and ugly. My guess is that in her rush to monetize, that blogger got a lot of traffic, then grabbed all the ad revenue she could!  This is short term thinking.  I have no desire to follow the blogger herself or any of her boards.

Many of the pins I looked at in the beginning blogging category were blatantly commercial.  Nothing exactly wrong with this, but consumers are getting “content marketing”  when they thought they were getting actual advice.  It’s a bit of a bait and switch and old schooler that I am, it annoys me.

It’s the information overload that’s going to kill us all. Or at least our brain cells.

Back to the Advice Givers

Then I had the genius idea to ASK PINTEREST how to get started on Pinterest!

The first post showed me the limitation of using Pinterest to research Pinterest.

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Pinterest.  This site has some super simple about setting up a business account on Pinterest but it is TOTALLY NOT a complete guide.  OMG no.  Bad pin!  Okay, not that bad but it’s pretty basic. Definitely not a complete guide. It covers the essential, easy steps for getting started, verifying your website and so forth–that I easily figured out without this advice.  The site isn’t too spammy.  She also offers a “free 10-day course” which sounded interesting, so I signed up.   And BAM! Immediately I was given one of those THIRTY MINUTE SPECIAL DEALS where I could get all KINDS of master courses for “only 37 dollars!” — and with a little ticking clock at the bottom, too. Oh, MAN.   I’ll pass on that kind of marketing.  But I will let you know if her 10 day course is any good later on, okay?

This is where we see that Google’s emphasis on Page and Domain Authority are a service to us all.  And it sums up my two and a half days of trying to get my arms around Pinterest, just looking at pins and reading on my own.   Pinterest may be a very good place for marketing, since I don’t have to compete with Hubspot.  But standing out in this crowd is going to take some work.

Getting advice from Pinterest the Company is the Better Bet

Pinterest has great resources for helping us understand Pinterest from a business perspective. 

In my next post, I’ll bring together some of this “lost days” of wandering Pinterest into greater focus.   More soon!   Thanks for reading.  ~ Lola.

Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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