How to Use Pinterest (for Authors): 6 Beginner Questions Answered
Back in August 2020, while I was planning my pandemic wedding in three weeks (whole other story) AND in the midst of re-invigorating my Instagram and Facebook game, I thought: Man, I know NOTHING about Pinterest.
Should I know stuff about Pinterest?
I should probably do something with that five-year-old cobwebbed account of mine.
Time to learn how to use Pinterest!
And, because I’m the kind of person who loves a good deep-dive, I jumped into the deep end of the pool of Pinterest strategy.
Now, I have SO MUCH TO SHARE.
Pinterest is one of those platforms that can get REALLY overwhelming when you’re first starting out. After spending the last six months testing a handful of strategies, I’m far, far more comfortable with the platform.
That’s why I wanted to use this introduction to lay out some Pinterest 101 for you authors, creators, and other creative business types!
This article is meant to serve as a preface, a guide, and a reference for the following articles in this series, where I will detail my Pinterest approach and the strategies I’ve been employing with my publishing company.
You’ll walk away from this article with:
- A beginner understanding of how Pinterest “works”
- Insight into you should (potentially) be on Pinterest as a creator
- Starting point answers to commonly asked questions like “how often should I pin?”
This article is NOT about how to make engaging pins, optimizing your pinning schedule, or how to interpret your analytics. That may come in future articles, where I will share and interpret stats from my account.
Okay, expectations managed. Here we go!
If you're new here...
Hey there! Welcome! My name is Clare, I’m the author-publisher behind the young adult science fiction & fantasy publisher, Faery Ink Press.
Each month I blog about a specific behind-the-scenes project or campaign I carry out on my very real publishing company—and share all the messy feelings and results with you, the creative reader.
Overall Pinterest Assumptions, Questions, and Predictions
Now, as always, I feel it’s important to mention that books are a difficult beast to sell. Perhaps Pinterest isn’t the best place for authors and publishers to set up shop to intrigue readers with their wares. But—WARNING! We’re making an assumption here.
In truth, we don’t KNOW if this is true until we do some extensive testing.
Which, is why I have this blog. 🙂
I will return to the following questions and assumptions throughout this blog series.
Pinterest for Authors - Worth it?
For now, and until I see conclusive evidence otherwise, I’m going to act as if it is a good use of my time to be on Pinterest, employing strategies. The way I see it, I need to give it at least a year of solid investment before I shrug my shoulders and allow cobwebs to gather on my account once more.
Trying SOMETHING is better than doing nothing...right?
Why should an author BE on Pinterest, anyway? Isn’t it like, for recipes and décor?
Pinterest is for inspiration and ideas.
What does this mean?
When a person is on the platform, they’re searching. They’re discovering. They are seeking looks or designs or products that speak to a feeling inside them.
They are primed to find something new.
Think about it. You want to redesign your living room, but how do you want it to look? Browse Pinterest.
You want to rearrange your bookshelves and place knick-knacks everywhere, but you’re not sure how to make it NOT look like a total mess? Pinterest.
You want to figure out what to read next, what books are trending, what books are similar to other books you like, without wading through #bookstagram?
Pinterest can help you with that.
You want some ideas for your friend’s upcoming birthday, but you got nothing knockin’ around in the ol’ noggin? Pinterest.
And personally? At the time of writing this (early 2021), Pinterest seems like a pristine meadow for fiction authors and publishers. Not too many accounts that I’ve been able to see are dedicating time to optimizing their accounts. Understandable – from what I’ve seen so far, Pinterest does take time. So, if you’re like me and love a good opportunity to shine in the darkness – well, there’s your why right there.
Now that we understand why Pinterest can potentially benefit your readers or customers, it’s time to discover how it works.
How does Pinterest work??
Six months ago, I was Pinterest confused. I didn’t know what to do first. Or how often to do it.
So if you’re sitting at home, wondering if Pinterest is worth using in your creative business or for your author brand because you’re just kind of unsure of what it’s **about**, that’s valid.
How does Pinterest Work (for the regular user)?
Pinterest has Pins – the (usually) poster-shaped images you see all over the site – and Boards.
Boards are where you place your Pins. There cannot be a Pin without a Board.
It works just like community poster boards at a grocery store or coffee shop. You (or others, if you want) can pin images to a Board to advertise a service, display information, or convey inspiration.
Each Board is (ideally) separated by subject. You might have a Board where you keep your cookie recipes. Another Board might be about tropical vacations.
That’s what Pinterest is, at the simplest level: you create Pins (images) and pin them to your Boards for others to see and discover.
But how do I know which Board to pin to?
Ah! Well, you can pin your Pin to multiple Boards. This is called re-pinning or saving. Ideally, you re-pin Pins to related Boards. Don’t pin images about cheese to Boards about shoes (unless…there’s cheese in the shoe? Ewww!)
A casual user is scouring the platform, searching for inspiration for a particular project, or they may be in a shopping mood. They might save Pins on their private or public Boards for reference later.
Which is where you, the enterprising creator, come in.
How to Use Pinterest as an Author: Pinterest is at the top of your marketing funnel
If you’ve read the above and now have a basic understanding of how Pinterest works from a consumer’s point of view, let’s move on to the second level of Pinterest thinking.
You’re a star author who hasn’t been discovered by the general public yet. You’ve got a couple of books up on Amazon or published with a reputable outfit – but now what?
C’mon people, discover me already, amirite?! (lul).
Discovery, as I mentioned above, is where Pinterest shines – because Pinterest is actually a visual search engine.
How to Use Pinterest as an Author:
From a creator’s point of view, Pinterest is:
- A visual search engine.
- About curating a relevant experience for your author brand.
Pinterest is NOT (at the time of writing):
- An ideal place for timely deals, sales, or promotions.
- A place for long-winded storytelling
As an author, you want to create Pins about your work (your books, blog posts, and whatever other supporting creative work you have) that:
- Is timeless OR seasonal
- Visually appeals to the audience
- Contains keywords that attract the potential audience
- Contains ancillary or relevant information about your book that might interest the audience (ex: does one of your main characters make a special recipe? Do you have a step-by-step process that can be shared in bite-sized form?)
Pinterest as a visual search engine
Sure, you can browse Instagram for new reads (fun!). You can visit book recommendation sites or search Google. But sometimes it’s faster and easier to type what you’re looking for into a platform and have it spew visual ideas at you. That’s what we mean by visual search engine.
That’s why keywords are KEY (lul). Just like search engine optimization, keywording is an important step to developing your Pinterest strategy.
Pinterest as a curated experience for your brand
This goes a little deeper than my intention for this article, but in short: you want to make a good first impression for those that discover you on Pinterest.
Or, any platform.
Think about it. When you’re walking down the street, or through a crowded trade show, you spot a cozy little boutique shop. Something about how it’s organized, how it’s presented, speaks to you – but what?
As Pinterest is all about organization and presentation, that “it” quality can leap out at you here. A good first experience includes crafting appealing Pins and organizing them well in your Boards. That first experience lays the foundation for good future interactions with the brand.
Pinterest isn’t a timely platform
Pinterest is not a social media platform – not like Facebook or Instagram, anyway.
In many ways, Pinterest is suspended in time. If you’re looking for news, you’re probably not scrolling for relevant pins.
Honestly, this is such a relief for me as a creator. With Instagram and Facebook, one can fall quickly into a rat race of creating content, week after week, just to stay top-of-mind. Because after two or three days? Your post is buried by the newest thing. You’re constantly on a hamster wheel news-cycle, trying to stay current and relevant with your audience.
Pinterest is a long game. If you know me at all, you’ll know I love long games. I am willing to out-wait, out-work, and out-perform to “win.”
(And as someone who plays the infinite game, there is no “winning” – there is only a game well played. )
With Pinterest? Every Pin has the potential to be relevant or found by those who are searching for what you’re offering, whether it’s six months or six years in the future. Pinterest is cyclic with its content, as I’ll detail in the next post. Your Christmas and Easter Pins will be relevant with every season.
I have no idea what’s going to be popular in six years. But what if it’s YA science fiction books about superpowered teens fighting an alien invasion? If you search for that, you might find my Pins about my books.
Okay, I made a pretty Pin. Am I supposed to…Re-Pin it? Pin to a Group Board? I’m so confused.
You’re going to hear a lot of conflicting advice about what exactly you should do with Pinterest.
And hey, I’m not a super expert on Pinterest – I’m just a gal who is really good at executing on strategy and tries to look good doing it, you know?
Pinterest, like all other social media platforms, changes every so often on what’s acceptable practice. There used to be a time when re-pinning the same Pin to the same board every ten minutes was perfectly fine to do. Now? Not so much.
I heard a lot about Group Boards (exactly what it sounds like – shared Boards where multiple people post to) when I was first getting into Pinterest in August 2020. Now?
“Don’t spam Group Boards! Pin to a few select Group Boards. Don’t use Group Boards! Focus on curating your own boards!”
See? Lots of conflicting advice and information.
Hey. You’re free to try out different strategies – I know I have and that’s what this series is going to be about. You might be reading this post in the year 2060 (wow, does social media still exist like it does today?!) and you might be like “we don’t have Group Boards now, we have Bleep-Blorp Do-Dad Boards.” Cool.
Bottom line: Relevancy, not timeliness, is key
The short answer is, no matter WHEN you are reading this: you pin your image to the MOST relevant board.
Your Pin about your science fiction book goes to your “YA science fiction books” Board.
Then, some time later – for me personally, it’s anywhere from two weeks to two months later – I’ll re-pin it to the second-most relevant board. In this example, it might be a Board called “Books with Female Protagonists.”
The trick here is keeping track of all your Pins, when you pinned them and where.
How often do I have to Pin?
This was my BIGGEST struggle in the beginning of my Pinterest journey.
You’re going to hear different answers to this question if you even remotely dip your toe into the Pinterest world.
It’s also something I’m actively testing.
Here’s my take – and I suggest you adopt this mindset as well.
The answer to “how often” is: consistently and sometimes more often isn’t the answer.
Remember: Pinterest isn’t Instagram. Your content is always going to be searchable and relevant. Don’t sweat about being timely. You have time to create beautiful content that will literally last FOREVER.
So I’ll ask you these questions:
- How much time do I actually want to devote to making content for Pinterest?
- Are you dedicated to doing some research about what your potential customers/readers are searching for?
- Are you willing to try out different Pin designs to see if one “clicks”?
As with anything: put in the time, study the results, do better next time.
I’m pinning and re-pinning, but nothing is happening??
You create a beautiful Pin. You put it up on a Board.
The likely outcome: crickets.
Your analytics: ho-hum.
Rinse and repeat…but nothing is happening.
There are multiple reasons for this, but from what I’ve been able to gather from my own experience?
- It takes time for Pinterest to index your content. This is the best-case scenario. I’ve had Pins that were very ho-hum for the first two months and then suddenly started getting way more impressions.
- Sometimes Pinterest doesn’t know what your Pin “is.” If you view your Pin close-up, scroll to see what Pinterest recommends underneath. Are those Pins relevant? If not, that may be the issue.
- Your Pin doesn’t relate to your potential audience like you think it does. I get it – you’ve spent hours designing this one Pin, and you think it’s the Best Design Ever. Then: crickets. No one gets it. Simple and obvious is key when designing for Pinterest. Cleverness takes longer to parse.
- Your Pin is difficult to read or understand: unreadable text, unclear call to action, etc. Getting feedback from your social group or someone you trust to be honest can be invaluable here.
Like other social media, Pinterest is not just a platform. It can be a game. You plant your seeds, you go away, you monitor the results, and if after a long period (months), if it’s not performing, evaluate what IS working, and make more of what works.
And that's exactly how I'm approaching my journey here.
Okay! That’s it for now. I hope this article has given you a foundation for thinking about Pinterest more strategically as an author or creator!
Join me next time as I lay out all the Pinterest strategies and tips I’ve tried so far, including:
- Daily Pinning
- Pinning/Re-Pinning multiple Pins per day
- Pinning NOTHING
- Strategic keyword targeting
- Board optimization
- Using Trends
- …and more?!