A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if I wanted to set up and manage the Pinterest account for Digital Photography School. Within a week, we had launched, and Darren explained his take on the process in this case study.
So far, the account has nearly 5000 followers. We have been getting a lot of great feedback and have noticed a lot of people signing up just to follow us. We’ve tapped into something amazing in the DPS community and I believe that a lot of the success is to do with our approach.
In this case study, I’ll be talking about how we went against common advice for bloggers when it comes to setting up a Pinterest account. It may get a bit geeky when it comes to the marketing strategies, but trust me: your blog will be better for it.
I’ve been interning for The Village Agency for some time now, with a strong focus on Pinterest. We noticed two behaviours that were being repeated across various brands:
- People follow boards, not accounts.
- People don’t just want pretty images. They want context.
This is because of a concept called the interest graph.
The interest graph
Many bloggers have a presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Most people do this because they want to know others on theses networks and socialize with them in some capacity. People follow information based on their interests, but their behaviour is mostly social.
The interest graph shows when people are connected by common interests. The social element takes a backseat at this point—people want to find information that is relevant to their interests.
This is where a lot of bloggers mess it up.
A lot of people hear about the traffic potential of Pinterest and start pinning their content. An example is the Problogging board by David Risley. This board is based around the interest of the blogger, not of the people in the Pinterest ecosystem. This means that David will get traffic from people that visit his account, but the conversation will end there. People are unlikely to repin that content—and the action of repinning is what makes your content go viral on this network.
Note: I have to commend David for actually having a Pinterest account. You can’t learn anything unless you experiment!
What does this mean for bloggers?
This means that people don’t want your Pinterest account to be an extension of your blog. As Darren pointed out with his case study, people are already pinning your content.
If you really want to develop a strong Pinterest presence, you need to curate pinboards based around the interests of your readers. This is especially relevant for those outside of the popular niches on Pinterest.
How we did this
We developed a series of boards based around the common topics on Digital Photography School, such as lighting, portraits, and composition. I went through the archives, and looked at the ebook topics on the resources page, and came up with a rough list of 25 boards. I then set about finding content for those boards.
I started noticing patterns and trends while I was creating the boards. I noticed that other users had created boards based on certain types of lighting or certain technical aspects of photography. I knew that I had to narrow down the focus of certain boards to really tap into the interest graphs for these users.
Sites such as DPS and Problogger are authority sites. They are known for containing a lot of content on a wide range of topics that are important to the fields they cover. This is part of the appeal of these sites.
Most bloggers—and photographers—however, are specialists. They are interested in general trends affecting their community, but are focused on very specific information that affects their niche. This means that people don’t just want information on taking photos of people. They want to know how to take photos of newborns, children, families, and seniors. They want ideas for specific types of lighting or poses. We created specific boards targeted towards these interests and have gained a lot of traction from that effort. We now have
twice three times as many boards as we originally planned.
We took this idea one step further
Within hours of launching we had over 1000 followers, but I felt like we were missing something. We were collecting a lot of solid information about digital photography and had been grouping it into categories. This information was great for existing photographers, but … then I realized what we were missing.
Newbie photographers, such as myself, would have been overwhelmed by the myriad of boards. I still use my camera as a point-and-shoot tool. Imagine if my first exposure to the DPS brand was the Pinterest account! I may have been too overwhelmed to check out the site and see the fantastic resources in the Beginners section.
Tweaking the strategy
I might be brilliant at social media but, as I say, I use my DSLR as a glorified point-and-shoot snaps. I´ve had it for four years and only have a vague ideas about what the buttons do. I decided to set up a board covering the basics, but even then, I found the information to be overwhelming.
Photography has a steep learning curve for the newbie. That is where resources like Digital Photography School come in. So what if I structured some of the boards like they were lessons? I could use the description area to create additional context and tell people what board they should visit to get their next “lesson.”
We set up a board called DSLR basics. The next four boards focused on elements of a concept called the “exposure triangle.” The first board focused on why exposure was important. The following boards were dedicated to each part of the triangle. I linked to relevant blog posts in the description.
The first board in the “series” said:
Learning exposure is the first step you should take when it comes to understandind photography. Read our tutorial on the exposure triangle: http://bit.ly/1N3I In the following boards, we talk about the 3 parts of the triangle: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.
The following boards contained a brief line about why that concept was important.
We have only just started experimenting with this technique, so we don’t have much data about whether or not people are responding to this. We are giving away space above the fold to boards that, visually, aren’t as interesting as some others we’ve created. But we’re hoping it pays off.
This is where bloggers can really stand out: give people a reason to visit your Pinterest account other than to check out images. Create a destination. It’s risky and requires a lot of work, but it has the potential to send a massive amount of targeted traffic to your blog.
How can you apply this to your blog?
The first step most people take is to set up their own Pinterest account and start pinning images. If your main goal is to get traffic, you should focus on creating prettier images on your own blog first.
There are a number of ways you can do this:
- Increase the number of images in blog posts. This gives people multiple pictures to choose from when pinning a post.
- Hunt for incredible images on Flickr. This post by Skellie gives details about how to do this.
- Include a portrait-oriented image later in the post. Landscape-oriented images work better to grab attention on a blog post, but the portrait image suits the pinboards better.
I also recommend that bloggers create a Pinterest account for themselves to experiment with before creating one for their blog. You don’t have to do this, but it will give you the chance to understand Pinterest a bit more before making a big commitment.
Creating your own Pinterest account
Many pinterest newbies start by pinning pretty things. That´s what all the “experts” recommend you do. I’ve noticed, though, that having a nice image is just one part of Pinterest success. The second is telling people why they should click through to read the article connected to the pin.
This is incredibly easy and will make you stand out as an authority. Sometimes you will need to read the article to add context, but often the headline will suffice.
Importantly, once an image has been repinned, you lose control over the conversation. It will get shared and, often, the text will get edited. Adding information means that people will have an additional reason to categorize it according to their interests. It also helps people discover your pins via the network’s search tool.
What do I do with the account?
Having a Pinterest account isn’t enough—you also have to give people a reason to click through to check out your boards. Here are some suggestions to tie it your Pinterest account to your blog:
- Link to relevant boards when discussing issues in your blog posts. This is a great way to give more information without sharing a bunch of links.
- Create a Pinterest landing page on your blog. This is like a Twitter landing page—it’s where you talk about why your blog is relevant to those who have clicked over from Pinterest. You can see our example for DPS here. I’ve also created one for my marketing client at The Village Agency.
How do I drive traffic to the account?
Some of the comments on Darren’s earlier Pinterest experiment post suggested that we achieved a lot of success because of the strength of the brand name. This was part of it. But interestingly, there was a lot of traction before we publicly launched the account.
Something that, I believe, will really grow the account is the way Darren is involving the community in the growth of the account. Look at the questions Darren asked in the launch post:
- If there’s a topic you’d like to see us develop a board for, please suggest it in the comments below.
- If you have a photography board of your own, please let us know about it in the comments below—we’ll be following as many as we can and repinning the best of the best from our community.
Here’s why this step was important.
The fan cycle
I discovered this concept called Cycle of a Fan which shows how a person can go from introduction to ownership. This can also apply to Pinterest accounts.
People naturally want to share something that they feel that they are a part of or have contributed to. This step allows us to engage with the DPS readers and, even better, gives us valuable information about how we can improve.
- have created several new boards based on reader feedback
- are following many of the boards of people following us
- are planning new boards once we’ve gotten through this launch period
We can then use the information from these boards to influence the content at the blog.
Over to you
We’ve had an incredibly busy couple of weeks since we launched the DPS Pinterest account. It has been a constant process of refining and tweaking the strategy.
I’d love to hear any feedback you may have—or any questions! What are you biggest problems related to creating a Pinterest presence for your blog?