Back when Pinterest was brand-spankin’-new, we heard the same cry from a lot of Problogger.net readers: “Not another social network! Who has time for all this?!”
Who indeed? Each social network is different, and they all require slightly different approaches and skills.
One potential solution for more than a few bloggers is to hire someone to help develop and implement a Pinterest strategy. But where do Pinterest experts even come from? What do they know that we don’t? Can they really deliver a return on the investment you’re making into Pinterest?
We thought we’d go behind the scenes with Darren’s own Pinterest specialist, Jade Craven, to find out what Pinterest consultants do, and how they can help bloggers.
Jade, we know you’ve been instrumental in helping Darren build a Pinterest following for dPS (check out the dPS Pinterest account here). But Pinterest’s pretty new. What were you doing before Pinterest hit the scene?
I was just a normal person trying to make it in the blogosphere. I could only work part-time due to illness, so I was scraping by on whatever client work I could get. I’d spend the rest of my time learning as much as I could and doing little experiments.
I used to be a professional blogger. In operating in the marketing space and became disillusioned with some of the activities I saw. Now I tend to focus my research on the lifestyle- and women-orientated niches.
I also wrote the Bloggers to Watch list for Darren for four years and occasionally consulted with people on product launches. Basically, I was obsessed with word-of-mouth and curation, and was learning as much as I could about it.
And how did that work prepare you to work on Pinterest? What skills do you need to make the most of this network?
Well, I’ve been doing this for four years. It meant that I had developed very good research skills and intuition, especially around the subject of content curation.
Curating content is one of the most important things you can do as a blogger. There is just so much information out there and it is very easy to get overwhelmed.
This skill is vital when it comes to Pinterest. The only difference is that you are curating content over the long term via multiple boards, instead of curating content for a single blog post or page.
I also find that it can take a lot of research and experimenting to know what works for different demographics. Most of my research previously had focused on how ecommerce sites could use Pinterest. My overall strategy was based on a hunch, but the day-to-day decisions are based on specific research and case studies.
Right. So how did you land a job as a Pinterest consultant, when the network’s so new?
It was one of those cases of being in the right place in the right time. I was working for The Village Agency as a paid intern. My employer, Justine Bloome, asked me to focus on Pinterest. She is pretty savvy and had a hunch that it would take off.
She was speaking and writing about Pinterest at the time, so I had a couple of boards dedicated to Pinterest. I learned a lot while building those boards, to the point where I was spending around ten extra unpaid hours on Pinterest experimenting and learning about the platform. It was amazing to be trusted so much.
Then, late last year, Darren made the decision to put more effort into Pinterest for DPS. He put out a tweet asking for suggestions on what to do and Justine, who is a good friend of his, put my name forward. I sent over a quote, we quickly set up 20 boards as an experiment, and it exploded from there.
Basically, it was a case of and being willing to work unpaid in order to build up a desirable skillset and being in the right place at the right time. Only one of those elements was something I could control, which is why I believe that some bloggers should strategically work for free.
Great point! So can you tell us what it is that you spend your time doing as dPS’s Pinterest maven?
I have a very simple workflow. My goal is to curate all the relevant articles that may be useful to photographers. I spent my first four months pinning the archives from the top ten photography blogs. I’d do a lot of extra work on top of what I was getting paid to do, because I wanted us to have an account that was industry-leading.
Now this workflow has simplified to scheduling one pin for every hour from Monday to Friday. I follow the blogs in Google reader, and skim through the list of updates. I ignore those that are only relevant for a short period of time. If I see a number of articles on the same subject, I consider making a separate board on that topic.
The rest of my time is spent monitoring competitors’ boards and seeing if there is anything I can do to improve our strategy. I research new board ideas, especially ones that may be related to product launches. I created several new boards based on dPS’s latest portraits ebook.
Wow, there’s so much to it. Can we step back for a moment and ask you what you feel Pinterest has to offer bloggers? It’s easy to say, well, Pinterest uses images, and that’s what makes it different from other networks, but other social networks let you post images. What’s different about Pinterest?
It shows how skilled you are at visual curation. Most forms of curation involve information being spread all over the place. You may have a weekly round-up post, or an awesome Recommendations page.
People will have to look in many places for that information, but Pinterest allows you to collect it all in one place. It allows you to show how up to date with trends you are. The descriptions you add to pins allow you to add context—to talk about why you think the image you pinned is relevant.
Look at the account for Interiors Addict. I will go to the Pinterest account over the blog because it’s a lot easier for me to discover, curate and organize the images that she has pinned here than to wade through her blog archives.
At its core, Pinterest is all about social discovery. It’s about leveraging your social networks to discover new things. There is no conversation or networking—it’s pure entertainment. It’s like Youtube, only you have more inclination to create and buy stuff later.
So in that case, we’d expect that the basic focuses of a Pinterest strategy would be different from other social networks.
Yes, I’ve found that the focus is completely different. On most platforms, the focus is community building and engagement. On Pinterest it is all about curation and social discovery.
So are there particular niches or audiences that the network’s suited to?
It’s obviously suited to images that show the end result of a project. This is skewed towards activities that are traditionally associated with women—cooking, crafts, and so on. But it can equally apply to men if you focus on the right niches.
I’ve found that the DPS audience is 50/50 male/female in terms of who’s repining and engaging with the content.
If a user finds your blog through Pinterest, will they expect your blog to look gorgeous? These users are obviously visual people, so does a blogger need to finesse their blog design before launching a Pinterest strategy?
It isn’t expected that your blog needs to look gorgeous. However, if you are using Pinterest graphics then it is helpful if the blog design is consistent with the image style.
Look at the design of Alex Beadon’s blog. She has the same design elements in her header and sidebar. That kind of attention to detail and consistency is is one of the reasons I chose her as one of this year’s bloggers to watch.
Having said that, people expect to find what they want in the description of a pinned image. If it is link to a blog post, they want a quality blog post. They will expect the other images in that post to be of the same calibre, but primarily they are there for the content. With fashion, for example, they either want to be taken to the store or to a site that describes how to put the outfit together.
Design is, and will always be, an important part of the user experience. But it is more important that people find exactly what they expect when they click a link on Pinterest.
Well, what you’ve said here makes me wonder if Pinterest is a doable addition for the solo blogger who’s managing everything themselves. Can they get traction on the site? What tasks should they prioritize in building a Pinterest presence?
It is doable for the solo blogger. You don’t need to invest as much time into relationship marketing. It’s just basic curation.
The main thing these bloggers should prioritize is creating a persona that reflects the Pinterest users they want to attract. Create a rough document outlining who the target user is as a person, and what you want them to think and do when they visit your Pinterest page.
This can help you decide whether it’s worth investing in another social platform and how much time you should dedicate to it. Editor’s note: Jade will be telling us more about how to do this later in the week.
The second thing they should prioritize is making their brand page look pretty. Organize your boards and focus on choosing beautiful images as the cover. That is what is going to encourage people to stick around.
And in terms of everyday activity and interactivity, what are your favorite tools for working on Pinterest?
I have two favourite tools. I am struggling to find one affordable solution that does everything—Problogger readers may have an idea. At the moment I am using two tools: Pingraphy and PinLeague.
Pingraphy is the tool I use for scheduling. It’s not very intuitive but it is free and simple to use once you get the hang of it. I usually schedule the pins for the week in one or two sessions, so it doesn’t interfere with my other work.
Pinleague is an analytics solution. It is free up to a certain point, but is pretty comprehensive. It tells you about what boards are popular, what pins are popular, and who your brand advocates are. You can even see how much income Pinterest is generating for you after you integrate this tool with Google Analytics. It’s really useful to help you tweak your strategy.
I used to make decisions by manually observing changes over time but Pinleague makes it so much easier. It means I get to spend more time experimenting and researching instead of trying to figure everything out myself.
Wow, great advice. Thanks so much for your time, Jade. We really appreciate your insights.
Thanks for having me.
Keep an eye out for some inside advice from Jade on ProBlogger later in the week.