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What Progress Have You Made on Pinterest? [Discussion]

This week has given us a chance to look at Pinterest from a few different angles.

If you’ve not had a chance to get into Pinterest, I hope that our Complete Guide to Pinterest got you inspired to set up an account and start pinning. If it didn’t, EcoKaren’s story of Pinterest success should have convinced you of the pulling power of the network.

Our look behind the scenes of Pinterest practice with Jade, my own Pinterest consultant, hopefully gave you a bit of insight into the ways you can learn more about the platform—or find someone who already does! Her expert advice on creating Pinterest Personas should help you take your first steps toward setting a Pinterest strategy for your blog.

Pinterest

Today, we’re interested to hear your stories. Have you already established a Pinterest account for your blog? If you  have, how’s it going? How are you managing it, and what kinds of results are you getting? Let us know of your successes—and the other stuff!—in the comments.

If you’re not yet in Pinterest, we’d love to hear why not. Is it that you don’t feel your audience uses the network, or is the problem time constraints—or something else entirely? Is there anyone among our readers who uses Pinterest personally, but not for their blog? I’d love to hear from you, too.

So let’s get talking. How’s Pinterest helping you as bloggers? Let’s hear about it!

ProBlogger Challenge: Create a Pinterest Persona

I struggled a lot when I first started managing the Pinterest account for Digital Photography School.

I knew that I wanted to focus on visual curation, and that I wanted to provide a comprehensive overview of techniques and tools. There were so many possible boards I could create and I didn’t know what was the best tactic or idea. Should I spin this topic off into a separate board? Should I avoid creating this board altogether?

Then I accidentally stumbled across the concept of a Pinterest persona. My partner and myself are amateur photographers and I found myself asking whether I would be interested in the content that I was pinning. If it didn’t seem relevant then I wouldn’t pin it. This saved me so much time when making decisions and has allowed the DPS brand to maintain a very consistent focus.

It’s what today’s Challenge is all about.

mannequins

Image by SebastianDooris, licensed under Creative Commons

What is a Pinterest persona?

A Pinterest persona is simply a description of the type of person you are targeting with your Pinterest account. This is very similar to the concept of a blog persona. The difference is that Pinterest users have a different level of savvy and you want different behaviour from different groups.

Darren has previously written about creating reader profiles/personas to help with your blogging and identified the many benefits:

  • It personalizes the blogging experience.
  • It informs my writing.
  • It identifies opportunities.
  • It can be helpful for recruiting advertisers.
  • It identifies ways to connect with your readership.
  • It will identify opportunities to monetize your blog.

I recommend that you check out that article and see the type of profiles he created for Digital Photography School readers. I adapted these for my Pinterest Personas, and you can adapt them for yours, too.

Your persona description should include information about:

  • how people discover your boards
  • why they repin certain types of pins
  • why they use Pinterest in general
  • what inspires them to leave comments
  • why they like a pin.

I recommend you wait at least a month after starting your Pinterest account before creating personas.

How can you create a persona?

What creating a pinning persona, ask what actions you want people to take when they visit your Pinterest account.

Read this article at the Social@Ogilvy blog. It helps you figure out how your users differ from your blog’s profile. The author recommends that you answer three key questions:

  • How does the person behave in social media?
  • Who influences the users in social media?
  • How will the users engage with the brand or branded content?

You can figure this out by monitoring the types of people that currently interact with your profile. You will notice different behaviours for different types of people. You can then create profiles based around these.

You may notice their needs are different than you thought they were. You may also notice that your Pinterest account isn’t currently meeting their needs. This is fine—it’s all part of the normal Pinterest learning curve.

Your challenge

Your challenge is to create two or three profiles based around the types of people that your Pinterest account is targeting. These won’t be set in stone—instead, they will evolve as you learn more about your followers.

Your next step is to evaluate your Pinterest account and see if you are meeting the needs of these types of people. Be objective. If you’re not serving all of them well, what can you do to better cater to your followers? What changes will you have to make to your Pinterest workflow to accommodate them?

Over to you

Do you have social personas to help you with your account? Are you having any trouble creating them? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see how I can help you.

How My Old Blog Post Got Half a Million Pinterest Views [Case Study]

There’s a lot of information on the web, including ProBlogger, on how to maximize Pinterest to get traffic to your site. Between tutorials on how to optimize Pinterest as part of your social media marketing strategy, Darren’s own experiment on Pinterest, how to create Pinterest-worthy graphics, and how to run a Pinterest contest, there are some great tips out there.

But I wanted to share my own personal experience on how an old post on ecokaren received almost half a million pageviews—50% of all-time page views on the post—just from Pinterest. Along the way, I’ll share some tips (and some of my biggest pet peeves) that you can use for better a Pinterest experience.

Crowd

Image by unknown photographer, licensed under Creative Commons

Ecokaren on Pinterest

Now this wildly pinned post from ecokaren—which received over 490,000 pageviews and was pinned more than 129,000 times—is about … how to wash a washing machine.

Woah, did you read that right? 129,000 pins and 490,000 pageviews?

Yup. You read that correctly.

And the post is about washing a washing machine?

Yup. Again, you read that correctly.

I was shocked too when this old post started receiving crazy traffic without my trying, never mind that it was from a newly un-shrinkwrapped social media site called Pinterest. One person’s pin of the post was repinned over 1400 times and has more than 300 likes. I should buy her a drink! Or maybe send her my homemade laundry detergent.

Now, the post was not your typical pin-worthy post. It had no huggable furry animals, no wise quotes, no cute babies nor scrumptious gourmet food. Nor did it have trendy ensemble suggestions for a fashionista or bare-chested Ryan Gosling wannabe.

Instead, it had a few small, individual photos of moldy interior of a washing machine and how it looked after it was washed. Not pretty at all, as you can see here.

clean front loader bottom

So how did a boring, three-year old post get pinned so many times, to the point that it now continuously brings traffic from Pinterest? How did I make pinning sexy? (No, sex has nothing to do with it.)

My top Pinterest tips

Here are my unwritten (now written!) rules on pinning and driving traffic to your site.

1. Be active on Pinterest every day

It’s a no-brainer, right? But it’s true. I pin or repin almost every day, even if it’s just one pin. It’s always better to pin original posts than just repin what others are pinning but either way, I’m active on Pinterest daily.

And when do I pin? The prime time for pinning is between 4 to 11pm US EST. I pin while waiting at the bus stop in the afternoon, waiting for my daughter. But I also pin early in the morning, while my coffee percolates. It’s a perfect way to spend time in the morning.

2. Don’t just pin your own stuff

The unspoken rule of pinning is similar to StumbledUpon. It’s better to high-five others than yourself. (Did you try high-fiving yourself? Yeah. Doesn’t work well.)

You don’t want to be bragging about your post or product all the time. If you compliment others by pinning and repining, pretty soon, others will do the same for you. Sure, you can pin your stuff once in a while but it’s always better to pin that of others.

My general rule of thumb of ratio is 1:6 in pinning my post to those of others. Again, this is not written in stone, but it’s my own unspoken rule. And remember, don’t ever violate Pinterest’s copyright rules when pinning. Just don’t go there.

Karen Lee's Pinterest social media icons

3. Install a Pinterest button with a counter

It’s obvious that you need a Pin it button on your posts. I use the Pin it extension or widget from my bookmark bar. But it’d be easy to have a Pin it button somewhere on your post too. Don’t make readers have to search for it. Make it easy for them.

To take it one step further, I like icons with counters. I was f-l-o-o-r-e-d when I saw “108k” on my Pin It icon on that washing machine post when its pinning frenzy started. That number will be over 127k by the time you read this. Your posts’ readers will see that number too, and they will be more inclined to pin it, seeing that it’s a wildly popular post.

Why? Readers feel validated when their views are in line with the popular majority. They want to share that feeling with their followers, and that makes them want to pin.

4. Engage your pinners and interact

Add nicely and thoughtfully constructed personal comments to pins. Not one word comments like “nice” or “

They don’t allow interactions. A real sentence or two will.

Also, reply to comments on your posts that have been pinned. I always check the comments people are leaving on posts of mine that have been pinned or repinned. I thank the original pinner and leave replies to other commenters too. Some people are shocked that “ecokaren” is “that personal” and actually came to comment. That always cracks me up. I feel like a total celebrity when I read comments like that.

5. Upload your blog logo

Load a generic blog badge or logo on your landing page, so that even if there is no image attached to your post, at least your logo or badge for your blog will be pulled up on Pinterest for people to use.

I loaded my logo into the sidebar so if there is some reason an image doesn’t load up for visitors to pin, at least they can use the blog’s logo. I see my badge on Pinterest once in a while, alongside comments like “Awesome site!”—and that makes me grin.

6. Teach people something

My all time record-breaking pinned/repinned post is about washing your front loading washing machine. Yes: a very sexy topic indeed!

But apparently, people had so much trouble with moldy-smelling front-loading, high-efficiency washing machines that they were pinning and sharing my post for “solving their problem.”

So even though the post was written three years ago and images are ugly, it finally got the attention it deserves—albeit late—and all because of Pinterest. All because the post taught readers something. It solved a problem.

How do I know that? I receive emails from housewives weekly, (I don’t mean to stereotype housewives but let’s face it folks, who does the laundry the most often in your house?) thanking me for the post.

I also created a Welcome page for email subscribers and about 75% of the signees are from the post. And in the comment section, they describe how I solved their front-loading washing machine mystery. I feel their warm hugs daily.

Karen Lee's GA image on Pinterest

Optimizing your post for Pinterest

Here are some clean stats for the post (as of January 21, 2013):

  • Publish date: June 2009
  • Total pageviews: 965,085
  • Pageviews from Pinterest: 489,014
  • Average time: 1:27
  • Bounce rate: 57.21%
  • Approx. number of pins: 127,000

And the post is getting more views as you read this.

So, it’s great that this little star of a post is getting oodles of eye balls. But what did I do optimize it?

As soon as I noticed the traffic, I made a few key changes to the post:

  • I added related links into the body of the post to other posts readers might be interested in, like how to make dryer balls out of orphaned socks, how to make homemade laundry detergent, how to clean your dishwasher, and more. And now, those posts are getting traction on Pinterst. I can tell you are fascinated by these topics too!
  • I added affiliate links to relevant products on my Amazon affiliate account. I’m not a millionaire yet, but it’s paying the bills.
  • I cleaned up the images. Okay, so the images are still not Darren’s quality but I cleaned up the images that were dingy and blurry looking. A moldy washing gasket is never that pretty but the older images were dark and less desirable for pinning.
  • I added text to the images to make them more pinnable and gain attention right away.
  • I added watermarks to images so that even if someone pins (or “steals”) the images, anyone who sees them will know where they came from.

If you want to get more exposure on Pinterest, some of these ideas might work for you, too.

Pinterest peeves

Finally, I wanted to highlight my biggest pet peeves about Pinterest. These are things I always avoid—as does any good citizen of Pinterest!

  • I abhor when people don’t give credit where credit is due on Pinterest. In other words, they steal your image and don’t link to your post. So I started watermarking all my images. And I check on Pinterest to make sure the images are linking back to my site occasionally. So far, I haven’t discovered my image being hijacked, but I have seen plenty of other pins that do not link to its original post. I think that is wrong!
  • I wish there was an easier way on Pinterest to see all the pins that others pinned from ecokaren. Currently, there is no way for me to search my URL or name on the site to see all the images or posts that are pinned. I still have to use Google Analytics for the stat. Not cool. I’m hoping that Pinterest will improve pinning visibility for blog owners before long.
  • There isn’t a fool-proof method of searching for Pinterest users. I tried to search for pinners and more often than not, they don’t appear in the search results. Again, I have better luck using Google. Something is wrong with that picture.
  • I wish there was an easier way to conduct contests. A Pinterest contest is one of the best social media campaigns you can do for your business or your blog. At Green Sisterhood (http://greensisterhood.com), we manage Pinterest contests for our clients and they require a lot of maintenance. A tool that finds boards and pins that have been repinned the most would be ideal. Again, let’s hope Pinterest adds functionality for this kind of thing soon.

Are you listening Pinterest? If you can make these four things happen, I’d love you even more!

Pinterest lessons

Solve people’s problems!

On Monday, Jamie highlighted the fact that attractive, inspirational content does well on Pinterest, and that’s true. You can put up pretty images or cute animals pictures and even life changing quotes with awesome graphics on the network.

But nothing—and I mean nothing—gets people’s attention like solving problems that they have been struggling with.

Ask yourself, “What would I want to pin and repin?” That’s the post that will get pinned the most.

Do you have a personal success story on Pinterest? What was the post about? Tell us about it in the comments.

Contributing author Karen Lee is a co-founder and managing partner of Green Sisterhood, a network of green women bloggers with aggregated monthly page views of over 2.5 million pageviews. We help companies to increase online branding awareness with content and social media marketing strategies, like Pinterest contests. Karen is also a founder and publisher of ecokaren where she writes about importance of washing your washing machine and on greening your life.

Do You Need a Pinterest Consultant? Interview with Jade Craven of dPS

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?

Jade Craven

Jade Craven, Pinterest Pro

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.

Heavyweight Help: The Complete Guide to Getting Started on Pinterest

Do you lie in bed at night dreaming of getting a link from some high-profile blog like ProBlogger that would send you thousands of visitors and give your blog the exposure you need to take it to the next level?

I’d rather have Pinterest.

Pins

Image by hydropeek, licensed under Creative Commons

Don’t get me wrong: I’d love to have Darren share a link with his audience to one of my photography marketing posts. However, the reality is that you’ll get far more traffic, exposure, and income from Pinterest, regardless of your niche.

I believe that blogs in any niche, not just DIY crafty blogs, are missing out on huge amounts of traffic and exposure if they are ignoring Pinterest. If you want to see your blog grow in leaps and bounds in 2013, you’ve got to pay attention to Pinterest.

Pinterest has been a huge part of the reason that my 22-month old blog that shares business and marketing tips for photographers has grown large enough and profitable enough to have replaced our entire household income.

One post alone, which was intentionally optimized for Pinterest, has been shared over 11,500 times and made over five figures of income in the last 6 months alone. I’ll tell you more about it and why it was so successful in a moment, so keep reading.

Because I want to make sure that you fully understand the power of Pinterest, I’m going to start with the very basics before digging into the good stuff that will get you the blog success you’re looking for.

Honestly, if you’re short on time and don’t want to join another social network, you don’t have to have a profile and can simply read about how to make your blog more likely to be pinned. However, at least read through the basics and info about using Pinterest accounts so that you have a better understanding of what’s going on and how to apply that to your blog.

Here’s what I’m going to cover:

  • What is Pinterest?
  • Why care about Pinterest?
  • Basics of using Pinterest
  • Strategies for using your Pinterest account
  • Get your pins maximum exposure
  • Get more traffic to your blog using Pinterest
  • Pinterest tools for bloggers

So let’s dive right in.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a visual bookmarking site with a strong sharing structure.

Anatomy of a Pin

People “pin” photos or videos with links back to their original sources onto “boards” and a “description” that shows under neat the photo or video. These pins are then shown on the main Pinterest page, from newest to oldest, to all of the followers of that person.

Pinterest's Hover options

If someone sees a pin that they think is interesting, they can hover over the image and choose to “repin” it directly to one of their boards, or they can “like” it or “comment” on it.

Embedded video on Pinterest

When videos are pinned, they can be viewed from right within Pinterest. It’s a great way to grow your YouTube presence and get more viewers.

Who uses Pinterest and what do they use it for?

Pinterest users are mostly women, who trust it more than Facebook or Twitter, although there are a growing number of men on the site.

Pinterest is a place where people dwell on the life they’ve always longed for and where they collect inspiring or useful morsels of information that make their life better. They plan their weddings, imagine their dream homes, long for their ideal wardrobe and collect snippets of inspiration that encourage them to be a better person. A person’s Pinterest boards are a collection of what they they wish they were, so it can be a very powerful place to market your business.

Why care about Pinterest?

Traffic

Pinterest can bring a lot of traffic to your blog, which you can then convert into subscribers and buyers. It drives more traffic than Google+, Linkedin, and YouTube combined, more traffic than Twitter, and Pinterest drives more sales than Facebook.

The thing that seems to set Pinterest apart from Facebook or Twitter is that there’s less conversation going on to get in the way of sharing links. Yes, you can leave comments and tag people on pins, but the focus is much greater on sharing, making this the perfect platform for your posts to go viral.

Grow your business

Pinterest is a great place to strengthen your brand, and can be used for an “about me” board or if you have several staff or bloggers, you can pin a photo of each person with a description and a link to learn more about them on an About us page on your blog. Create boards that would appeal to your ideal readers and they’ll feel a stronger affinity towards your blog.

It’s easy to promote your products, do market research, and provide resources to your current community. It’s even a great place to find ideas of things to blog about, particularly if you’re in the craft, DIY, food, or fashion niches (although any niche could find ideas on Pinterest).

Basics of using Pinterest

Now that you’ve heard about all the benefits of Pinterest, let’s dive into the mechanics of how to use it.

Getting started

Business profile or personal profile?

Pinterest allows you to create either a personal account or a business account. While they work the same way, you’ll have to decide which one fits your situation best.

Pinterest Boards and Profile

Number 1 imageYou’ll start by setting up your profile. Add an image and description of yourself or your blog and link to your various sites. You can put a URL in the description, but it will display as text and not as an actual link unless you verify your website through Pinterest.

You’ll also be selecting a username that will be part of your Pinterest URL, so you may choose to use specific keywords here for better SEO if you’re setting it up for your business instead of as your name.

Number 2 imageRight under your visible profile, you’ll see a menu with your stats and where you can choose to view your boards, pins, or likes or view the information behind the stats. By clicking on “Followers” you can see the people who are following you and decide if you’d like to follow them back or not. You can also edit your profile or change the order of your boards using the middle button.

Number 3 imageThis displays your various boards. This is the default view that people see when they visit your profile, so it’s important that you put the boards you most want them to see first. As most of my readers are photographers, I put some of the boards I’ve created as resources for them first and foremost. You can also hover over the board cover and edit it to be a different pin as the large image, otherwise it defaults to the most recently pinned image for that board. You can also reposition the image if you so desire.

There’s also the option to create collaborative boards, where you can invite other people to pin on that board as well. You’ll see this option when you’re setting up individual boards.

In addition, you can create three private boards that you share with people. These boards will not show up for other people when they view your profile, and the pins will not show up in your feed. You can share this with other people who will be able to add to the board. You can change a private board to a public board, but once a board has become public it can no longer be made private. Public boards cannot be made private.

Number 4 imageThis menu is where you can manually add pins and learn more about Pinterest and the tools they offer. If you select the menu with your name, you have links to your boards, pins, and likes and you also can find and invite friends to join Pinterest. There’s also a link to goodies here that lets you install a Pin it button on your browser’s bookmark bar that lets you pin any image and YouTube videos that you see online while browsing.

The Pinterest homepage

By clicking on the Pinterest logo, you’ll be taken to the main page, which is much like the newsfeed on Facebook.

Pinterest Main Page

This is where you’ll see pins from the people you are following. Pins are shown from newest (top) to oldest (bottom), and there’s no algorithm for how pins are ranked. They simply appear based on time.

From here, you can repin the pins you see onto your boards, or you can like the pins or comment on them.

You can also use the links at the top under the Pinterest logo to show everything being pinned at the moment (or everything in a certain category), only videos, popular pins, and gifts by price.

Other useful things to know

To add a price tag to your pins, simply put the price in the description.

A gift price tag

You can tag people in your posts by adding the “@” before their name. You must be following at least one of their boards to tag them, however.

Finally, there’s much discussion online about how using the hashtag before words will help you show up better in the search rankings when people search on Pinterest. However, this is not true in most of the searches I have done.

Using the # before a word only creates a link to a search for that word or for other pins also tagged with that specific hashtag. So if you use “#food” in your description, it takes you to the search results for “food” or “#food” and doesn’t rank you better in general.

16 Strategies for using your Pinterest account

The best way to use your Pinterest account is to share lots of content that complements your own content. Yes, you can share your own stuff, but make sure there’s lots of helpful things from other people there as well. It’s one of the best ways to get loyal followers who love your pins.

So, what kinds of things should you pin? How do you make the most of your Pinterest account?

1. Pin resources for your commmunity

My audience is mainly photographers, so I have several posing boards and boards with business advice (both from my blog and from others’ blogs).

For my wedding photography clients, I pin lots of wedding inspiration ideas: decorations, venue ideas, DIY wedding projects, cakes, rings, you name it. The possibilities are endless.

A great way to find good content for your boards is to use the search from within Pinterest to find popular pins of a certain topic and simply repin them to your own boards. Super simple and fast.

2. Customize boards for individual clients

If you’re a graphic designer, create a collaborative board where both you and your client can pin inspiration. If you sell real estate, create boards with home listings for specific clients that fit what they’re looking for in a home.

3. Sell stuff

Post images of things you sell and link back to your sales page. Add the price to the description using currency symbols to have it show up in the corner.

4. Offer coupons and promotions using Pinterest

Create a coupon or sales board where you list current promotions for your audience to see.

5. Create round-up boards on a certain topic

Go through your blog archives and create pins of your favorite content within a certain category. Then promote this board on your blog. Not only will you get extra traffic, you’ll get people digging into your archives and reading some of your best content.

6. Do a Pinterest contest or scavenger hunt

Have people search your blog for specific posts and images and pin them to a board. Then, leave a link to that board somewhere in order for the pinners to be entered into a contest. Or, have them search through your own boards and repin your own pins.

7. Network with other pinners in your niche or field

Since I’m a photographer, Pinterest is a great way for me to showcase other wedding vendors and tag them in the pins so that they can see the images of the products they provide.

Promoting other vendors or bloggers in your field is a great way to get their attention and start building relationships.

8. Create a community or collaborative board

Ask your readers to volunteer to create a board on a specific topic with pins from around the web. It will build loyalty to your brand and help readers identify more strongly with your business.

9. Find inspiration for your business

Have writer’s block? Search Pinterest to see what popular things in your niche are being pinned. If you’re a designer, check out popular designs in your field. Note what other pinners in your field are doing, and see what kinds of boards get them the most followers.

10. Create a review board

Have a board of reviews of various products that your audience would find helpful. If you sell your own product, collect reviews about it on a board as well.

11. Testimonial board

Much like the review board, except that you can put an image of the product up with the testimonial in the description. Bonus points for tagging the testimonial writer in your description. This is also a great place to put client success stories.

12. Grow your email list by pinning your free resource

If you offer a free resource in exchange for signing up to your list, Pinterest can be a great way to get more exposure. People love free things and tend to repin them like crazy if they’re really great resources.

13. Behind the scenes

Create a board showing the behind-the-scenes workings of your business and give people the feeling that they’re an insider if they follow your board.

14. Cover an event “Live” via Pinterest

Pin images from a live event to encourage people to follow you and bring more exposure to your event.

15. Create supplemental material boards

If you teach workshops or do online webinars, create a board with supplemental content and resources on it for your attendees to explore.

16. Learn more about your community

Follow several of your readers to learn more about their interests and what appeals to them. It’s a great way to see what they really dream of and long for in life and business.

Get your pins maximum exposure

Now that you’ve got all these awesome ideas to implement, here’s a few extra tips to make sure that your pins get maximum exposure.

The best time to post on Pinterest

According to Pinerly, the best times to post on Pinterest are between 2pm-4pm EST and again from 8pm-1am EST.

Optimize your pins and boards

Always write good descriptions. Use words that people might search for in the search bar to make your pin or board more likely to be found.

Use calls to action in descriptions to help encourage people to do what you want them to do. Want them to repin or comment? Want them to click through to the post? Ask them to. One call to action per pin is best.

To encourage engagement on your pins and increase the chance of them becoming popular, ask questions and tag people using the @ symbol to help get more comments.

You can put links inside the descriptions, but remember that these links are no-follow links.

Unlike Facebook, people are more likely to repin than to comment on a pin. Leaving comments on pins is a great way to stick out, gain exposure, and gain followers. Thoughtful comments on other peoples’ pins can go a long way, especially if you also tag someone else in it and get them engaged as well.

Getting lots of comments, repins, and likes quickly is the best way to get a pin to show up on the Popular tab of the main page and show up higher in the Pinterest search results, so you want to do everything you can to encourage interaction with your pins.

Make sure that all your pins go back to the original source of the image and not to a Google images page or to a blog homepage that will be updated and no longer relevant once the image falls below the most recent content.

When you create your boards, give them good descriptions and categorize them for the highest chance of getting extra exposure to them.

Share your pins on Facebook and Twitter

Pinterest automatically integrates with Facebook and Twitter, so get more exposure for your pins by also sharing them on Facebook and Twitter.

Getting more traffic to your blog using Pinterest

So how do you get people to start pinning your content so that you can get a piece of this traffic that you’ve heard so much about? Here are several things you can do to encourage people to pin your stuff.

Put an image in every single post you write

Pinterest is all about images. No image = no one pins your stuff. I know that it’s annoying to have to take the extra time to add images, but if you want Pinterest traffic, you have to do it.

I have found that Dreamstime has a decent selection of free commercial-use stock images that you can use, and you can always scour Flickr and other sites for images that have a Creative Commons usage license attached to them. I’ve found that these sites take a lot longer to sort through and often throw up low-quality images.

So what kind of images work best?

Beautiful, eye-catching images that are bright and appeal to emotions tend to do better than other images. Many of the popular pins are simply cute animals, particularly puppies.

Adding text to your images can increase engagement several times over. I personally like to add the name of my blog title to my image to encourage people to click through and see what it’s about. This both increases engagement and helps you to attract people who will click through to read the content. I suggest using Adobe Photoshop Elements or Gimp (which is a free download) to put text on your images.

Simple text-only quotes also work extremely well. Short words with few syllables and simple and understandable quotes do best.

This mini-tutorial image that summarizes a longer more-detailed post about how to shoot Christmas tree lights has been pinned over 35,000 times in less than two months and incorporates images, text, and valuable content that gets shared like crazy on Pinterest. This is an example of why I believe Pinterest is more valuable than a single link share from a big blog.

How to shoot christmas tree lights

Image used with permission

Still want more ideas about how to make sharable images for Pinterest? See this three-step guide to creating Pinterest-friendly graphics for your blog.

Put Pin it links in your captions

If you’ve updated to WordPress 3.4 or higher, you can now put links in your captions. Use the Pin it button creator to get the link you need to insert a Pin it button into your captions.

There are also Pinterest plugins that will do this for you automatically. I’ll list some of them in the tools section below.

Pin your landing pages

By sending people to your landing pages, you’ll help retain some of the traffic you get from Pinterest—and you can guide them through your sales or content funnel. This tends to help retain readers more effectively than through traffic to random pages that may not convert readers to followers as easily.

Use infographics

If you’ve got statistics to share, infographics are very popular on Pinterest. Infogr.am is a great free tool for making your own infographics that look amazing.

Protect your copyrighted images and graphics

If you are a photographer or graphic designer, add a watermark to any images you post on your site. This way, people will know the source of the image even if a pinner doesn’t link directly to the place you’ve posted it on your website.

If you do not want people to pin content from your website at all, you can add the following code to the header section of your site. It prevents people from pinning images from your site:

<meta name="pinterest" content="nopin">

You can put this on specific pages or posts or apply it to your entire site. While this will protect your images, you’ll lose out on huge potential for traffic and exposure if you do, so I do not recommend it.

Add Pin it buttons to your posts

Adding Pin it buttons to your posts makes it easy for readers to pin your content. You can use the free Pin it button creator to make each button individually, or use one of the plugins listed below to add it automatically—and make things easier on yourself.

Make it easy for people to follow you on Pinterest

Get your own “Follow me on Pinterest” button in the Goodies section of Pinterest. Put this in your sidebar, on your about page, and anywhere else you’d like to invite people to follow you. Here’s what one of them looks like:

Follow me button

You can also grab the URLs from your boards and link to them directly so that people can follow the boards that are most relevant to them.

Pinterest tools

Here’s a list of various Pinterest tools that you may find helpful.

  • Pin Count: See the pin count for a specific page or post on your blog. Just enter your URL.
  • See recent pins from your site: Want to see what people are pinning from your site in general? Go to www.Pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com/ to see. For example, to see what people are pinning on ProBlogger you’d type in http://pinterest.com/source/problogger.net It doesn’t show you everything, but it will show you several recent pins if they exist.
  • Pinerly: Track your pins to see which perform the best and which of your boards and pins are most popular. The Pinerly Blog is also one of my favorite places to get information about what works best on Pinterest.
  • PinReach: This service gives you a Pinterest influence score similar to an Alexa ranking for your blog, as well as showing you most popular pins, your most influential followers, and other interesting information such as currently trending pins and users.
  • DIY Pinterest Analytics: If you’re super-geeky (like me) or want a very detailed way of tracking the ROI of your Pinterest campaigns, this three-part series will give you a great method for tracking the effectiveness of your pins. It’s not for the faint of heart when it comes to statistics! Most useful to people in corporate social media managing roles where you have to justify the usefulness of Pinterest to your business.
  • Pinterest “Pin It” Button Plugin: This is a free WordPress plugin that lets you select the default image and description to be displayed or let people select their own image. Lots of options that make this a great choice for bloggers. This is the plugin that I found works best on my marketing blog for photographers.
  • Pinterest WordPress Plugin by Tofurious: This Premium WordPress plugin automatically adds a Pin it button under every image in your posts and gives you the option to exclude specific images. It allows you to create a custom Pin it button (good for matching your current branding and creating direct calls to action) and allows you to insert a button at the top or bottom of posts as desired. It’s recommended for photographers, designers, food bloggers, DIY bloggers, and anyone with image-heavy content. Current price: $25.
  • Pretty Pinterest Pins Plugin: This one’s a free WordPress plugin that allows you to display your most recent pins in your sidebar as large pins. Can be filtered to only show pins from a certain category, and gives you the option to add a Follow Me button as well.
  • Pinterest RSS Widget Plugin: This free WordPress plugin allows you to display your most recent pins in your sidebar as small icons arranged in a grid. They can be filtered to show only pins from a certain category.
  • Wisestamp: Add a Follow me on Pinterest link, and links to other social media accounts at the end of your emails with this free tool.
  • Infogr.am: This service lets you create really great-looking infographics with ease, and is free.
  • Share as Image: Pin any quote as an image using this tool. There’s a simple free version, or a premium version for $6.99. It’s not necessary if you have photoshop or any other program that lets you create an image from text, but it’s handy and easy to use if you don’t have that capability.
  • Pinterest RSS Feed Direct Links: You can follow any Pinterest user using the following link: http://pinterest.com/jamiemswanson/feed.rss where you’d substitute jamiemswanson for the username you’d want to follow. You can also follow specific boards using the following URL (where you’d replace jamiemswanson with the username and blogging-resources for the board name you want to follow): http://pinterest.com/jamiemswanson/blogging-resources.rss

If you’re nerdy enough (and I say that in a loving way!) you could get creative with how you display pins on your site using the RSS feeds, but it’s easier to use one of the plugins above to do that for you if you’re not too picky.

So … does it work?

Yes. Yes it does.

Remember the post I mentioned earlier that has been pinned over 11,500 times and has made me over five figures of income alone on my young blog? Here’s exactly what happened.

The pinned post explains why I switched from delivering images to clients on DVDs to Flash Drives. That’s not super exciting, but it’s a solid post that explains my decision and addresses several hesitations that I know people have about switching over. It also contains an affiliate link to the company where I purchase my flash drives.

One of the hesitations I knew photographers would have was how to package them before sending them to their clients. So I took a few photos of my packaging to use as images in the post.

I used a few images in the post, but created a separate image that was tall, contained them all, and had the name of my post at the bottom of it. Tall images get more space in the Pinterest page, and the text told people that this was more than just images of packaging for flash drives.

I used the Pinterest “Pin It” Button plugin setting that let me select a custom default image (the tall Pinterest-optimized image I’d created) that people would pin when they clicked the Pin it button, instead of using the single images that were found in the post. While not everyone used those buttons to pin, many people did.

The image spread like wildfire on Pinterest. I got my highest day of traffic ever the day that post went live, and it came primarily from Pinterest.

Not only that, but the network continues to get me an average of over 300 pageviews per day—months later without any extra promotion from me. It’s almost entirely because of Pinterest pins. This results in constant income month after month simply from the extended exposure.

A link from a high-profile blog might get you a huge spike in traffic for a week or so, but I’ve never seen a link bring the long-term traffic that Pinterest can bring.

Have you tried Pinterest?

I want to hear your stories. Have you tried Pinterest, or are you still hesitating? If you’ve taken the plunge, which posts on your blog have received the most exposure from Pinterest? Why do you think they’ve been so successful? What hasn’t worked for you at all? Tell me about it below in the comments and let’s really dig in and share with each other.

But first, take a few seconds to pin this post and give ProBlogger a bit of a Pinterest boost. Let’s make 2013 the year of Pinterest for bloggers!

Contributing author Jamie M Swanson writes meaty posts about online marketing for photographers with easy-to-understand steps for totally rocking your business over at The Modern Tog. She is a Wisconsin Wedding Photographer who dreams of owning lots of land where her family can run and play and she can garden to her heart’s content.

The 3 Emails You Must Send During a Launch … and a Fresh Alternative for Bloggers

Are you ready to launch a product from your blog?

Not an affiliate product, but something you created with your own flesh and blood?

After many late nights spent honing that ebook, ecourse, or coaching program?

Whatever it is, if you’re ready to release that puppy, then it’s time to commit to it and launch it.

Launching is going to disrupt your normal blogging lifestyle. Heck—it disrupts everything, including you and your happy audience’s normally scheduled (and expected) activities.

But I’m here today to give you some good news and the lowdown on what you need to do to keep this disruption to a minimum.

In this blogging primer for launches, you’ll learn:

  • how to warm your readers up to the idea of you launching a product
  • ways to keep the communication non-spammy
  • when and how to offer pre-launch content
  • easy-to-remember basics on “email” marketing during your launch.

You’ll get to see this topic through the lens of known bloggers and marketers, but I’ll also reveal my own use of each one of these strategies and concepts.

So, if you’re ready to turn your blog into a product-launching, money-making, name-taking machine, keep reading!

1. Blogger to launcher basics

Many bloggers who have never created and sold their own products wonder how to make the leap and start offering something for sale. Even after you’ve created a product, it can still feel somehow taboo to offer something for sale.

I thought I’d done plenty to warn the world that I was open for business. I wrote an ebook, told some people about it, and then I just let it sit there.

When I was ready to launch for real—with a real program—I had to start over again. Not just because I’d been dormant since my last launch, but because I’d even shifted the focus of my site—drastically.

I went from talking about general personal development and productivity to writing primarily about launching—especially for the first-timers who didn’t feel like they could compete with so called gurus.

There’s really no graceful way to do it. The only rule I’ve seen others follow and that I also practice is this: treat your mailing list, your readers, and your followers as friends coming along the journey with you.

So that’s exactly what I did.

I probably could have made my product sales page a blog post too, but I’ll save that test for another day!

Using this approach, I turned my perpetually inactive blog to an active one and then was able to pull off a moderately successful launch that gave a major boost to my mailing list.

The moral of the story (yes, I’m saying it again!) is: include your list during the first and every launch—and they will come along for the ride.

But what’s really happening behind the scenes? Is it as easy as just those four blog posts and a sales page?

Yes—it is that it easy, but it’s important to include a few other key actions to make sure those posts hit the hardest, and do their job to promote your launch.

Here’s how to make the switch from blogger to blogger with a business:

  1. Give plenty of lead time. You must warn and inform your audience. Tell them how to interact with you, and how long they can expect the launch to last. Be friendly, honest, and ask for their support. Don’t tell them to buy, buy, buy.
  2. Start an interest list early. Segmenting your list is a great way to make sure that if you are emailing your audience, the only people you do email are ones that have clearly said, “I am interested.”
  3. “Teach” your readers to take action when you prompt them. Make sure you always ask for people to hit Reply with questions about your emails, leave comments, do some homework based on your latest post, or click to read the post. Think about every communication and every post as a chance to call your readers to take some direct action—click this, comment below, share if you like, answer this question.
  4. If you aren’t doing this already, respond to every single comment and email you get. It’s easier to do this with a small list, but even making that effort with a larger list goes a long way.

Imagine you’re about to do a big life project. Would you keep it to yourself until the day before? Or would you tell your friends, family, or partner? Most likely, you would not be able to hold your excitement in that long.

Take the same approach with your readers and you’re likely to get a much warmer response come launch day.

2. Handling the irregular communication glitch

So what happens if you’ve warned people and they still don’t warm up to your exciting pre-launch news?

Your readers are comfortable with how often you show up in their inbox. And every single person who launches a product online deals with some kind of negative reaction or complaints about irregular communication.

People are used to hearing from you once a week. That’s it. That’s all. Then, all of the sudden, you’re sending out emails every day, reminders to grab the ebook for an introductory price, to sign up for the webinar before the spaces are filled.

It’s a little overwhelming, and it can be hard for your readers to switch gears.

The good news is there’s a super-easy way to transition your readers into the messaging and offers you are about to start making (on a regular basis, hopefully).

Here are just a few ways to transition readers and avoid communication complaints.

If you send out a formatted newsletter…

Add a section that says, “coming soon,” or simply add your free and paid offers to the bottom of the newsletter.

This way, people will always expect that you offer something. You can also add a “coming soon” section to your blog sidebar to make sure the RSS subscribers who click through see what you’ve got.

Here, you can see social media marketing trainer and consultant Alicia Cowan added two of her offerings to the bottom of her very simple newsletter template.

Email by Alicia Cowan

2. If you send a text-only, more personal email…

Add a P.S. that explains you’re working on your first product, and maybe a link to an interest page. I’ve done this with new or semi-new coaching offers and had a great response. You could even just say, “Hey, I’m working on my first ebook, and I could use your help. Want to know how? Hit Reply and ask me!”

I first learned this from Dean Jackson. I kept seeing his P.S.s and thinking they were awesome. I don’t use them every single email, but when I’m not sure how to share what I want to offer to my list, I use a P.S. and just ask people to hit Reply.

Email by Dean Jackson

Here’s how I applied it to launch a fairly new coaching service offered on my site. No link, just a simple “Hit Reply if you want to know more.” Did it work? Yes: I booked out all my sessions for two months using this technique.

Email by Anne Samoilov

3. If RSS is the way most readers receive your message…

Make sure to write a blog post about your upcoming launch, and put messages below your post and/or on the sidebar of your blog asking people to sign up for the interest list.

Corbett Barr always mentions what’s coming soon and you can easily read about it in the RSS feed of his site Think Traffic. His messaging comes across as natural, informative, and non-pushy.

For example, in this post he talks about lessons he learned during the launch of Fizzle, an online training membership site. And he links to the sales page—smart and easy. His audience appreciates getting the behind the scenes and he likes sending people to his sales page. It’s a win-win.

Email for Think Traffic

4. Do all of your opening soon/open/closing soon messaging in the body of your normal communication

Marie Forleo does a great job of this by changing the bumper on all her Marie TV videos to the next event or project she’s working on.

Check out this example to see her B-School bumper.

Email for B-School

3. Planning a minimum viable launch

Now let’s talk about the absolute minimum of emails you must send during a launch.

I’m talking here about the only ones that you should write separately from your normal newsletters or emails to your list. Here they are.

1. We’re opening soon

This is a simple email that warns and informs your audience that you are doing something outside the norm. Tell them what you’re up to, and what to expect during the launch period. They’ll thank you and won’t unsubscribe.

In this example, not only did I warn subscribers, but I used my favorite spot in the email to do it: the P.S.

Email for Anne and Corbett

2. We’re open

Laura Roeder has switched to this kind of straightforward messaging too. Her Creating Fame program now only announces the opening and closing of the program enrollment, or new waves of enrollment.

Email by Laura Roeder

Chris Guillebeau does the same thing with his World Domination Summit. I went back to see if this had changed from the first WDS, but realized he does the same thing every single time. He opens it. Then he warns. Then he closes it.

Email by Chris Guillebeau

3. We’re closing, or this special launch period is over

First, you may be asking: Do I need to close? What is “closing”?

Closing is simply ending your run of launch material, emails, and the push to promote your product. Sometimes it’s closing enrollment. Sometimes it’s just stopping the hardcore promotion. Whatever you decide, whether you should close your launch is a whole other topic.

Let’s say for the sake of example you’ve chosen to close your launch on a specific day. This can actually be done by sending two emails on closing day. I highly recommend it is two emails sent on the last day: one early in the morning, and one later in the day a few hours before you close.

Catherine Just, one of the members of Fearless Launching, was in the midst of her Soul*full ecourse launch. She was feeling a lag in sign ups at the mid-point in the launch. Though this is quite natural and happens even on higher profile launches, Catherine was bummed. Who wouldn’t be? So, on the day she closed, I suggested she send two emails—one super-early and one later in the day close to closing time.

First, she sent this short and sweet, early-morning email:

Email by Catherine Just

And here’s the longer thank you email she sent a few hours before closing:

Closing email by Catherine Just

The results were outstanding. People new to her list signed up for the program and she got several sign ups in the last 24 hours (and then some on the day after closing).

It was just the right amount of push and honesty to get her readers and new readers to take action!

The reason these types of emails work

For some reason—perhaps because they aren’t trying to pull anything, but they get a reaction and cause you to think about your situation and what you struggle with—these email types get very few complaints.

People are like, “Oh okay, you’re open. Cool.” There are only a few options for them. The emails feel nice, respectful, and non-invasive.

Use these emails and examples as inspiration for your own launch. Think about being direct, and think about how your readers are going to react. Don’t be as worried about how well the emails are written. Instead, think about speaking in the voice they know and love: yours.

Bonus: launch “email” marketing for bloggers

Throughout this post, we’ve looked at examples of emails, ways of communicating about your launch, and how to warm people up to the idea of your launch. No matter how many launches you do, you need to think about this every single time. Your approach will evolve as your readers and followers evolve.
Here’s how simple your launch can be, when your primary focus is (or has been) blogging.

Spoiler alert: What I’m about to suggest might have you scratching your head and wondering if it’s possible, or if it will even work…

Keep it on the blog

Instead of writing emails for your launch, you could just write blog posts.

In fact, instead of having a separate launch site with launch videos and special launch content, keep it all on your blog: no need for a separate site.

How can you have a product launch without email?

Well, you tell me! Some of the biggest blogger launches have happened directly from the blog.
Think non-invasive, expected, adding value—and posts that are live on your site forever!

Instead of hiding your precious launch content on a separate site, pop it on your blog for the long-term effects to your business and site. If it’s sitting on another separate site, how are you going to keep getting regular sales for your program?

Who’s done it?

…and many, many more!

How successful was it?

This approach makes it easier to build trust, easier to get all your readers’ attention, and much easier to sell them on reading your message. If people are only on your RSS feed, they might not even see a launch email. This approach makes your launch available to everyone.

As I mention above, I did this during my first launch of a program—the first real product I offered from my site. I used the month prior to my open-cart date as a chance to focus on my topic, so I loaded my readers up with articles related to launching.

Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers.com has also done this for the pre-launch of Blog That Converts. When I chatted with him about it prior to publishing the series, I asked him, “So this is like an intro course to Blog That Converts? That gets them ready for the program?”

He said, “Exactly.”

Not only is he setting his customers up to be ready to take his course, he’s keeping the content on his blog, so that there’s no break in the flow of how he normally delivers his content.

He still announces each post via email, but in a very expected way for his audience.

Action point: create a series of posts that cover mini-topics within your program or product.

Don’t be afraid to test

If you’re feeling a little braver, try a mix of emails and posts. The worst that’s going to happen is that people might tell you that you’re emailing too often.

If you start to see your readers revolt or a flurry of unsubscribes, all you need to do to change your course: space out your emails, turn emails back into blog posts, and so on.

I’m definitely a huge fan of pushing your readers just a little. Don’t go to the extreme, but give them a taste of what it feels like to get these launch-devoted emails. The next time around, it won’t feel so foreign to you!

During the fall 2012 launch of Fearless Launching, I wrote a series of emails for the launch in addition to blog content. Half way through the enrollment period, I sensed it was getting too much from my readers, because they told me so.

This post started an email—and ended up a blog post only! Check it out and see if you can tell where it sounds like an email at first: http://www.annesamoilov.com/email-during-launch/.

I turned a few of the more sales-y emails into blog posts, or just cut them completely. But I wouldn’t have known to do this unless I’d tested and written a few direct emails about the launch.

Action point: Write an email and tell people why it’s important to know whatever it is you’re teaching. Why is this topic important?

Analyze your results

If you’re going to test, you better analyze the results, too.

All that means is this: watch your open rate, taking note of which types of emails get opened and which ones do not.

Watch traffic on blog posts and the response to your emails. You’ll need to use your gut at first to understand what all these numbers mean, but that’s okay. If you see that your blog posts get tons of comments and the emails get hardly any opens, you can draw conclusions about what’s best for your audience.

Watch where people click, comment, and speak up. This is valuable feedback. So listen up!

All too often you will learn new strategies for connecting with your audience, for writing a better email, for tips on selling without being schmucky … and you will try them but not spend the time to see how they worked for your business and your audience.

Action point: Make sure you check your analytics account daily during your launch. Look at the number of visits, bounce rates, and most importantly, traffic sources.

Your homework

There’s a lot of action you could (and should) take from this post, but before you get into any of it, answer these three questions in the comments below. I’ll personally respond and let you know the best next step for you!

  1. Do you have a product that you want to launch, but you’ve been afraid to make the leap because you’ve never offered something for sale before to your readers?
  2. No matter what size your audience is, are you getting consistent response, reaction, and engagement from your readers in some form?
  3. Have you tried to launch something on your blog and got no response? Can you make any guesses as to why?

Contributing author Anne Samoilov is an online launch + business strategist who coaches overwhelmed entrepreneurs ready to launch. She’s also the creator of Fearless Launching, an online training program for first time online product launchers.  Learn how to launch and build a business based on simplicity over on her blog, chat with her on Facebook, and download her special gift for Problogger.net readers: a launch email resource guide.

The 3 Essential Components to My Online Publishing Business: Blogging, Social, and Email

As bloggers, we’re always under time pressure to do more. Whether it’s releasing a product or engaging with users on a new social network, the blogger’s task list can seem overwhelming sometimes.

I think some of that overwhelm comes from the granularity with which we tend to look at our work. While breaking big challenges down into littler ones is a good way to tackle things, focusing on the little bits and pieces of our work can stop us seeing the bigger picture, and the natural connections between the individual things we’re doing.

Recently on #blogchat we had a discussion about where social media fits into blogging. If you look at that question on a really granular basis—”What will my next status update be about?”—then it can be difficult to see where social media might or might not work well. But if you look at the bigger picture, you’ll probably be more likely to ask, “Where doesn’t social media fit into blogging?”

Of course we need a bit more direction than that to work out how best to spend our time as bloggers, so today I thought I’d explain a bit about my approach to linking blogging, social media, and email.

Freeway cloverleaf

Image by Phillip C, licensed under Creative Commons

1. Blogging

Blogging is at the heart of what I do. My blog is my home base and is where I put most of my efforts. My blog is a place that another company like Twitter, or Facebook or G+ can’t take away from me if I break their terms of service or if they change their approach. It’s in my control and it’s where I ultimately build my brand and community.

My blog is a place where conversation and conversion certainly happens, but if I had to name my primary focus for my blog it would be that it is a place which I use to produce content that’s useful to my readers.

My hope is that every single day on my blogs, I help solve problems big and small for my readers through the content I produce there.

My blog is a place that is often the first point of contact with people. It’s a place where I hope I’m able to create an impression upon them that will drive them to connect more meaningfully in some way.

2. Social media

Social media is a place which I primarily use for conversation and community. While these things also happen on the blog in comments, I find increasingly that people want to connect and converse off my blog.

I tend to focus on Twitter primarily, but Facebook has increasingly become a place where my photography blog readers go and G+ is also growing for me in this way.

I do use social media for other purposes—I use it to drive traffic to my blog for example, I occasionally produce content on it (particularly on G+ where I often think out loud), and I even promote my ebooks on it from time to time too (although I find it doesn’t convert anywhere near as well as email—more on that in a moment).

All these things can be done on social media, but for me it is more a place for conversation and interaction.

3. Email

I’ve written about the importance of email many times on ProBlogger—it is the single most important element I’ve added to my blogging since I started out ten years ago.

Email does many things for me—it’s a great way to drive traffic, it can help with building community and driving people to points of engagement, it can even be used to deliver content. But for me its stand-out benefit has been around driving sales: conversion.

Check out this graphic which shows where sales of our ebooks come from.

Email conversions on dPS

You can see here that:

  • 87% of our sales come from email
  • 7% come from our blog posts
  • 3% come from social media
  • 3% come from our affiliates.

Since we started to publish ebooks, I’ve tried many ways to promote them, but the top-converting method every time I’ve tested has been email.

3 Kinds of media working together

Blogging, social media and email have all  become really important aspects of my business. I can’t imagine leaving one of these elements out.

Each of them is useful in a variety of ways—in fact, I often use each of the elements to promote the others, as I find they really work well to reinforce one another.

For example, when someone signs up to our newsletter on dPS they get an email shortly after that tells them about our social media accounts. From time to time on our social accounts we promote the email newsletter, and we regularly promote the blog posts we publish there, too.

In sending people back and forth to the different elements of what we do, I find they become more integrated into the community. The brand’s popularity grows among a broader audiences this way, but individuals’ connections with the brand deepen, too.

In taking this discussion a step or two further, tomorrow’s post looks at some great case examples of the ways email and blogging can be integrated to support a successful product launch, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think of those approaches.

And next week, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at how bloggers are using social media—specifically Pinterest—to support their blogging goals.

The integration of social media and email with blogging is a pretty topical dilemma for a lot of people, so let’s hear your views in the comments.

Common Creativity: Understanding the Rules and Rights Around “Free” Images on the Web

We’re all familiar with the old adage: a picture is worth a thousand words. In some cases, a picture is worth a thousand dollars. Luckily, for those of us not interested in investing a small fortune for the use of an image on a small scale, there are options.

Creative commons

Image by Jayel Aheram, licensed under Creative Commons

Sites offering free copyright images are gaining in popularity throughout the blogging and web design communities alike, but they are by no means created equal.

In fact, “free” does not necessarily mean “without cost” or even relate to price. For example, “royalty free” simply means that once you pay for the photo, you are “free” to use it however you like.

When words don’t even mean what they are supposed to mean, how are we to know the rules and rights surrounding “free” images on the web?  And if payment is a prerequisite to all of that freedom, are any pictures truly free?

Now, you may be asking yourself “who really cares?” After all, what are the chances that some artist is going to go to the trouble of tracking you down to sue you for “illegally” downloading their work? Besides, they put it out there on the Internet so it’s really fair game, right?

Wrong.

No matter how small the risk of your getting caught may seem (depending, of course, on how flagrant you are with what you have “stolen”), the simple fact is that improper use of protected works is a crime and is actually prosecuted more often than you might think.

The bottom line is simple: do you really want the risk of prosecution hanging over your head ready to come down on you at any time? If you’re serious about your future in blogging, the answer is no.

Okay, fine, you get it: you don’t want to break the law. But you’re not a copyright attorney and the nuances of intellectual property laws are so tricky, even those guys seem confused a lot of the time! If only there was a way for you to honor the law and easily understand the right and wrong ways to navigate the choppy waters of copyright protection all at the same time…

Enter: the world of Creative Commons licenses. Thanks to sites like Flickr, morgueFile, Wikimedia, and Pixabay (just to name a few), thousands of free images are at your fingertips. Creative Commons licenses have made legal use of images on the web simple for anyone—even if he or she is not an attorney.

However, there are still various levels of “freedom” within the licenses and a keen comprehension of those is necessary if you wish to use the images without fear of legal repercussion.

The licenses

There are six basic licenses within the Creative Commons library, linked together with one common thread: proper credit, or attribution, must be given to the original creator. Their individual designations, followed by short-hand codes and real-world examples, are explained below.

Attribution: CC BY

This is the least restrictive and most accommodating grant of permission to the public. Basically, it lets others do as they please with the creator’s work (distribute, remix, tweak, alter, and profit commercially), provided the originator receives proper attribution.

Attribution-ShareAlike: CC BY-SA

This license offers the same rights as an Attribution license (others may distribute, remix, tweak, alter, and profit commercially) with the added stipulation that all subsequent forms of the work carry identical terms.

In other words, if the work starts out under this license, it must have this license forever and cannot change to a basic Attribution license somewhere down the line.

Example:Wikimedia uses this license and it is recommended for all similar sites that share and incorporate various bits of information.

Attribution-NoDerivs: CC BY-ND

Under this license, the work itself may be reused, but it must remain identical to the way you found it—no tweaking, altering or remixing allowed. However, you may still redistribute and profit commercially from it, provided, as always, that you properly attribute the originator.

Example: This is a good one for web designers and bloggers who have found something great that they want to incorporate “as is” for use in creations that earn them money, i.e. a website or blog.

Attribution-NonCommercial: CC BY-NC.

This license provides that others may do as they wish to a creation (alter, tweak, remix, etc.) as long as it is done in a non-commercial context.

You might look at this one as “permission to do what you will to the creation, but not what you will with the creation.”  Additionally, as long as this non-commercial new work gives proper credit, it need not be licensed under the same terms.

Example: You might look for this license if you were preparing a school project or creating something for your own personal use.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: CC BY-NC-SA

This is the same as Attribution-NonCommercial (may be altered and used in a non-commercial setting); however, the new version must be licensed in exactly the same manner as the source work.

Example: This license might apply to an image or a song that someone has altered and passed along to friends, provided it carries the same license and does not profit the “tweaker.”

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: CC BY-NC-ND

Of the six main licenses, this one carries the most restrictions with it. Under this, you are only allowed to download and share the work, with absolutely no modification or profit along the way.

If you are a web designer or a blogger and you see this license designation, back away … unless, of course, you are interested in facing an accusation of copyright violation.

How to give proper attribution.

Now that we have discussed the various types of licenses and we know that all of them require the proper attribution of the creator, how exactly do we do that?

The folks at Creative Commons have created a nifty little pack that explains the different ways you can attribute, along with examples, but the basics are simple and flexible:

  • you should credit the creator
  • provide the title and host URL of the work
  • indicate the type of CC license it takes (along with a link for others to follow)
  • keep any copyright notices intact.

For an example, see the image I included at the top of this post.

Some final “legal” notes…

This post is not a law review article, nor is it intended to be a treatise on the ins and outs of copyright law. But I do want to shed some light on a few basic aspects of copyright protection for bloggers.

First, this licensure actually protects the user, not the creator.

This statement doesn’t seem so crazy when you consider that a basic truth of intellectual property law is that all works are automatically copyright-protected (thus, enforceable against the user) upon their creation—it’s literally a legal “given.”

Since this is true, if you are ever sued for copyright infringement, the burden is automatically upon you, the defendant, to prove that you did not violate the copyright and, in fact, the creator granted you permission (of some sort). This is how Creative Commons licenses have succeeded in making grants of permission easy to understand and flexible.

Although the Creative Commons licenses are considered flexible in the world of copyright laws, it is important to keep in mind that they still retain legal force. Indeed, they are not US-specific and are supported, promoted and honored in over 70 jurisdictions throughout the world. For specific affiliates and jurisdictions, visit http://wiki.creativecommons.org/CC_Affiliate_Network.

If these licenses are abused, they are forfeited: if someone violates the terms of the license, that person is no longer protected and may be sued by the work’s originator and held liable in a court of law.

Along the same lines, once the originator has granted permission through one of the licenses, her work is out of her hands. As long as the person using the work does so according to the license terms, the creator has no legal remedy if she does not like the way the new person uses her work (there are some exceptions, but that is another article entirely).

Finally, even though the Creative Commons licenses carry legal weight, they were designed with flexibility in mind. If you have a particular use in mind for a work, but the originator has not licensed it for the purpose you intend, contact them.

And whatever you do, make sure you get any special permission in writing. That email or piece of paper, like the license itself, is your ticket to verify you covered all of your bases. As long as you have done your part to respect the rights of others, there is no end to the creativity waiting right around the corner.

So, let’s hear it. What are some of the ways you have seen CC licenses in action? Do you think they “work” or do you have suggestions on how they could be better? Offer more protection? Tell me in the comments.

Contributing author Thomas Ford is the Marketing Director of www.123Print.com, a leading supplier of business cards and a wide variety of business and office supplies. Tom writes on a range of topics of interest to bloggers and business people.

ProBlogger Census: We Need You!

It’s that time of year!

We’ve set our plans, shifted our focus … and now we’re running our ProBlogger Census.

I’d love to hear your feedback on the change of approach on ProBlogger, but I’m also really keen to hear what topics you’d like us to explore in the coming months.

The 2013 ProBlogger Census is a short survey to capture your thoughts, ideas, and wishes so that we can help to serve you better in our blogging.

I’d love it if you could take a few moments to fill it out.

I look forward to reading your thoughts!