Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Pinterest’s audience continues to grow, and more than ever before the social media site is a beacon for enthusiastic readers and for writers who want to publicize their work in a free, incredibly effective way. I’ve already written about how to establish yourself on the site with How To Get 1000 Pinterest Followers In 6 Surprisingly Easy Steps, but in this article I’ll be looking at how you can enhance your Pinterest presence and ensure that the content you share is sending traffic to sites that help enhance your brand and make you money.
10,000 site visitors might sound like a lot, but it’s an achievable number for those who are willing to put some time into their Pinterest account. The number of site visitors you can gain from Pinterest will always be higher than your number of followers, and the goal of achieving 10,000 visitors per month via Pinterest isn’t as impossible at it may first appear.
If you haven’t read How To Get 1000 Pinterest Followers In 6 Surprisingly Easy Steps, I’d suggest starting there, as many of the provisos laid down in that article still apply – Pinterest has a specific set of user demographics that prioritize certain genres of writing, such as YA fiction, lifestyle writing, and motivational writing, above others. In this article, I’ll be taking a closer look at what makes an individual pin successful, how to translate Pinterest fame into useful traffic, and how you can increase follower numbers and user interest in both rapid and gradual ways.
So what’s the difference between ‘followers’ and ‘traffic’?
‘Followers’ are users of Pinterest who have chosen to receive updates about your activities on that site. ‘Traffic’ is how many users of Pinterest follow you to another site – most importantly your author website, blog, or your product listings on sites such as Amazon or the iBooks Store.
Pinterest can build your brand and make people more aware of your work, but traffic is the end goal. It’s the difference between engaging with fans in a place they’d already gathered and being able to take them with you. Once someone is on your email list, you’ve established permanent contact that you can rely on whenever.
It’s a process that Matthew wrote about in How to Get More Out of Your Social Media Followers – the intention with social media isn’t to keep the same followers constantly entertained. That’s just spinning plates, and it’s untenable over the span of a writer’s career. Instead, social media should be about taking fans from one level to the next, establishing your brand, and their opinion of you, as something that doesn’t require as much maintenance. The ideal is to start out with people who happen to see your book on social media and leave them as fans who actively scour your website for clues as to when the next book might come out.Traffic to your own site is always the goal, but Pinterest is a great way to get it.Click To Tweet
That doesn’t mean you only have to run your social media for a little while – you want this turnover to be constant, so that new fans are always being created – but it does frame social media, Pinterest included, as the first part of a process with a definitive end goal. Why is that useful? Because it clarifies the fact that social media sites have a job to do.
Journey to the landing page
Think of your Pinterest account as a small stall you’ve been allowed to set up in someone else’s store – a kiosk where you have limited interactions with potential customers and restrictions on what you’re able to offer. The aim, then, isn’t to sell as much as you can from the kiosk. Yes, you’ll make some money, but it’s a constant slog that doesn’t change from one day to another.
Instead, you’re trying to showcase your product in a way that makes people want to visit your store. That’s the true value of the kiosk, and of your presence on Pinterest, and that’s the prize to keep your eye on. Getting 1000 followers on Pinterest is great, but that needs to turn into traffic, or there’s no point having your own store at all.
Pinterest pins are basically advertisements for your content – the intent is that users click-through to your site, where they’ll see more of the same. I’ll talk in a moment about how to make pins that do this, but first we need to touch on your landing page.
The landing page is, very simply, the page on which visitors to your site first ‘land’ when they visit. This is your store, and it needs to be set up for the customers you’re sending its way. Alex has written before on how website design can be used to handle traffic effectively, but in terms of Pinterest, it’s important to think about where you’re sending your reader. The end goal of Pinterest traffic is to create a direct link with the reader, so how are you doing that? Is your site set up to collect email addresses? Are you giving readers a reason to hand them over? A substantial email list is one of the most powerful marketing tools an author can have, and the author website is where they come from.Strong online book marketing depends on an effective landing page and email collection.Click To Tweet
Even if you have set up everything you need to collect emails and direct visitors to all your other social media, where they can follow you and swell your numbers, how do your Pinterest posts work with that system? Are you sending visitors to the places where they’ll be asked for their emails? The traditional landing page is effective because when people visit your site, it’s the first thing they see, the hub from which they can view other areas, but pins bypass that and take visitors straight to the pinned content. Be careful that your pinning and site design don’t conspire to sneak visitors in by the back door, where they’ll miss all your great advertising.
Avoiding this is a matter of ensuring that all your advertising isn’t concentrated in one place, and that your site interlinks in such a way that visitors regularly encounter invitations and persuasive (though not pushy) offers to join your email list.
There are a lot of ways to ensure your site is set up for this – this famous website parodies the various ways of collecting email addresses, but also acts as a pretty great showcase for all the options available to authors, complete with the stats behind them. If it all seems too complicated, don’t worry – this is exactly the kind of thing you can hire people to do on your behalf. In fact, you can even check out our Author Website Design service for that very purpose.
However you approach incoming traffic, it’s vital to understand that Pinterest can only get people as far as your site, blog, or product. What happens from there depends on what they find. This is the vital infrastructure of turning social media interest into traffic and brand recognition into money, and needs to be a top priority. Once you’ve got a site that allows you to benefit from traffic, however, it’s time to start thinking about how to persuade people to visit.
Planning ahead with your image assets
The kiosk idea I mentioned earlier is valuable, and worth coming back to, because it provides a lot of necessary context. Not only does it describe the types of limits Pinterest imposes, but it also accurately represents your relationship with other users. By this, I mean that Pinterest users are not necessarily on the site to see your content – Pinterest is its own entity, and that’s what they’re there for. Succeeding in persuading them to visit your sites is therefore about working with Pinterest’s systems – you either have to focus on advertising those products that will suit the existing clientele, or adapt your products to be easier to advertise.
In practical terms, this is mostly about the images you use on Pinterest. Images are Pinterest’s focus, and so images are what you need to attract users’ attention. Share the content that already has engaging image assets and find engaging image assets for the content that doesn’t.
You can post any image from a blog post or website to Pinterest, but that doesn’t mean that just any image is going to grab user attention. In fact, choosing the right image is everything, and Pinterest has its own visual language that smart authors should learn. This is useful in choosing which images to use on Pinterest, but it should permeate your content creation even deeper than that. In 14 Vital Question That Will Improve Your Blog Post, part 1 and part 2, I mentioned considering image assets while planning a blog post. Part of this decision should be if it’s worth choosing images specifically because they will play well on Pinterest. To get the most out of the site, it should feature early on in your content decisions. Retro-fitting images to Pinterest will work in some cases, but it’s easier and more effective to plan ahead.
If that’s the case, though, what kind of images should you be using for your pins?
The perfect pin
The most important thing to remember about pin images is that, by definition, they’re part of a crowd. A Pinterest user’s screen is a collage of different content from different places, and they’ll click on the one that catches their eye.
Another important aspect to understand about Pinterest is that it’s a vertical experience. Users scroll down through content, and there are several ways to use this to your advantage. The first is to use tall images – portrait rather than landscape. You can see in the image below, from our own Pinterest page, that wide pictures tend to be shrunk down to keep them in a column, whereas tall images already fit into that column. In a sea of content, tall images therefore tend to stand out.
Another benefit to tall pins is that they last longer. The user might scroll past three or four wide pins before they reach the end of a tall one – the tall pin is on the screen for longer, and so has more of a chance to grab browser attention. You can see this at work in the ’44 Quote Tattoos’ pin from the Penguin Books board below.
This verticality is part of why quotes do so well on Pinterest. Since the user is scrolling down, a quote in large font is gradually revealed, creating a little intrigue as it goes. The pin from Buzzfeed, below, trades on this type of gradual reveal: as the user scrolls down, it appears at the bottom of the screen proclaiming ‘ART’ in huge font. Anyone interested in the topic is grabbed from the start.
This is a feature that’s of particular use to authors, who are able to present quotes from their own work in this style. Infographics also do well on Pinterest – a type of content that tends to be popular in its own right, but also tends to be vertical in its presentation. Pinterest users also seem to show an affinity for images of people. Perhaps it’s because seeing another person makes it seem like someone real has vouched for content, but whatever the psychology behind it, images of real people tend to invite more clicks. If you can find an opportunity to include a person in your image, or to use an image with people over one without, it’s generally a good idea to take it. This is the case in our book blurb pin, below.
Some Pinterest preferences are a little harder to explain. One pin quality that seems to attract users is an image with text over it. The simple explanation is that it delivers the maximum amount of information – the image attracts and the text provides context, all in a clean, uncomplicated manner, like in our ‘Writing a Western‘ pin image, below.
This would help to explain why the most popular version of this design is an image overlaid by a transparent color text box, as in the BookBub and Buzzfeed pins below.
Again, this utilizes space effectively, and the transparency makes it appear as if the content is waiting behind the title – just a click away. Note that the pins are also vertically designed, with clear, large messages that are revealed as you scroll down.
If all else fails, remember that block colors are a good way to draw the eye. While not the most sophisticated design, a square of color emblazoned with a simple message can hold its own amid a cluster of different images.
One element that many Pinterest users forget about when creating pins is the description underneath. It can be tempting to leave the image to fend for itself, but this is free space, so be sure to use it.
It’s the perfect place to use keywords that will help your content show up in searches and trumpet elements of your content that didn’t make the title (notice how BookBub use their description to clarify that the service is free). Don’t forget to include some simple alt text as well, since this has a similar effect on your pin’s place in search results.
Attracting bulk traffic through Pinterest
We’ve now talked about how to get individual pins noticed, how they drive traffic to your site, and what should be waiting for visitors when they arrive. The missing piece of the puzzle is how to attract bulk traffic – how to get that perfect pin in front of as many people as possible.
The ‘old reliable’ approach
The most basic answer is simply to keep producing quality content over time. One of Pinterest’s most attractive qualities is how long content lasts – unlike Facebook or Twitter, your pins will keep working on your behalf for months, and even when they stop circulating, they remain visible. Every good pin you put up – or share – works with the pins that went before it, and over time, if you’re producing good content, you’ll gain a reputation as someone to check out.
This is all well and good, but authors have a product to sell and a brand to establish, so you’ll also need to know a few ways to actively increase Pinterest attention and the traffic it brings.
The ‘slow and steady’ approach
The most foolproof method is the one I outlined in How To Get 1000 Pinterest Followers In 6 Surprisingly Easy Steps – follow lots and lots of people over a long period of time. A certain percentage will follow back, and there’s a tipping point for number of followers where other users start thinking they should check out your boards because so many other people seem to like them. Use keywords to target the kind of users who’ll like your content, follow people who are following your competitors, and your numbers will just keep on rising. This is a simple ‘time for results’ transaction – you can gain thousands of followers if you keep at it, and gradually accrue the traffic to match.
The ‘money where your mouth is’ approach
A more immediate way to gain followers is to run a competition. Pinterest competitions are very informal – you just create a pin advertising it (ensuring you’re within the site’s terms and conditions) and you’re all set.
In a Pinterest competition, you can offer some form of prize in exchange for beneficial behaviour – following you on Pinterest, signing up to your email list, sharing the competition pin, or all three (plus whatever else you can think of). In terms of receiving immediate traffic, it can’t be beaten, especially when it’s handled well.
It’s a good idea to ensure a lengthy competition cycle, aiming for a month at the least. You need to give your competition pins time to spread, and for people to get excited. You’ll also have to make sure that you’re advertising properly – this isn’t a one-pin deal, so have a stock of images ready to help publicize the event.Running a competition on Pinterest is a great method of online book marketing for authors.Click To Tweet
It’s also a good idea to decide beforehand what your target is – how many emails, how much traffic, and how many followers are you aiming to get? It can be difficult to judge the result of campaigns like this in hindsight, so nailing down some numbers ahead of time will be useful later. You should also disclose, publicly, how you’ll choose the winner. This will encourage engagement and ensure there are no sore losers or accusations of unfairness. If it’s a random result, then make a show of it – if you’re going to draw names out of a hat, make it into a short video, or if you’re going to use a random number generator, make a fuss of the process as it draws near. If you share the contest rules on Pinterest, more people will see them, and it makes that pin more exciting to share, but if you keep some rules back for your own site, you can use them to encourage traffic – the balance depends on your goals, but sharing entry rules on Pinterest and linking to your own site for the rules of the draw is a great way to get the best of both worlds.
Finally, be sure to take advantage of the contest even after it draws to a close. A large influx of followers wants to see that they’ve made the right decision, so create and hold back some choice content to cement your new relationship once prize has been awarded. If you can present this as a reward for everyone who competed, so much the better – ‘To say thanks to everyone who joined in, here’s ___________.’ Even if followers didn’t win, they should want to keep hearing from you, since they want to join in again next time.
The success cycle
Everything I’ve covered above feeds into something else, and it can be confusing to decide where to start. Build a follower base with some good pins, or sort out your landing page to make the most of traffic? The truth is there’s no bad way to start – every aspect of setting yourself up on Pinterest has a delay, a short period to slog through before the ball gets rolling. Personally, I’d advise you at least make it possible for site visitors to register for your email list, then spend a few month building up followers on Pinterest. When you’ve got a thousand or so, it’s worth increasing the marketing power of your site, and it makes sense to follow that up with a competition or burst of bulk following to make the most of it.
Happily, every feature will increase the potency of the others. Don’t think of it as having to catch up to one feature, but of strengthening every aspect of your follower-to-traffic machine. Great pins get more traffic, good site design makes the most of it, competitions up the numbers, which means any existing system is getting more email addresses. Over time, it all builds up, and while you may not feel like you’re doing enough, all your hard work will last.Pinterest book marketing can be daunting, but every little helps. The vital thing is to start!Click To Tweet
Pinterest seems set to keep growing as a site, and it has the potential to be the place where many authors find their fortunes. Experiment, build up your account, and there’s no reason you won’t be one of them.
For more on enhancing your social media, check out our Social Media Archive. Alternatively, if you want the marketing benefits but don’t fancy all the legwork, check out our range of social media services – from designing your sites and pages to creating content and running campaigns to gain you followers.
Are you an author on Pinterest with experiences to share, or someone with more questions about how it all works? Let me know in the comments.