I’ve used Pinterest as a content creator since late 2017. In that time, I’ve studied a number of courses on how to use Pinterest to drive traffic back to your website, increase page views, create catchy pin images, and learned to pay attention to the right way to add pin descriptions, among other things.
Heck, I even went ahead and launched a course of my own in April 2020 – The 12-week Pinterest Roadmap. It was a rather popular course but I retired it from circulation in August 2021.
Instead, I had a bit of an epiphany when it came to this platform. For so many years, I’d seen it as a traffic magnet and while that’s not incorrect, it can cause a great deal of pressure and stress while using the platform.
There was always a part of me that worried about my account being suspended (it was; twice) or about losing traffic (which happened more times than I care to count) or keeping up to date with the changes in the algorithm.
Using Pinterest Differently
In July 2021, I had a breakthrough moment. What if I stopped using Pinterest as a creator? What if I stopped worrying about the innumerable changes on this platform and instead learnt to focus on why the platform actually existed? In other words, what if I used it exactly as it was meant to be used – a visual bookmarking tool which could come in handy for me when I needed something in a hurry?
For example, I know creators and bloggers who spend a lot of time- and I do mean a lot, upwards of 3 hours a day- agonizing over the best fonts to use, the best colour combinations, the right images. While there’s a space for that kind of attention to detail it’s important to remember how the general populace actually use Pinterest.
In any case, I wasn’t focused on traffic for the sake of page views anymore. I was looking to see if I could gently generate interest via Pinterest in the work I do by practising two core elements- intention and simplicity.
An Experiment – How I started using Pinterest
In August 2021, I did two things on Pinterest. The first was that I created a private Pinterest account for my personal use. Thanks to the last year and a half of lockdown cooking, my interest in both saving and trying out new recipes had multiplied tenfold. While I prefer to use the Pocket app for bookmarking articles I find useful, I figured Pinterest would be way better for me to save recipes that I was keen on trying out. The other category that fascinated me from the bookmarking angle was home decor and home improvement.
Guess which two categories are the most-searched-for on Pinterest? Hint: I’ve just mentioned them both. Now, since neither of these really apply to my main business account, the private, personal account just made practical sense.
The second thing I did on the platform was to review my own Pinterest account and view it through the lens of a new Pinterest user. If I were to land on my own profile, as a user, what was I being greeted with? Was it image after image of self promotion or was there a genuine need to help the end user? Was I trying to drive traffic to my website or was I trying to educate an individual about a specific topic?
I then went back and compared the images I was saving on my private account. What recipes was I saving? They were a combination of image-only posts and step by step video tutorials. They were a mix of vertical images as well as horizontal pins. There were both beautifully designed pin images and just a grey block background with a text overlay. There were beautiful layouts of homes coupled with simple step by step tutorials on how to keep the kitchen counter clean. These usually had the tips directly mentioned on the image instead of making me click through to a website.
In other words, I wasn’t worried about the most aesthetically pleasing elements of Pinterest; I was focused on saving those ideas that made the most sense to me!
An Interesting Insight
Now, bear in mind that I am at a very unique stage on my personal business journey, so what I say here may or may not apply to you. Given that I had started moving away from seeing Pinterest as a traffic tool, I started enjoying the platform once again. I was no longer stressed about the algorithm, the number of views on my pins or the number of outbound clicks (which tell you how many people actually landed on your website through the platform).
Instead, I learnt to reverse engineer the platform as a creator while enjoying it as a consumer.
Pinterest analytics can be a bit of a rabbit hole and more specifically, not very reliable when it comes to telling you what’s really working. Instead, I went back and started focusing on Google Analytics and seeing where people were finding my content on Pinterest and how they were reaching my website.
The most interesting thing of all is that pins that I had created in mid 2018 were continuing to drive steady traffic to my website even today. Do you know what all those pins had in common?
* I put them together in 5 minutes
* I rarely, if ever, repeated them or re-pinned them on the platform
* I focused on whether they were helpful for people finding my content
Ignoring the Algorithm
Again, this is a bit of a dicey experiment so try it at your own risk. Last month, I wrote a post on Instagram explaining why I don’t follow any of the popular marketing practices advocated – using hashtags, posting at the best times of day or making Instagram reels.
I’ve worked on this model for well over a year and in that time, I’ve seen only benefits from following these principles.
Last month it struck me – what if I tried the same thing on Pinterest? What if I ignore the existence of the algorithm and instead just used the platform to do two things:
- Bookmark those ideas that were of direct relevance to me
- Share content that my audience could learn and benefit from
Forget about everything else! Forget about posting at the best times or creating the perfect pin or constantly staying up to date with the changes on the platform. Radical idea and it’s definitely something I would recommend only if you’re not dependent on Pinterest for traffic.
But I can tell you this much. Ever since I made that decision, I’ve fallen in love with Pinterest all over again. I use it the way it’s meant to be used- as a quick bookmarking tool that I refer when I need help with something.
Usually, in an article like this, here is where I would ideally recommend a Pinterest course (either my own or from someone else), but instead I want you to just try using the platform for self-improvement. Use it as a tool to learn something new, bookmark something that you love and then come back and repeat the process all over again. Maybe, just maybe, you will start treasuring the intention and simplicity that goes into the practice.
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