How to Build a Pinterest Following

I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for months now. I have been using Pinterest both as a casual user and a business entity for a few years, and while overall I feel like I know what I’m doing, I never felt like I had the stats to back myself up. Sure, I could consistently get a few thousand monthly views, but what did that even mean, really? Other people got thousands or even millions of views per month! Why would anyone listen to little old me?

Am I… actually good at Pinterest?

Last week, I started getting a bunch of hits on my blog. Like, a lot more than usual. Lo and behold, I checked my Pinterest analytics, and there it was: a massive  number of hits on a blog post I’d pinned ages ago! It been repinned by a big account, and it was pretty awesome to see the direct connection between that pin’s success and the volley of hits on my blog.

After that, I took a second to look at the traffic on our eBay store’s Pinterest. I was shocked. Somehow, we’d gone from around 60k monthly viewers to 125k monthly viewers–even though I hadn’t touched the account in months. It had quite literally been building an audience on its own. You know, the thing that everyone wants their Pinterest to do? I’d actually done it.

So how did I do it?

This method does require that you do some work. (I know, I know, we all wish there was a magic wand instead.)

The first bit of work? Figuring out if Pinterest is actually the platform you want to focus on. This might seem like a weird thing to say since you’re obviously trying to build up your Pinterest traffic, but bear with me.

Pinterest is, above all things, an image board. If you feed your Pinterest with lots of cool images and graphics that your target audience finds compelling, your Pinterest will grow. But if you feed it things the Pinterest algorithm isn’t interested in, like text or unattractive graphics, your account will struggle to reach anyone.

So before you start diving in to the Pinterest grind, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you already use Pinterest and have some understanding of it?
  • Is it a good fit for your content?
  • Is your audience using Pinterest?

If you’re answering “no” to any of these questions (especially those last two!) then I would suggest looking into other avenues of promotion, like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, or any number of other sites.

But if it seems like Pinterest is the perfect fit for you and your content, read on below!

Step 1: Visualize your ideal audience.

This is super important! It can be easy to take a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to Pinterest (or any social media, for that matter). But that’s ineffective and will only waste your time and make it harder to find and retain your audience.

Using Pinterest for promotion works best when you think of exactly who you’re going to talk to. Think of your ideal customer or reader. What do they like? What are they looking for on Pinterest? How is your content or product going to make their life better?

It can help to actually envision an actual person or character and name them. That’s what I did for our Magic & Snacks Pinterest. We wanted to target young women somewhere between 16 and 25 who like anime, kawaii aesthetics, fashion, food and cooking, and Japanese culture because we knew those people would be most likely to buy our products.

Your ideal customer will likely be different than ours. Maybe you’re trying to target young moms, or people who like bowling, or mountain bikers. Step into their shoes and think about what they want to see on Pinterest.

Step 2: Research what your audience likes.

This is closely tied to pinning down your ideal audience. In some cases, your ideal audience might be very similar to you, which makes things easy. Most of the work I do, be it on the eBay store or on the personal Pinterest I use to promote this blog, is targeted at people similar to me. I know what keywords people like me are searching on Pinterest and what kinds of content they hope to find. Even still, though, I’m constantly doing more research and learning about new things my audience is interested in that I didn’t know about. It’s super important to always keep evolving!

If you’re targeting an audience that you’re not as familiar with, then start poking around on Pinterest for things related to your content. If you sell camping gear, look up “camping,” “hiking,” and “nature” and see what comes up and what looks relevant to your audience. Look at what the big Pinterest accounts in your niche are doing well. It can seem complicated at first, but as you get to know your audience and pay attention to what generates traffic for you, it’ll get easier and easier.

Step 3: Curate!

This is the fun part. You can start creating Pinterest boards that are relevant to your niche. (Going back to the camping example, you probably want boards like “Camping Hacks,” “Camping Gear,” and “Campgrounds.”) Give your boards names that make it really obvious what’s in them. Clever Pinterest board names are fun, but they don’t earn you any points with Pinterest’s algorithm.

Naming Boards

If I’m making a board about Japanese fashion, I’m going to call it “Japanese Fashion” so the algorithm understands exactly what is in that board and its contents come up in search results. Calling a board for recipes “Yummy!!” seems cute until you realize the algorithm doesn’t know what to do with it. If you’re making a board about knitting, call it “Knitting.” You can even have really specific boards, like “Plus-Sized Japanese Fashion” or “Easy Knitting Patterns.” At the end of the day, the most important thing is that your boards’ names are simple and similar to what your audience is searching for.

Pinning Content

This will require you searching Pinterest and the rest of the web for relevant content, as well as creating pins for your own content and products. A mix of repins and original content will work just fine, so don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of original content just yet.

“But how do I even make my own pins??”

If you are graphically challenged (a lot of us are), I highly recommend using Canva. I also recommended this site in my self-publishing post, because it genuinely is one of the best sites I’ve ever run into for creating simple graphics. Canva offers boatloads of templates that you can modify as much or as little as you like. It’s easy to use, and you can even make graphics using the Canva app on your phone. They even have templates specifically for Pinterest, just in case it wasn’t easy enough. They do offer some content you have to pay for, but most of their templates and other graphics are free.

You’ll also likely need to provide photos to include in your graphics. For this blog, I tend to use images from Unsplash, which are totally free to use in any context. You can also pay for stock photos from any number of sites, or use your own photos.

Step 4: Pin Consistently

This can be the hardest part, especially for those of us who don’t necessarily use Pinterest every day. Pinterest doesn’t have a built-in scheduling tool, so if you’re not pinning daily, it can mean your content isn’t showing up on people’s feeds.

But even a little activity can go a long way. I usually pin a few things on my commute to and from work. If I could, I would pin more throughout the day, but since I have a day job, that’s not always possible. You don’t have to pin a bunch. Aiming for even 3-5 pins per day can make a huge difference in terms of eyeballs on your content, even if it’s just repins. All pins have the ability to drive traffic to your Pinterest account, garnering you Pinterest followers and clicks on your blog, store, or whatever you’re promoting.

Have more questions about how to use Pinterest? Found a strategy that worked for you? Let’s talk in the comments below!