Do you think Pinterest is just a source for crafty, DIY projects and wedding planning? Think again. Pinterest is proving to be a powerhouse in the digital and social media marketing world.
By taking advantage of Pinterest’s visual platform, you can implement a few clever tactics that will drive more web traffic and get more sales for your small business, all while revealing a true personality behind your brand. Learn how Google and Pinterest work together, and how your business can leverage search for their own pins while reaching their target audience.
Vincent Ng is a Pinterest marketer, blogger and author dedicated to sharing everything he knows about Pinterest and how it can give your business a leg up on your competition, both in SEO searches as well as web traffic.
Rich: Alright, I am here today with Vincent Ng. He is a Pinterest marketer and a speaker and a founder of MCNG Marketing. He was an opening speaker – along with Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite – at the IIMA Fusion Conference and has presented about Pinterest to organizations such as the California Hotel and Lodging Association and the Decorative Plumbing and Hardwares Association. He’s also the author of Pinterest to Profits With Pintalysis and his own podcast, Pictures to Profits. He’s happily engaged and looking for to the day he is married with the love of his life. Vincent, welcome to the show.
Vincent: Thanks Rich, I really appreciate it.
Rich: I’m glad you’re on the show, it’s been a while since we talked about Pinterest, it is definitely a platform that a lot of small businesses can use. It is not something I’m especially familiar with so we’ll start off basically, but I’m kind of curious, what drove you to using Pinterest as a platform for your own business?
Vincent: Rich, I think for myself what I loved about Pinterest was: #1: I’m a very visual person, I love seeing pictures, drawing, I was actually really big into comics when I was growing up, so for me Pinterest was a great platform to be able to show off my blog post almost like a magazine cover. The reality is – I’m a little embarrassed to admit this – the truth is I wasn’t really good at using Facebook and Twitter to run my own business, but with Pinterest people really seemed to enjoy the visuals and I was getting traffic and now it’s my #1 social traffic referral source and I just love it.
Rich: That’s great. And I also am a huge fan of comics – although I did not give them up – if you ever come to my office you’ll see that there’s about 17 Spidermans all around the office. There you go, something we have in common.
Now, I’ve talked to a lot of small businesses, my day job is running flyte New Media, we do a lot of social media marketing and I’ll often talk to a client about Pinterest in the course of understanding where they’re coming from. And a lot of what I hear is people saying, “Well, Pinterest is a big deal for some people, but I’m in the service industry/run a B2B, it’s not for me.” I’m sure you’ve heard something similar, what do you say when somebody brings that up?
Vincent: And that’s a valid point. I think a lot of people are weary. They’re saying, “Is this for my Business to Business or service?” I think #1 for the service industry in general, Pinterest can be very helpful because you can be able to show off very complicated aspects of your business and multiple dimensions of your business. So if you are a service industry that provides business coaching for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs or executives, with Pinterest you can create a visual that goes along with a blog post and gets categorized into specific boards. So it might be a board for Entrepreneurs or might be a board for Solopreneurs it might be a board for Executives. And so by doing that you really are targeting specific groups of people.
Now in terms of business to business, what I love about business to business is there isn’t really a lot of chance to show off the personality of a company. So a good example is Constant Contact, where they’re showing off what’s happening behind the scenes, who the staff are, they really give you not a face but a personality and faces to what’s happening with their business, and I think it gives people that connection they need when they’re trying to find businesses to work with.
Rich: Ok, so if I understand what you’re saying, even if I don’t have something that’s very showy or retail oriented or consumer oriented, I can still use Pinterest because it helps me show the complicated aspects of my business that might be difficult to explain in words, as well as another opportunity to really show off my personality and separate myself from my competition.
Vincent: Yeah, I couldn’t have put it any better, to be honest I think you put it better than I did, actually.
Rich: I was just taking notes based on you, but I appreciate that. So the other thing that you kind of touched on a little – and I don’t want to jump around too much – you talked about these boards. And basically for those of you who don’t know anything about Pinterest, you’re pinning items and organizing them on these pinboards. Let’s talk about that, why am I creating different types of pinboards – one for entrepreneurs, one for solopreneurs – what are some of the benefits of doing it like that as opposed to just putting everything on one, big board?
Vincent: The big advantage is you’re aiming at very specific groups of people. So let’s say that your business, the reality is they have very specific problems that you need to solve an they have very specific lifestyles. So by creating these categories or pinboards, you’re able to highly target ot them. What Pinterest allows you to do is it allows you to follow very specific boards. So instead of saying I’m going to follow everything on Pinterest that a business pins, I’m going to only follow the one that’s entrepreneur or about executives, and that way people are getting relevant information and relevant pins without being overwhelmed. Unlike Facebook where you’re posting kind of like a one-track mindset, “I have to give something to everybody.” Pinterest allows you to create boards that are specifically for a specific audience.
Rich: One of the things when it comes to focus, first of all I completely agree that the narrower you focus the better off you are, and the internet is basically a series of different niches. So when I’m writing an email newsletter I might target it for one audience or another, the same thing it sounds like for Pinterest, but also I know there’s a “search engine value” when you are creating a narrow focus for a page or maybe in this case a pinboard. Are there search engine benefits to creating narrowly focused boards well?
Vincent: Oh, for sure. I think you’re right on the ball with this. There is definitely some SEO value in terms of the fact that, let’s say that you happen to note that there’s a search term or keyword that doesn’t have a lot of competition but would still take 2-3 months to rank for with a blog post, but with Pinterest it has such a strong authority and it’s such a popular website that you can use certain keywords in your board description and in your board title to help you rank within Google and search engines. And as a real life example, there was a speaker named Yu-kai Chou who specializes in gamification. So I asked Yu-kai, “If you could rank for a keyword, which one would you want to rank for? And he said he wanted to rank for “gamification keynote speaker”. So I created a board on Pinterest, showed off a little bit of his speaking gigs and topics that he was talking about, and lo and behold, within a few weeks he ranked #1for the search term, “gamification keynote speaker” on Google. I don’t think he does anymore, but that’s kind of the power that Pinterest has on SEO.
Rich: Alright, so let’s break that down for a minute if you don’t mind, because that’s definitely fascinating to me because I definitely came from being an SEO guy before I got into social. So let’s say that I want to target something, and I just happen to finish up with a kickoff meeting with an insurance company which seems like a total not right company to be thinking about Pinterest, but lets see if we can make this work.
So let’s say that they want to rank for “commercial insurance in Massachusetts”, what are some of the things that you might do to create a pinboard that would help them gain visibility?
Vincent: Well definitely if it’s from an SEO perspective – is this specifically referring to the Google search and search engines?
Rich: Well yeah, because we were talking about that I’m kind of interested to see how a company might leverage Pinterest to get more visibility in a Google search.
Vincent: Yeah, that’s a really great question, I think a lot of people don’t do it enough. So for example “commercial insurance in Massachusetts”, don’t be afraid to have a longer name for your board, I think some people feel like they have to keep it short because they’re worried what people can see. But if you’re looking to aim for Google you want to have a nice, long name with those search terms in it, making sure they’re in your board descriptions. So not only your board name, but your board name and board description. And something not a lot of people know is if you put those words into your pin description and your pin becomes very popular, sometimes out of all the things, a pin itself actually shows up on pin results. So you want to make sure that you’re adding those search terms to the pin descriptions. And something that’s very key – if you’re a search engine marketer you’re very aware of this – Google loves it if you give them fresh content. And so by contributing to your board about commercial insurance in Massachusetts, making sure you’re pinning on a regular basis, not only does it help with Google search results, it can also help with Pinterest search results as well.
Rich: Alright, so it’s going to raise our visibility across the board because we’re going to use our targeted keywords. We’re going to use them in our board name, our board description and our pin descriptions, and we’re not going to be afraid to use a longer board description or name. What kind of content am I posting there? Are these all blog posts that I’ve created, can I pin things directly to Pinterest that maybe aren’t necessarily hanging out on the web? What are some of the tactics you might recommend there?
Vincent: The tactics I recommend, first thing is definitely if you have a blog – and you should have a blog…
Rich: Yes! You definitely should have a blog. If you’re out there listening, you should have a blog.
Vincent: Yeah, you should. And I think that this is where sometimes I’ll deal with clients and they don’t have a blog yet and they want something on Pinterest, I’ll tell them it doesn’t quite work like that because Pinterest is really a place for discovery and a resource, so you definitely want to pin blog content. But what you also want to do is think about the lifestyle that your customers will have and things that they would appreciate. So a good example is a company like lululemon, where they’ll write a blog post about dry shampoo because they know how busy their customers are, they don’t have time to take a full shower and get their hair wet and and style and all that. They know dry shampoo is something that’s of interest even though lululemon is a yoga brand .
And so when you’re a commercial insurance company – maybe it’s health insurance or travel insurance – being able to assist your customers and say, “Hey, this is the top 10 things that you want to pack with you on your business travel trip.”, or if it’s house insurance, “Ten things before you buy a house.” So even if you don’t write those things, pinning content that other people have written that is useful to your customers is huge. I cannot say enough that you pin other people’s content that is useful to your customers.
Rich: Alright, so it shouldn’t all be about us. We should also be basically curating other people’s content as well. And then the one thing that I’ve always struggled with is, let’s say that I’m this insurance company and I hire someone to do an infographic on me breaking down a flowchart of what type of commercial insurance is right for me. So I have this graphic – and yeah, I could put it to my blog and then pin it – but can I put it directly to my pin board?
Vincent: Yes. So basically, if it’s already on your blog you can pin from your website. But the other option is that you can upload anything that you want. So if it’s an infographic or any type of graphic design that you created, you can upload it. And the thing that you need to watch out for that most people forget is – and it’s a very small thing – once you upload your pin is to make sure that you edit it. There’s an “edit” button on the desktop version of Pinterest and change the source. So once you create an infographic don’t just upload it, change the source to redirect back to your webpage so you don’t lose the potential thousands of visitors in traffic.
Rich: Ok, that is an important fact, good to know. So you’ve talked a little bit about how we create the boards and how we choose our pins, but there are obviously other things. This is a social network and we’re supposed to be interacting with other people using Pinterest. So can you take me through what a marketer should be doing over the course of the day or the week in terms of engaging with other people’s content on Pinterest? What are some of the activities we want to be doing?
Vincent: The things that we mentioned earlier, you definitely want to be repinning other people’s content. So for example, we talk about influencers in social marketing, so what you want to do is take the time to repin other people’s content – especially if it’s valuable content to your customers – and I would suggest that depending on your schedule if you can, pin at least 10 pins a day. But that really depends on what I’d like to call your “time budget”. But try to aim for 10, if you can’t at least post something from your own website every single day. It’s nice to help out other people, but you want to make sure that your business is promoted.
And the third thing that you want to do is take the time to see what other people are posting that are in your space. So again, developing those relationships with people that are maybe not direct competitors but also have really interesting content so you build that relationship by repinning and commenting on pins. And that way, what happens is you’ll find – not always – but sometimes an influencer that you develop relationships with will repin your content and then you’ll see some huge traffic. So those things I advise to do on daily and weekly basis.
Rich: Alright, so just kind of recap there: first of all we are going to be repinning other people’s content when we go on. We should be pinning about 10 things a day, obviously that’s going to vary on who we are. And we’re going to see what other people are doing in our space, so you might even look to our direct competitors to see the kind of stuff they’re sharing just to get ideas. And then we’re also going to be commenting on people’s pins.
You mentioned an important word there, “influencer”. So it sounds like what we want to do is we want to be repinning and commenting on our influencers – the people who influence us and influence our industry – on their pins in part because we think there’s value there, and in part because we want to gain visibility in their eyes. And so then maybe they’ll turn around and start sharing some of our stuff. Is that a good way to approach it?
Vincent: It is, definitely. I think that what’s really interesting is that Pinterest recently changed their feed. It used to be in a chronological order but now it’s kind of what they call a “smart feed”. I think it’s made it difficult to see certain pins, so I think if people – marketers or any business owner – takes the extra time to go visit someone else’s page and scan their content and repin their content, they know you’re taking that extra effort now and I think it really helps you stand out. So take that extra time, take it slow, don’t try to build relationships with everybody. Choose a few key people and I think over time you’ll see that you’re going to develop some really great relationships.
Rich: Alright. Vincent, do you have some advanced tactics to speak on that might take someone to the next level, somebody who’s doing a lot of these things already?
Vincent: Advanced tactics, I would say an advanced tactic is to take yourself to the next level – and this actually takes a little bit of time – is to consider starting your own group board for your topic of specialties. So for example, there is a person who does packaging design, her name is JoAnn Hines, and she has a group board that has like 40,000 followers and that’s all she specializes in is package design. So she invites people and she curates the content, she asks people to pin to these group boards and what you find is when you start these group boards and you maintain them is that you become known in the Pinterest world but you gain followers as well. You gain relevant followers and that’s kind of your own community and that’s a really good way to build something special. So again, if you’re in commercial insurance maybe you’re not trying to invite your competitors, per se, but maybe there’s clients that you work with or partner businesses that you work with that you can contribute to a board together so all of you get that exposure versus just one company.
Rich: I see, so you’re pooling your resources. So what is the difference between a group board and a board I run myself, is there a different way of setting it up or is it like Spotify where I can create my own private list or a list that anyone can contribute to?
Vincent: So with Pinterest it basically starts off as a single board that you can curate and then you have the right to add people to the board. So if you go to the desktop version of Pinterest, you’ll see on every board that you click onto, it’ll say “add people” on the very top left in a big, red button. So anybody that follows any of your boards on Pinterest can actually join, you invite them and they have to accept the invitation and then from there just let them know what you’re doing and what the rules are in the board description, so that way everyone can contribute. But technically, anybody can start a group board with multiple contributors, and that’s kind of the beauty of the Pinterest group board.
Rich: Alright, that’s really interesting. Now so far we’ve talked pretty much about how we’re doing the pinning. If we’ve got our own blog – and maybe we’re not active on Pinterest or maybe we are – do you have any tactics that you can share with us on how we make our own content more pinnable for the visitors to our website or blog?
Vincent: Oh for sure, Rich. I think that one of the key things is – and this still drives me nuts, I’m not going to lie about this – I really believe that every blog should be designed as if it’s a magazine article, in the sense that people are reading text but if you want people to pin your blog post you have to create a wonderful image and put text overlay if it’s applicable.
So for example if we are talking about commercial insurance it might be “Top 10 Things To Know About Commercial Insurance”. I know it’s a long title, you’d have to shorten it a little bit, but those are kind of things that when people on Pinterest and on your blog see they say, “Hey, this is interesting, I think my friends and family would like this.”, they’ll pin it, but you have to make sure that you have a “Pin it” button as well.
And the one thing that you have to keep in mind is if you’re using a “Pin it” button, make sure it’s not the type that hovers over and you have at least one that can be mobile friendly. If it’s not mobile friendly and someone is using it on an Android and try to pin it to read later, they can’t. So those are the two things to remember. Create a wonderful image that’s relevant to your blogpost that people will want to share and ensure that you have a “pin it” button that is mobile friendly as well.
Rich: Good stuff. Now obviously some people are doing things right on PInterest, other people are doing things wrong. You’ve worked with a lot of companies on Pinterest, what would you say some of the biggest mistakes that small businesses are making when they’re getting on Pinterest?
Vincent: I don’t see this so much now but I still see it once in a while, people are still trying to pin what’s popular on Pinterest versus what’s really relevant to their business. So I will see somebody that is designing wedding dresses, but they’re pinning about BBQ foods or picnic foods – which is great, because they’re popular on Pinterest – but they’re really irrelevant, and what happens is people gain followers for these boards and it misleads the business thinking they have all these followers, but they’re really following the wrong thing.
So you want to make sure that you are creating something that’s on strategy – and as I said before – making sure that it’s something that fits into the lifestyle of your customer. So if it is about wedding dresses, make sure that you have boards about wedding cakes. Those things naturally fit together. Or we were talking about commercial insurance, if it happens to be about commercial insurance, it could be a board about things to look for when buying commercial property or buying a house, those types of resources that will help your actual customer.
So that’s probably the one thing that I would say, stay on strategy, think about your customer and don’t pin popular things just for popularity sake.
Rich: Makes sense. And I was just thinking with this specific insurance company, they’re very local based, they’re not a national brand, and so would it make sense for them also to create pin boards about what’s going on in the community, because they’re very involved in the community? Would that make a lot of sense, too?
Vincent: Yeah, and I think that’s a great thing that if you’re a local kind of business you can actually pin about what’s happening in your city and give people that community feel. And something that’s really interesting is that there’s something called “place pins” where you can actually associate a specific neighborhood and location with an actual activity. So you can actually show off, “Hey, this commercial insurance company has been over in this part of town.” So all of a sudden, not only are people seeing pins of this insurance company but they’re seeing they these guys really get out and are all over the place. So definitely show off what your community involvement is, show off that personality that your company has, and I think it’s something that’s hard to do elsewhere but that Pinterest can do wonderfully.
Rich: That’s awesome. Vincent, this has been a lot of great information and I know that people who are interested in marketing their business online, probably you’ve just whetted their appetite. So where can we go online to learn more about you and what you’re doing with Pinterest?
Vincent: You can visit me on my website at www.mcngmarketing.com. You’ll find a blog as well as a way to reach me, so if you do have any questions, feel free to contact me. I’m looking forward to answering them.
Rich: That’s awesome. And I can vouch because actually I found Vincent when I was doing some research into how financial institutions can market themselves on social media, and I found your blog post on why most banks stink or suck – I forget the word you used – on Pinterest. So I actually used that in the presentation, but I started going down the rabbit hole and really enjoyed the resources on Vincent’s website. I definitely think you should check it out, sign up for his newsletter and definitely check out his podcast. We’ll have all those links in the show notes as always. And Vincent, I just want to thank you again for the time you gave us today.
Vincent: Thank you, Rich, I really appreciate it.
- Pinterest – the reason for today’s podcast
- Discover more about Vincent Ng
- Check out Vincent’s book, “Pinterest To Profits With Pintalysis”
- Listen to Vincent’s blog, “Pictures to Profits”