The Scientific Guide to Pinterest Marketing: How to Create Popular Images for More Pins and Better Conversion

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What should I be doing with Pinterest?

We hear this question a lot on the Buffer blog. We’ve been fortunate to find some neat ways to improve social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, but Pinterest?  It’s kind of uncharted territory for a lot of us.

(Just so you know, Buffer doesn’t integrate with Pinterest yet, but you can be sure we’ll be the first one on their doorstep when the API opens up for us to do so!)

In our experience, there is a growing interest in Pinterest marketing, Pinterest research, Pinterest stats and tips. So, here it all is. I found some really interesting data and science on creating the perfect pin, gaining the most repins and followers, understanding the Pinterest mindset, and much more.

Ready to go? Let’s start right off with a whopper of a stat.

More adults use Pinterest than they do Twitter

Do you have a Twitter marketing strategy? I imagine you do. Could you be reaching more people on Pinterest? As of this year, yes.

A Pew Research study compared social media usage in 2012 and 2013 to see how five of the top social networks have grown. Facebook remains far and away the most popular social network. But Pinterest took the largest leap.

More than one-fifth of U.S. adults use Pinterest—a greater number than Twitter or Instagram, and a 6 percent jump from a year ago.

Social Media Sites 2012 - 2013

In addition  to these stats and numbers, Pew also released information on the overlap among users of major social networks. The below matrix shows the percentage of Pinterest users who also use Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Social matrix

Here are some other interesting stats about Pinterest, including the oft-cited gender split:

  • One third of U.S. women use Pinterest, up from 25 percent previously. (Pew)
  • 8 percent of U.S. men use Pinterest, up from 5 percent previously. (Pew)
  • 71 percent of Pinterest’s user base is female. (Comscore)
  • Customers spend more money when they convert from a Pinterest referral than any other social referral. Average order value for a Pinterest conversion is $80.54. Facebook, in second-place, is $71.26. (Monetate)
  • Approximately 70 percent of brand engagement on Pinterest is generated by users, not the brands themselves. (Digitas and Curalate)
  • Over 80% of pins are re-pins, which speaks to Pinterest’s virality. (RJMetrics)

4 Pinterest mindsets: The intersection of need and timeliness

Who knows Pinterest users better than Pinterest itself? That’s what makes the insights from the Pinterest Business blog so helpful.

One of their most recent posts delves into the mindset of the user. Basically, you can boil down the Pinterest experience to a grid with four quadrants, set on axes of need and timeliness. The four quadrants:

  • Just looking …
  • Maybe I could …
  • I’m narrowing it down …
  • I know what I want …

Here is what the grid looks like:

Pinterest modes

Notice anything familiar about the makeup of these mindsets? People start by looking and browsing, they find some inspiration, they narrow down their choices, they decide.

Take a closer look at these modes and you start to see something familiar: the modes mirror the customer journey.

This shows a great opportunity for businesses and brands to engage with customers at each step of the buying process. Your pins are likely to be seen by those just getting introduced to what you offer and those about to pull the trigger.

Another unique aspect of the Pinterest experience is the psychology behind what makes people pin. Nir Eyal, writing at Psychology Today, explains that Pinterest users need only to feel, not think, when pinning and sharing.

For a company of its size, Pinterest’s users are creating content at an unprecedented pace. Unlike on Facebook and Twitter, where users have to actually think of new content to post, Pinterest is not about what is happening right now. Users are not prompted to think about “what are you doing?” In fact, they are not prompted to think at all, they are prompted to feel.

On Pinterest, you are simply sharing your tastes and preferences rather than taking on the cognitive load of creating content. This feeling vs. thinking tension could explain a bit why marketing efforts more often fall to the thinking networks of Twitter and Facebook rather than the feelings on Pinterest.

The data and science of Pinterest marketing


5 essential elements of a popular Pinterest image

Curalate, a startup that helps companies post better images to Pinterest and Instagram, examined over 500,000 images on Pinterest, looking at 30 different visual characteristics like textures, colors, and subject matter.

Their analysis was featured on Wired.com, along with “the perfect image:” this photo of a cucumber, tomato, and onion salad from Paula Deen, which has been repinned 307,000 times.

Paula Deen photo

Paula Deen’s photo encompasses all eight of Curalate’s suggestions for creating a popular Pinterest image. Here are their five best practices, based on the images that get the most pins and repins.

  1. Use multiple, dominant colors. Images with multiple, dominant colors receive more than 3 times the repins per image than those with a single dominant color.
  2. Avoid human faces. Among images shared by brands, those without human faces are repinned 23 percent more often.
  3. Go with a spare background. Images made up of less than 30 percent background are repinned the most. Repins drop off by 4 times for images composed of 40 percent or more background.
  4. Choose red, orange, and brown instead of blue. These three colors outperform blue nearly 2:1 in repins.
  5. Maintain moderate light and color. Very light and very dark images are not repinned as often. The same is true for saturation. Images that are 50 percent saturated have four times more repins than images that are 100 percent saturated and 10 times more repins than images that are totally desaturated.

What is the optimal Pinterest image size?

Hubspot’s Dan Zarella, whom we often cite for his amazing social media data, pulled some numbers on how to get more pins and repins on Pinterest.

His analysis of more than 11,000 pinned images led to a lot of neat observations (see the bottom of this post for the full infographic). One of those observations was the effect of image height on repins. Zarella’s takeaway: Taller images are more repinnable.

Zarella Pinterest

Vertical images are most definitely the preferred style on Pinterest. (Tip: The free design tool at Canva comes with a premade Pinterest template that is 736 pixels wide by 1103 pixels tall.)

While we’re on the topic of images (and it’s hard not to be on this topic when you’re talking about Pinterest), the folks at Copyblogger have some excellent advice on how to optimize your Pinterest traffic for conversions. Their tips come from experience and experimentation. As they noticed an uptick in Pinterest traffic, they began trying out new methods to better optimize these visits. Here are a few of their tactics:

  • Infographics and smaller images command more click-throughs because they’re unreadable from the Pinterest site.
  • Infographic headlines are key to getting people to click through.
  • Compelling subjects covered with too-small-for-Pinterest font choices are ideal.
  • You can control how traffic responds by making a specific call to action on your pin’s landing page.

What distinguishes Pinterest from other social networks? DIY and unicode hearts.

A study at Georgia Tech University collected data on over 2.9 million pins and 989,000 pinners in order to answer questions about what drives activity on Pinterest, the roles that gender plays, and what distinguishes Pinterest from other social networks.

One of the most interesting takeaways from their study—along with the notable discovery that being female means more repins but fewer followers—was the words most common and identifiable for Pinterest users. Put another way, these are the words that resonate the most on Pinterest.

(Note: The values read left to right and top to bottom, rather than a column at a time.)

Pinterest words

“DIY” and the symbol for a unicode heart (<3) were the top two Pinterest words. Take particular note, too, of the top verbs: use, look, want, and need. 

These verbs reflect that Pinterest is more about “things” than any of the other social networks. Keeping this in mind could help you tailor your Pinterest marketing message so that it speaks the language of Pinterest.

The most important factors in getting more Pinterest followers

A Pinterest study from the University of Minnesota gathered more than 3 million pins and collected data on more than 45,000 users to come to some conclusions on how to grow your followers and what categories are most important.

The study took into consideration 38 different factors that may attract an audience on Pinterest. The three most important factors in getting more followers:

  1. The number of users you follow
  2. The number of pins you have
  3. The number of boards you have

After these three profile features, the next three most important factors were the categories in which you create pins. The top three categories were:

  1. DIY and crafts
  2. Hair and beauty
  3. Design

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 1.29.49 PM

Of note in the chart above is that diversity of pins (marked by the blue bar in the chart) is nearly as important as pinning to the top categories. This would imply that a well-rounded set of pins could be just as valuable as seeking out the most popular categories.

The Minnesota research team summed up the findings with this blueprint:

To attract lots of followers, you should: follow lots of other pinners, create lots of boards and pin a lot, post on popular topics, and don’t concentrate on too few topics.

Pinterest’s most popular categories (and the differences between men and women)

Also in the University of Minnesota study, researchers found which categories were most popular on Pinterest and how this varied by gender.

Interestingly, one major difference in gender was the breadth of category usage by men and women. According to the study, women focus on fewer categories; their top five account for over 56 percent of all their activity. Men spread out their pins; their top five categories account for just under 40 percent.

Food and drink was the number one overall category and the top category for both men and women. Here are the charts:

BeFunky_Popular Pinterest Categories by Gender (1).jpg

 

BeFunky_Popular Pinterest Categories by Gender.jpg

Brands could learn from the popularity of certain categories here, both in terms of overall popularity and in popularity by gender.

For instance, the top categories for men are not the stereotypical sports, technology, and cars but rather photography, art, design, and home decor. If you have a male-oriented product in one of these spaces, you may take a longer look at investing in Pinterest marketing.

The best time of day to pin is  to 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern

Pinerly, makers of a Pinterest tool and dashboard, looked into user data to find the ideal time to post to Pinterest. Their findings were twofold:

The best time to pin during the day is 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern

The best time to pin at night is 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern

Best time to pin

As with any advice on the ideal time to post, you’ll want to test this for yourself to see when your pins tend to get the most activity. In general, you can aim for a time when as much of your audience is online (and therefore more likely to see your latest pins) or when you’ve historically received the most engagement with what you’ve pinned.

3 lesser-known Pinterest features you should try

The basics of Pinterest are probably quite clear to you: Create boards based on different topics, add visual content to the boards, pin and repin, repeat. Brands use Pinterest in much the same way as individuals—finding and sharing beautiful, inspiring, valuable things. Beyond that, though, there are a few Pinterest features that might make even more sense for businesses to check out.

Pinterest analytics for businesses

Businesses are encouraged to get verified through Pinterest’s business section, and doing so will open up a few cool tools, including analytics. With Pinterest analytics, you can see data from pin activity on your website and on your Pinterest boards. Learning what pinners like (through data like Most Repinned and Most Clicked) can help you tailor your pins for more conversions.

Pinterest analytics

Take advantage of rich pins

Pins for movies, recipes, articles, products, and places have the option of additional information. For instance, pins of products can show pricing, availability, and where to buy.

Rich Pins

Rich pins require approval from Pinterest along with a bit of code that might best be handled by a developer.

Use secret boards to launch, debut, and plan

Pinterest allows you to create private boards that you can add to and curate just like your public ones. Many businesses have taken this feature and used it to build out an awesome board before pushing it public for all to see. This could be an ideal way to build your Pinterest profile from scratch and make a big debut.

5 helpful infographics on Pinterest marketing

Of course, what would a post on Pinterest be without some visual goodies? Here are five detailed infographics on various aspects of Pinterest marketing and best practices.

A great place to start with Pinterest marketing is deciding if it is for you or not? Intuit put together a flowchart to help you decide whether your business should be on Pinterest.

Should-you-be-on-pinterest

Here is the full view of Dan Zarella’s insights into Pinterest marketing.

getmorepins

What makes Pinterest so addictive? Column Five Media attempts to answer that question with this infographic.

Pinterest-addictive

For a complete look at the demographics of Pinterest, Modea created this infographic that shows who exactly you can expect to find there.

pinterest-facts

The recipe for the perfect Pinterest pic (as discussed above) is also available as an infographic. Here’s the goods from Curalate.

Curalate Pinterest infographic

(For more great Pinterest infographics, visit We Build Buzz.)

Do you have a Pinterest marketing strategy to share?

I’d love to hear how you are using Pinterest for your marketing efforts and whether any of the above data and research has worked for you. As for those who have yet to get into Pinterest marketing, is it something you’re more likely to consider now? I‘d be thrilled to chat about it in the comments.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like 8 Surprising New Instagram Stats to Get the Most Out of the Picture Social Network and 10 Awesome Infographics to Guide Your Marketing Efforts in 2014.

Image credits: erix!, pauladeen.com, Pinterest BusinessUMN.edu, Intuit, Dan Zarella, Curalate, Column Five Media, and Modea.

 

 

  • BuckStock

    You might want to knock on Pinterest’s door about that API. I can post to Pinterest on my phone using the EveryPost app no problem. Fantastic write up. Thank you!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Good to know! Maybe we’ll knock on EveryPosts’s door, too, to see how they do it. :)

  • http://www.supermoney.com/ SuperMoney

    Amazing post. Found the Curalate study on Pinterest images really useful. Of course, everything else too but lot of details in that one study. Thanks!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks so much! The Curalate one definitely got my wheels spinning. So much good, actionable advice there!

  • Akash Agarwal

    Pinterest can really come in handy. With a attractive name
    that plays on words and a mechanic that appeals to a
    broad base of users, the new social network seems to be
    pushing all the right buttons , but is it enough the topple the heavyweights
    like Facebook. Thanks for sharing this useful post.

  • AndreaLeyden

    You last image seems to be broken?

  • http://www.dianamarinova.com/ Diana

    Excellent post, Kevan! I am not a big fan of Pinterest for some reason but you got me all excited now! I may give it a more serious thought and try :)

    A question that came to mind – to what extend consistency matters? With other popular networks it does matter a lot to regularly share updates – but since Pinterest is so different in many aspects, decided to ask – does frequency of sharing impacts success on Pinterest and to what extend?

    Thanks for the great post again!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks so much, Diana! Writing about Pinterest got me all interested in it again, too! :)

      I have not found much solid research on the frequency/consistency of posting to Pinterest, so maybe that would make a good one to dig into for a future article!

    • http://customericare.com Aurelie Chazal

      Hi Diana, I was a bit like you before, not a big fan of Pinterest. Especially that I’m working for a B2B brand which doesn’t seems to fit the Pinterest audience.

      However I started marketing there few weeks ago and it’s really amazing how the network is evolving and all the possibilities there are for marketers there. I would say now that it’s definitely worth trying. Did you get to try it since the Buffer post was posted?

      And Kevan thanks for the Curelate study, it’s one of the most useful thing I could find on Pinterest. I used it for our latest blog post: http://customericare.com/why-pinterest-marketing/

      • http://www.dianamarinova.com/blog/ Diana Marinova

        oh, i never doubted the potential Pinterest has – i was just saying i am not a big fan of it, still not. I don’t like social bookmarking type of sites – and although i am not prticularly active on Pinterest, it does bring some traffic to my personal blog even without trying :D

        At the moment LI is way better use of my time. One of my start-up ideas though would strongly benefit from Pinterest, i am sure of it – and when the time comes, i will start using it accordingly and dedicating more time to pinning ;-)

        But you got me curious – how exactly does Pinterest help you if you are B2B oriented? That was a surprising thing to read in your comment, Aurelie :)

        • http://customericare.com Aurelie Chazal

          Well actually the idea is to target brands on Pinterest. Brands selling wedding products, home décor, clothes… are usually the ones that do quite well with our product and they are active on Pinterest because they have a huge potential customer base there.

          We’re still starting though I can’t really tell if it will work out good for us. For now we mostly had success on linkedin, it makes sense for a B2B brand. But I believe Pinterest could get really interesting.

  • Sandra Gardner

    Amazing article on marketing on Pinterest. I’ll be digging in deeper and I will be referring clients and prospects to read this, too!

  • Aidric Brown

    You have provided valuable and well researched information about using Pinterest. Thanks for enlightening people about its use and its benefits.

  • http://stancebranding.com aimeemdoyle

    Thanks for all of the infographics! They’re great to prove to clients the importance of Pinterest for their business. They also help to break up large chunks of words.

  • Michelle S.

    Great data! As a digital marketing company, we’ve been focusing on creating our own infographics that don’t seem to exist yet (which seems hard to believe).

    As you suggested, we’ve found it easier to use a secret board that several of our marketers pin to without regard to the pins’ details. Then one person repins those suggestions, rewriting and optimizing descriptions, and pinning during those magic hours. http://www.pinterest.com/cazarininteract/

    Need to go follow more boards now. Thanks for this!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Awesome strategy, Michelle! That sounds like a nice, straightforward way to get team contributions into Pinterest. I wonder if you get more folks to share if they know they don’t have to write the perfect description/optimize all at once? Neat!

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  • Anne @ Money Propeller

    This took ages to read, but was very insightful! Thank you for putting it all together.