Definitely NOT another ‘How Journalists Should Use Pinterest’ post.

I’ve read various articles recently about Why Companies Should Be Using Pinterest (I haven’t saved any of them, but Zemanta will no doubt provide the latest selection as I write this – it’s like trying to put down a hydra). 
However, any social media wrangler in a newsroom knows a site has to be proven earn its keep before more than tentative attention is invested. And how do you even start to overcome this chicken/egg scenario? It’s a Google+ sized problem for most of us. 
But this week I was asked to share some of my tips for using it, and as I started to set them down I realised that I wasn’t thinking about how to use it as a journalist and ‘drive audience’ I was writing out my learnings as a user. I’ve set up various accounts and boards on titles I’ve worked on but I also use it myself, for all sorts of things.  “My name is Alison, and I’m a Pinner”.
I found it very useful as a student, for example and these are the boards that consistently pick up followers because they’re really niche (that was my first learning outcome).

I like Pinterest for sharing and driving lifestyle and Buzzfeed-style traffic – it’s easy to create boards, followers – once secured – are loyal; every time they log in, your content is highly visible, as it displays automatically on their homepage. But although it’s a visual site, Pinterest is branching out, as it announced this week

Articles will now have more information – including the headline, author, story description and link – right on the pin. So when you find articles about things you’re passionate about… they’re easier to save and organise. 

And share, it should add. I like the idea; it takes away some of the issues around Pinterest’s laid-back (to say the least) attitude towards ownership and copyright; it does have a certain ‘if the user doesn’t care, why should we?’ attitude towards that. 
Thinking about how I use Pinterest (ie. without my work hat on) gave me some ideas about how you can use it with your work hat on. So here are some of my tips on getting the most out of Pinterest, written with my enthusiast’s hat on. This is definitely NOT another ‘How Journalists Should Use Pinterest’ set of tips: 
1. Spend some minutes through the day reviewing – you can see at a glance what’s hot (bit like Twitter’s trending list. 
2. Linking your social media accounts to follow mutual users offers a quick if haphazard community base that you can build on and tweak as you go. These people are already engaged with you on other platforms and are so likely to be interested in the visuals you pin 
3. It is female oriented, but there are football clubs doing their thing with success. Pinning badges with slogans and inspirational quotes from club heroes, that link through to more visual content, is likely to be more shared.

4. Joining a group (also called a community) board (you need to be invited to do so) dramatically boosts your own followers and drives repins when you’re starting out. 

There is a basic directory of group boards but there’s nothing as useful or discovery-linked as, say, Twello. 

You might need to do some speculative following and emailing of your appropriate pins to get invited to the board but once you do, repin numbers can shoot up. I was invited to join a popular ‘Home’ board courtesy of my ‘Next Home Ideas’ board – and my follower numbers have consistently grown since then for other boards too. 

5. Pinterest users may not realise it, but they are a content farmer’s dream. People will use the search facility to look for ‘cute puppy’ ‘lose weight fast’ ‘10 amazing [whatever] facts’. It’s like e-How, but actually not annoying. 

6. A feature in print about someone who’d lost 10 stone for their wedding, that was pinned as ‘lose weight for your wedding, fast’ works across the Alpha Female categories of Food&Drink, Health&Fitness and Weddings, and is a quick, permanent, win.

7. Category boards search is your friend. If the audience isn’t using search, they go straight to the categories list.

Pinterest categories that attract significant followers and repins are all around lifestyle –

Home Decor, Animals, Food&Drink, Health&Fitness (just look a the Popular category to see just how much) and after that probably Hair&Beauty, Weddings and Women’s Fashion with maybe Travel too. 

These give you access to people who are motivated to re-pin and share content, possibly it in smaller niche numbers but pins around celeb fashion and how to replicate it have worked well for me in the past. 

8. Pinterest categories are alphabetised so Animals is the first category anyone browsing the site sees. A great board of regularly updated, pinned animal pix linking to stories will capture the idle browser and also build up followers quickly.
It doesn’t have to be about cute puppies – true life stories are hugely shareable (although if you find yourself welling up at the amazingness of US animals, I advise running the tale – tail? – through before you believe a word) as people like to add their own comments under the pin. It also means you get user engagement and comments to reverse publish if desired.

9. Don’t beware Geeks; they bring gifts of audience and sharing. The Geek category is very engaged. Doctor Who, Sherlock, Harry Potter, nerd affirmations… all these things are shared repeatedly. For newspapers with access to celebrity interviews, film reviews etc, or photogenic locations where shows or films beloved of the Geeks have been shot or have featured (hello, Cardiff!) it’s, well, a gift.

10. Embedding pins within your own CMS allows you the opportunity to invite your audience back over to Pinterest to discover stories they might have previously missed, sign up, start following you, etc etc.
11. Because Pinterest has integrated Facebook login options and actively encourages users to follow that route, a user has to opt out of it cross-posting their activity onto their Facebook stream. And I guess there are many, many pinners who simply miss the ‘Skip’ option Facebook hands them.
So, from a media point of view, there’s the potential of hitting two new audiences when someone repins you – once on Pinterest, and once on their Facebook profile.

12. Finally, adding the ‘pin it’ button to your bookmarks bar is the fastest way to pin something to your boards quickly from the Record site. It’s here under the apps. It makes life a lot easier!
And you can also add a Pinterest widget button to let users pin your stories off the site, of course, should your developers be feeling kindly disposed towards doing some coding.

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