One of the many challenges for photographers is keeping up with social media. If you’re anything like me, your relationship with social media is bittersweet.
It can be incredibly rewarding and provides a fantastic opportunity to promote your photography while being inspired by others. At the same time, it can be a huge time-waster, can make you feel inadequate, and can even become something of an obsession.
So, if you’re going to share your photography to social networks, which ones will give the most return on your time and energy? After years of experimenting with various social networks, I’ve found that Pinterest is the most underrated platform for photographers.
I’m going to show you what I’ve found from my own experience as well as how to use Pinterest for your photography business.
What Makes Pinterest Different?
The first thing that helped me to make the most of Pinterest was changing the way I think of it. Pinterest is actually not a social network. It’s a social bookmarking site. There’s a difference.
People don’t generally use it to follow their friends and contacts the way they do on Facebook. People don’t share photos of their kids or cat videos. People use Pinterest to find inspiration, to learn new things, plan events, and to buy.
You probably think of Pinterest being for women, and on the one hand you’d be correct. Pinterest is a dark, mysterious world of fashion, crafts, recipes, and home decor. It’s a scary place for men like me.
On the other hand, with over 200 million active monthly users, there are plenty of men on the platform, and they’re growing. As a photographer, the gender of my audience means little. The world of photography is, for the most part, blissfully gender neutral, and I love it that way.
So what does matter to a photographer? Reach. I want to know that my efforts to network and share my work will get in front of eyeballs. I haven’t found a platform that allows me to do it anywhere near as effectively as Pinterest.
Instagram can be hugely powerful, but you need to have a significant following to see the benefits, which takes time. With Pinterest, however, you can see results almost overnight.
When you share to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the life of your post is crazy short. It will show up in feeds for hours or days (seven minutes on Twitter). Pinterest is the opposite. It takes 3.5 months to get 50% of a pin’s engagement. That means it’s good for at least seven months! Pinterest has been designed for longevity, so your hard work has a cumulative effect. I still see some of my pins from a few years ago repinned occasionally.
Another feature that makes Pinterest unique is search. It’s basically a massive search engine, which presents massive potential for photographers to promote their work. With the ability to add titles, descriptions, and hashtags, you can make your pins far more searchable than with other platforms.
Almost half of Pinterest users will turn to Pinterest before Google to find what they’re looking for. You may think that’s only useful if you have a product to sell, but think again. Couples are searching for wedding photographers. Travelers are searching for locations for their next Instagram selfie. Parents are searching for someone to photograph their children. Foodies are searching for photos of dishes from new restaurants. Photographers are searching for inspiration and photography tutorials.
Pinterest is a visual platform. What photographer wouldn’t love a website that wants to share your photos in all their glory to anyone who want to see them? You can share your photos to various boards based on genre, style, subject, location, event, whatever you want. As a travel photographer, my boards are mainly based on location.
The big limitation of Pinterest for photographers is the vertical pin. I don’t know many photographers who shoot all their photos vertically. I love to photograph wide landscapes, especially panoramas. I do get a little frustrated at times knowing that those photos won’t look so good on Pinterest, but I have to remind myself that my photography is first and foremost for myself.
I do love to shoot vertical too, though, and Pinterest has encouraged me to do it more, so I’m grateful for that. I have to admit, I’ve learned to love the look of the Pinterest feed with it’s vertical images, so I’ve gotten over it.
If you have a blog (and you should), this is where Pinterest shines. Remember what I was saying about search? Imagine a search engine that takes your beautiful photos with links to your website and spreads them far and wide for thousands of people to click. No throttling of your reach to make you pay to promote your content. No sharing to less then 10% of your audience. Just free, organic reach. Pinterest drives about 5% of the internet’s referral traffic.
I’ve been using the platform for a few years, but more as a personal pin-board than a tool to promote my photography. Since I decided to give Pinterest some serious consideration a couple of months ago, I’ve been blown away by how much traffic is possible in a relatively short time.
It took a fair bit of work to make the necessary changes. Switching to a business account. Changing personal boards to secret boards. Archiving others that I had no use for anymore. Updating all my profile information. I hadn’t realized what it would entail, but it was worth it.
Since I started taking Pinterest seriously I’ve seen my average monthly viewers steadily climb from around 1k to 300k. Many of my pins have received hundreds of repins. The best part is that all those eyeballs are being converted into real engagement. I’ve gone from getting virtually no referral traffic from Pinterest to getting on average 60 clicks per day. In only two months Pinterest has become my largest source of social referrals.
The most incredible thing is that all this is with very few followers. Pinterest is so good at feeding my content to the right users that having a tiny audience doesn’t matter. I have almost ten times as many followers on my Facebook page, yet my organic reach is so pitiful that I’m lucky if 1% of my followers actually click through to my blog. This is becoming a very common complaint.
In case I haven’t made it clear, using Pinterest has huge potential for your photography. No matter your genre or specialty, whether you have a photography blog or not, Pinterest wants to share whatever you’re creating. You can’t use Pinterest they same way the average user does, though. You also can’t use it the same way you use other platforms. It takes a unique approach.
How To Use Pinterest For Your Photography
Your Pinterest Profile
The first thing you need to do is switch your personal account to a business account. There are many benefits to doing this, the main one being access to Pinterest’s rich analytics. There are zero reasons not to. It’s free. Go do it now.
You then need to spend a bit of time working on your profile. Make sure your profile picture sends the right message about you and your photography. A photo of you or your logo is great. Not your baby or your cat.
Your profile name and description are also very important. When Pinterest analyzes the pins you share, it doesn’t only look at the pin’s description. It also looks at the name and description of the board it was pinned to and the profile it was shared by. Your profile name and description should tell Pinterest as much as possible about who you are and what kind of content you’ll be sharing.
My Pinterest profile makes it very clear who I am and what you can expect me to pin.
Boards are Pinterest’s most unique feature. They give you the ability to divide your pins up by various subjects and niches. This means your followers can decide which of your boards to follow. They don’t have to choose between following all your content or none of it like other platforms.
Where boards shine for photographers is the way you can divide them up based on what you photograph. For a wedding photographer, this could be separate boards for each element of a wedding, such as engagement sessions, dress, rings, ceremony, reception, etc. Portrait photographers might create separate boards for headshots, families, children, studio, location, etc. You get the idea. I wouldn’t create boards for individual shoots because people have no reason to follow that board once you’re done pinning to it.
I base my boards around travel destinations and photography tips and tutorials. I have one board that I pin my tutorial articles to and nothing else. This board has the highest engagement of all my boards as I only pin quality content there. My location-based travel and photography boards are based on a specific country, like “New Zealand Travel and Photography”. I pin my own photos and articles to these boards as well as re-pinning other people’s pins.
You’ll need to spend a little bit of time thinking about how to set up your boards based on your photography specialty. Take a look around at a few other photographers in your niche for ideas. Remove any personal or off-topic boards by making them secret or archiving them. They’ll attract the wrong type of pinner and will confuse Pinterest about what you pin about.
Pinterest feeds your pins to your followers first to measure how engaging they are before feeding them to other pinners. If your pins are being shown to people who followed you for your DIY or recipe pins, they’re unlikely to engage with your photography pins.
You want to tell Pinterest as much about your boards as possible. Give each board specific names with great, keyword-rich descriptions. Pinterest looks at the context of each pin (board name/description, profile name/description) to figure out what that pin is about, so make it clear. Also don’t forget to categorize each board.
The verdict is still out on the value of group boards. Every pinner you talk to will tell you something different. Some say they’re invaluable, some say they can harm your profile. I’m not an expert on the matter, so I can only speak from my own experience. Group boards have been hugely helpful for me in gaining traffic and new followers. Some of my most engaging pins have been on group boards.
The one thing that most experts seem to agree on is that if you’re going to use group boards, make sure it’s the right ones. You want to find boards specific to your niche. Avoid “pin anything” group boards. They don’t help anyone. Also be careful of boards that have a huge volume of pinners because your pins will become diluted and they are often poorly moderated.
Once you’ve found some group boards that relate to your niche, take a look at what’s being shared and make sure it’s good quality. Then contact the board owner and ask them to add you. Many group boards will have instructions for doing this in the description. If not, find the owner (their profile name is in the board’s URL), and send them a message or an email with your profile URL and ask for an invite. Don’t be offended if you don’t hear back. Decent group boards get a lot of requests to join.
When you’ve been added to a group board, start adding your best relevant pins. Don’t be spammy as this will likely get you kicked out. The board description will often have rules. Make sure you respect them. Pin to group boards regularly and share pins that other people have added. Group boards work best when everyone shares the love.
Don’t assume that a group board is working for you. You need to be analyzing each of your boards to see if they’re helping or hurting your efforts on Pinterest. Sometimes it will be obvious, as your pins will be re-pinned like crazy. Other times it will be more difficult to know.
Pins can come in many forms. Text quotes, product images, infographics, GIFs, videos, and of course, photos. What you choose to pin is up to you, but if you’re using Pinterest for your photography, you’re going to want to share your photos in one form or another.
If you’re only sharing photos, great. Make sure they’re your best work. Pinterest is your portfolio, so show what you can do. Vertical pins work best, but you can still share horizontal pins if you want. Pinterest recommends dimensions of 600×900. Taller pins up to 600×1260 will still work, but anything longer like the ‘Giraffe Pins’ that used to be crazy popular, will be cropped. Pinterest has even suggested that really tall pins may not be shown as much as shorter ones.
Text overlays work really well on Pinterest as long as they add something to the image. This works best if the pin is linking to an article on your blog. Less is more when adding text. Make it short and sweet, just enough to grab the viewer’s attention and make them want to know more. Add a watermark if you want, but keep it subtle.
You can create beautiful designs with free services like Canva. You don’t need to be a designer, you only need a little creativity. I’ve created templates in Photoshop that speed up the process of creating pins and allow me to keep a consistent theme.
As a search engine, Pinterest needs as much information about your pins as possible. If you write great pin descriptions that include relevant keywords and search terms, they’ll be more likely to show up in search results. Hashtags haven’t been a big part of Pinterest in the past, but that’s changing, so add a few relevant ones to each pin.
Finally, make sure every one of your pins links to your website. Even if you’re not pinning a specific blog post, each pin is an opportunity for pinners to click through to your site, so link to a relevant page or your homepage.
If there’s one tool that has helped me to realize the potential of Pinterest, it’s Tailwind. As one of the only approved scheduling tools for Pinterest, Tailwind has created something that can make a massive difference to pinners wanting to grow their following and traffic.
Tailwind’s main feature is scheduling pins. Pinterest has told us that pinning regularly is important for growth, but unless you’re using Pinterest all day every day, it’s hard to do. If you pin dozens of pins together every few days most of them won’t be seen, as that would annoy your followers. Tailwind lets you schedule pins days and weeks in advance, so even if you only have time to do it once a week, your boards can see a nice steady stream of pins each day. You can use Tailwind’s optimized schedule, or customize your own.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Tailwind has a powerful set of features for analyzing everything from your profile to individual pins and boards. The Pin Inspector let’s you see which pins are getting the most engagement and lets you re-schedule them from right within Tailwind. This is extremely useful for figuring out what’s working and helping you decide what content to create more of.
Remember when I said you need to be analyzing which boards are working for you and which ones aren’t? The Board Inspector makes it ridiculously easy. You can see a bunch of stats about each of your boards. You can filter boards by regular, secret, and group boards.
The information you want is in the Virality Score and Engagement Score. These metrics tell you slightly different things, and which one you look at will depend on your boards, but basically the higher the scores the better. Low scores here are a sign that the board isn’t helping you.
Tailwind includes a bunch of other super helpful insights about your profile, followers, website visits, etc. It’s especially useful if you’re using Pinterest to drive visitors to your blog or website. You can also link it with Google Analytics, giving you even more valuable information.
Tailwind’s secret weapon is Tribes. Tribes are exactly what they sound like – groups for pinners who have mutual interests. They are communities where you can share your pins with other users on the understanding that you then pin other members’ pins to your own boards. It’s an insanely powerful feature for discovering new content within your niche, finding new pinners to follow, and reaching a larger audience. It was especially useful for me when I started over with my Pinterest profile with very few followers.
Tailwind is constantly working on improving and creating new features, so I can’t wait to see what the tool will be able to do in the future. I’m really looking forward to trying out the new SmartLoop feature, which lets you set up a schedule for re-pinning automatically.
If you haven’t used Tailwind before, I can’t recommend it enough. You can try it free for a month. Even if you decide not to use it, the benefits that you’ll get in that month will surprise you.
Finally, don’t forget that Pinterest is a place to find inspiration and ideas. Its potential for growing your audience as a photographer is massive, but don’t just pin your own photos and content. Share the love by pinning other photographers’ images and articles that inspire you.
I use it to research locations, plan road trips and travel, discover new photographers, and learn new techniques. Whatever your niche, I guarantee you’ll get as much out of Pinterest as you put in.
I would love it if you would follow me over on Pinterest and consider sharing this article. I would also love to hear your thoughts and experiences on Pinterest, or drop your profile URL in the comments and I’ll take a look. Happy pinning 🙂
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