Stop Treating Pinterest Like a Social Media Platform

I know, I know. Pinterest IS technically a social media platform. However, it’s a platform that’s unlike any of the other major networks. Pinterest is one part social, one part search, and two parts inspiration, making it a completely unique platform. If you continue to treat Pinterest like Facebook and Twitter, you’re making a huge mistake. Keep reading to learn why.

Stop Treating Pinterest Like A Social Media Platform

The News Isn’t News On Pinterest.

Something newsworthy happens. You want to know and share real-time information on the event. There’s a good chance you’ll be heading to Twitter to check the trending topics, retweet news source, and stay up-to-date with what’s happening. Or, you might open up Facebook to see what your friends have to say about the event. But I’m willing to bet your Pinterest feed will not be one of the tabs you check.

In fact, when I checked the Shared Count of a CNN article discussing the trending topic of Mike Huckabee’s bid for the US presidency, I found that there were plenty of shares but no one pinned the article:

Shared Count from CNN

But why is Pinterest ignored when it comes to the news?

Well for one, the Smart Feed places emphasis on quality of content – not necessarily the timing of content. Because of this, Pinterest’s algorithms prefer to surface pins that stand the test of time in users feeds. These pins will be the ones that are helpful, are from value-adding domains, have already proven themselves on Pinterest, and will often be rich pins. With these types of high-quality pins, it actually does make sense to schedule them to go out when your audience is online since they will be surfaced higher in the feed. However, once a pin is on Pinterest it can surface in search results for months – or even years – after it was pinned. So, if I pinned the article about Mike Huckabee and it surfaced in a user’s search result on US presidents 2 years from now, that user would just end up with a puzzled look rather than their desired result.

Not only does the Smart Feed work against time-sensitive articles, but Pinterest users also tend to focus on the positive aspects of life and leave the controversial topics to other networks. Often pinners are planning for a major life event or planning for a better future. They’re coming to Pinterest to be inspired and find something that can make their life better. The last thing they want to interrupt their search for the perfect vacation destination is a fight over Mike Huckabee – regardless of what political side they may stand on.

Hashtags Are Not Made For Pinterest.

While Twitter (and to some extent, Facebook) sorts tweets chronologically by hashtags, Pinterest sorts pins by relative categories and interests. Although you can click on hashtags on Pinterest, they don’t necessarily point to all of the pins that include that hashtag and the pins are in no particular order. Plus, because Pinterest is inspiration based, by providing a hashtag for someone to click on, they are not clicking on your pin to go to your website.

When thinking about your content being surfaced on Pinterest, don’t rely on the preconceived notion of hashtags to be found. Craft pins that will be useful to pinners with thoughtful, keyword rich descriptions and add them to boards with defined categories.

Images > Text.

Taking a scroll through your Facebook and Twitter feeds, you might notice that the sites are pretty text heavy. Sure, you’ll probably see an inspiring quote from a brand and some pictures from your friends night out, but other than that the sites are almost entirely text-based updates:

Twitter streamNow, take a scroll through your Pinterest feed and you will see a stream of (hopefully) eye-catching images:

Pinterest feed

In fact, you can’t create a post on Pinterest without an image – even if it’s just a screenshot of some text (but please, don’t do that). Although the descriptions are important on Pinterest – especially when it comes to setting yourself up for Pinterest SEO success – the images are what people are looking for.

Pinterest is for discovery, not discussion.

Now, perhaps Pinterest’s most important differentiating factor is why people are on the site. People are on Pinterest to discover new things, plan for a future event, or just get inspired. They are not on the site to discuss Mike Huckabee, look at your new puppy (unless it’s REALLY cute) or to ignore brand advertising. They are searching for new experiences – starting a new life with their partner, planning a new place to visit, trying a new way to decorate their home or their body. The discovery side of Pinterest makes the site more equivalent to a Google or a Bing – not a Facebook or Twitter.


So am I crazy or am I right? Should Pinterest be treated as a social media platform? Let me have it in the comments.

About Melissa Megginson

Melissa Megginson is resident Marketing Manager and Cat Lady at Tailwind, the leading Pinterest tool for brands. Melissa specializes in content creation, social media, blogging, PR outreach and pretty much all things marketing. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @MelMegg.

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  • http://blogambitions.com/how-to-start-a-blog-the-right-way/ Kristie

    I have been thinking about this EXACT thing this week. Everyone always talks as Pinterest as a social media platform, but it’s not. The only thing that is social about it is that you can follow people. Otherwise, it’s a search engine.

    • Melissa Megginson

      Great minds think alike 🙂 Pinterest really is becoming more and more like a beautiful Google. Thanks for commenting, Kristie!

  • http://www.donnajshepherd.com Donna Shepherd

    Thanks for a new (to me) way of looking at Pinterest. I’ll keep this in mind as I pin from now on, I’m sure. – Donna (https://www.pinterest.com/donnashepherd/)

    • Melissa Megginson

      Thanks, Donna! I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂

  • VonMorgana

    Yes! Agreed. It’s why I love Pinterest.

    • Melissa Megginson

      Pinterest is just such a happy place, right? Thanks for commenting 🙂

      • Dawn

        Pinterest used to be a happy place. Now the comments and descriptions are invisible most of the time, the pins in my feed are rarely from anyone I follow, and what they “pick for me” is useless and ugly to me. It is more frustrating than happy now, sad to say.

  • http://www.nakedsoulpoems.com Salil Jha

    Great post, Melissa. I always enjoy your writing and insights. This is however my first comment on your blog. Yes, it is true Pinterest is unique and should be treated differently when it comes to goal and strategy execution. At best pinterest is a search engine (although not really) and pinning images while keeping SEO in mind definitely helps.

    • Melissa Megginson

      Aw, thank you so much, Salil! You’re definitely correct – Pinterest needs its own marketing strategy, but unfortunately it’s often lumped in with the other social strategies. Thanks for commenting!

  • Melissa Megginson

    I agree, Pinterest is absolutely the best social network for businesses looking to use images to grab potential customers attention and evoke an emotion from them. And while I do think businesses are getting the hang of Pinterest, I still think there are too many out there that are missing the boat.

    Thanks for the kind words and I’m so glad you found the post helpful!

    • ReShop Store

      Pinterest buy pins work. I started pinning in late September after Facebook ads, Google adwords did NOTHING for sales and cost a bunch of $$$. I was about to throw in the towel on the store – and Pinterest actually WORKS to sell online!

      Amazing, as we are only 10 days into October and I have passed the gross revenue of September already (only ~2 weeks of generating sales via Pinterest) and hopefully will continue onwards.

      If any small online retailer (eCommerce) has questions, please feel free to ask – likely contact me via the store as I just happened to find this post on a search on how to engage more customers and generate more sales.

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  • Crafty Mummy

    Totally right! I sometimes wonder why Pinterest gets called a social media platform when really it is not quite the same kind of social that all the other platforms have. It is social in that it is sharing great content, but not social in the sense of having discussions with other people. In fact I find that most of the comments on my pins are spam!

  • http://about.me/vanessaconcon Vanessa Kay Concon

    Awesome post Melissa. Sure is really helpful especially with me, that is just getting started with Pinterest.

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  • Pointsandtravel

    However, I do notice that the photos are heavy WITH text

  • Kate Saunders

    I’ve found hashtags to be useful within my description of a board, but not on individual pins. I agree, Melissa, it is the most beautiful search engine I know – or maybe “discovery engine”. 🙂

  • http://socialmediaslant.com/ Cendrine Marrouat

    Hello Melissa,

    You made some very solid points. I think people tend to treat every platform like Facebook before being hit by reality.

    One thing you are absolutely right about is the fact that news doesn’t do well on Pinterest!

  • Hank Schrader

    This is a very interesting article. We do not really see Pinterest as a social
    media site. Our company, Dream Destinations, uses Pinterest with two goals in mind—to establish our credibility as travel experts for cruises, European River Cruises and European vacations—we want our followers to see these wonderful destinations through our eyes and to
    inspire our followers or potential clients. We have been on Pinterest for about 3 years and have 112 boards with over 4,200 pins, most are our pictures (about 98%). We also post pictures sent to us by clients in our Traveler Hall of Fame and special boards.
    Most of the feedback is something like—wow, that is cool or I wish I could go there someday or most often—you guys have been everywhere. The point is we are getting the exact
    reaction you mentioned in the article—we do not try to sell anything, only inspire. It seems to be working, especially after we lead a tour and the group shares with others.

    A very good article; we agree.
    Anne & Hank Schrader

    • Danny Maloney

      That’s a great example, Anne and Hank. What I love about your approach is that it also spans the entire marketing lifecycle. I might come across your boards and be inspired to consider a European River Cruise next year. When I get closer to booking vacation, my wife and I could come back to browse more in depth and understand possible destinations. Then, when the time is right, I am already familiar with your brand and offering and can reach out directly or click through your Pinterest profile to book a cruise. It’s a lifecycle mentality nurturing process. Social networks have a much harder time covering the entire funnel in the same way.

  • The Flying Couponer

    These are really great exemples of what works on Pinterest. My readers visit my boards to plan a wedding, their next vacation and to learn about saving money. Planning and learning are the essence of Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/flyingcouponer/ I ♥ Pinterest and tailwind.

  • Julie Gallaher

    Do you have any strategies for local businesses or people with a niche or unique business? Pinterest’s preference for popular pins in my feed has pushed out the quirky stuff that I love. Gone are the pins about mid century modern architecture, Jane Austen & jazz, in are the pins about wedding gowns and chopped salad. If your target market is small, how do you reach them?

    • Melissa Megginson

      Hi Julie! I think Promoted Pins can be a great way to target a specific audience. Not only can you target a specific location, you can also target certain keywords that pertain to your niche. I wrote a post a few months back about optimizing your page for local search. You might be able to glean a bit of information off of that, too 🙂 http://blog.tailwindapp.com/pinterest-local-search/

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  • Jacquie Fisher

    Definitely agree it’s more of a discovery platform but the thing I love most about Pinterest is that it does allow social connections — you can tag others if you want them to see a pin, shared boards are SO social (for working with colleagues to pin ideas and also collecting holiday ideas for family members) and even though many don’t, you can comment and converse with other pinners (I’ve met quite a few people via comments or private messages). It’s really the best of both worlds 🙂

  • Vanessa Dennett

    “A beautiful Google” is right Melissa!