How Does Pinterest Work? A Pinterest 101

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How Does Pinterest Work?I’m so glad you asked! Pinterest works as a giant Pin board (think old-timey cork board with push pins) for all the ideas and products people like to save. Although it is often referred to as a social media channel, Pinterest is actually more of a search and discovery engine with a few social aspects.

Oh, and it is a LOT of fun. Have you heard of the “Pinterest Rabbit Hole”? No? Let’s go down one, shall we? Imagine you go on Pinterest to figure out what to make for dinner and three hours later the kids are starving, so you order a pizza. But, hey – you have a great board of recipes for tomorrow – AND your entire bathroom remodel planned out! The struggle is real. 🙂

People who use Pinterest are not just hoarders of ideas. They’re doers and buyers. They try new recipes, experiment with DIY projects, collect money-saving tips, and plan everything from remodels to purchases and parties.

Let’s jump in to today’s Pinterest 101 lesson with:

How Does Pinterest Work for Users (Pinners)?

People use Pinterest to save ideas, products, to collaborate with friends, and to bookmark things to read later. Pinning is typically a solitary activity where Pinners browse and save ideas and products that will help them improve the quality of their lives, their work, health, and even their wardrobe or hairstyle!

It’s different from truly “social” networks where people share information and images about themselves and their personal or professional lives. Facebook and Instagram are about presenting the best version of you to the world. Pinterest is for inspiration to transform yourself into the best version of you.

Instagram is about presenting your best self to the world. Pinterest is inspiration to become it.Click to Tweet

It IS a little bit social, though. You can send a Pin to someone who follows you, leave a comment on a pin, or click the “Tried it” button to leave your personal experience with the idea on the Pin.

Those “Tried its” are saved to your profile for easy reference later. I often use that to share what happened when I made a recipe. I include whether or not I’d make it again (it’s hard to remember), what I changed, and what I might do differently next time. Many Pinners (like me) no longer use actual cook books. And with new filters available to show only recipes that meet dietary needs, include certain ingredients, or are quick to prepare, is it any wonder? 

How Does Pinterest Work for Marketers, Businesses, and Bloggers?

People save and click on Pins up to 90 days before they are ready to act. That window is no doubt even longer for people who are planning a wedding on Pinterest – many women start a “Dream Wedding” board before there is even a fiance! You can bet most of those are secret boards, though. 🙂

What all this early planning means for marketers is that there products and services can become an option for consideration very early on in the buying process. With 75% of all the content on Pinterest coming from brands, people are very open to branded content as long as it is useful and attractive.

Buyable Pins allow Pinners to purchase right inside of Pinterest. It’s almost too easy! You’ll just need an ecommerce platform that is compatible with the feature.

Pinterest is the number two driver of social traffic to websites. When you and others share Pins that link to your website content you’re adding more and more opportunities for people to find you and come to your website.

There’s no reason to feel like you’re too late to the game, either. While some well-known brands are having great success with their Pinterest marketing, 97% of all searches are unbranded – meaning even a relative unknown can be discovered by new customers who are ready to buy!

What Is a Pinterest Pin?

Let’s get down to basic of Pinterest 101! A Pin is a visual representation of a product or idea which someone saves for later use on a Pinterest board. Each Pin is composed of three elements:

  1. An image
  2. A link (usually)
  3. A description

When someone clicks on a Pin, it will enlarge to show the full image and description. If they click again, they will be taken to the link associated the Pin – usually a blog post or product page with more information than can be included on the Pin.

A Pinterest account can house up to 200,000 Pins. Your Pins can be saved to other boards owned by other Pinners.

What is a Pinterest Board?

A Pinterest board is a collection of individual Pins – a way to organize your ideas. You might have a board for your next “Bathroom remodel,” your “Ideas for our Next Vacation,” “Recipes I Want to Try,” or “Things I want to Read.”

Pinterest boards are always owned by one Pinner, but may be shared and Pinned to by many Pinners. Shared boards are commonly called “group” boards. They’re useful for collaborating and getting feedback from friends, business partners, clients, and family. Not sure which outfit is best for your high school reunion? Your BFF can chime in and even add her own Pins as suggestions – or comment on a Pin to tell you how ah-mazing you would look in that green sheath dress you weren’t sure you could pull off.

Secret boards and the Pins on them are visible only to you and anyone with whom you share the board. They’re perfect for planning surprise parties, sharing research, or for any other “just between us” purpose!

A Pinterest Profile can hold up to 500 boards – though it’s hard to imagine how anyone would keep track of that many boards!

What is a Pinterest Profile?

Your Pinterest Profile holds all your boards, your Pins, and all your settings. Some of the information that appears publicly include:

  • Your username: appears as the words after when you go to your profile.
  • Your first and last (optional) name or business name: appears in bold letters at the top of your profile.
  • The “About You” and website URL also appear prominently on your profile.
  • Follower and Following counts.
  • Your picture.
  • Showcase boards: choose between one and five boards to create a moving slideshow at the top of your profile.

How Does Pinterest Work When I Follow People or Boards on Pinterest?

When you follow a Profile or a board on Pinterest, you’re telling Pinterest you want to see more of that. So, their Pins will start to appear in your home feed. These signals you give to Pinterest also allow it to show you “picked for you” Pins it thinks you may like.

Follow on Pinterst
If I “Follow” AirBNB, I will see some of their Pins in my home feed, and Pinterest will know I’m interested in travel and will show more travel Pins in my feed.

What Does it Mean When Someone Follows Me on Pinterest?

See above. 🙂 It’s great to have followers on Pinterest – your Pins will likely get more exposure and the social proof can be powerful, but Pinterest doesn’t serve up everything that is Pinned by the people and boards you follow in the order it was Pinned. Not anymore.

Followers are good – but traffic from Pinterest is better. Try not to worry too much about your follower count and make sure your Pins are optimized for search instead.

Pinterest Feed
How does Pinterest work when you follow people? In the Pinterest home feed, you should see a mix of Pins from people you follow, Pins picked for you, Pins chosen for particular boards, and Promoted Pins.

What Does it Mean to Save or Repin Something on Pinterest?

You can Pin an image from around the web, or you can “Save” an image that’s already on Pinterest to your own boards. You’ll keep the original image and link, but you have the opportunity to change the description. For instance, you might change the description on a recipe Pin to, “Need to try this for Mike’s graduation party!” to remind yourself why you Pinned it. OR, you could just put it in your secret, “Mike’s Graduation Party” board.

Pinterest Save button
Click the big red “Save” button to add the Pin to one of your boards.

How Does Pinterest Work If I Have a Business Account?

If you’re using Pinterest for your business, you should have a business account. You can convert a personal profile into a business account to get detailed analytics on the performance of your account. and to advertise on Pinterest. It’s free to have a business account and aside from enabling analytics and the ability to advertise, it functions the same as a personal account.

Pinterest Analytics

How Can I Make Pinterest Work for My Business?

So many things! Pin regularly, have a strategy, utilize group boards, and Tailwind Tribes for greater reach, and keep an eye on your analytics.  If you’re a blogger, here’s how 8 successful bloggers get traffic from Pinterest.

A free trial of Tailwind for Pinterest is also a good start.

More Pinterest 101 Articles:

Pin Me!

How Does Pinterest Work?

Alisa Meredith

Alisa Meredith is the Content Marketing Manager at Tailwind – a Pinterest and Instagram scheduler and analytics platform. She is a sought-after speaker and teacher on Pinterest and Promoted Pins in particular, having spoken at Social Media Marketing World, Agents of Change and appearing on The Art of Paid Traffic and Social Pros podcasts. Alisa has invested heavily in becoming an expert in her craft – realizing (and loving) the fact that the learning never ends!  She lives in coastal North Carolina with her pampered pets Pepe the couch potato Cavapoo, and more cats than she’d like to admit to.

2 thoughts on “How Does Pinterest Work? A Pinterest 101

  1. Hi Alisa!
    Thank you for the rich info!
    I got the information I was looking for above and beyond, and got it presented in a very appealing and interesting way! Pinterest sure has a lot to offer to its users.
    Certainly a great read.

    1. Hello, Jaylene!

      Thank you so much for stopping by – and for taking the time to leave a note. Much appreciated!!

      So glad it was helpful to you. Happy Pinning!

      ~ Alisa

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