Over the period of two weeks, I followed over 6,500 users on Pinterest. The purpose was to grow my Pinterest following, and it worked: I started with about 30 followers and have over 500 now. In this post, I describe the strategies that I used and the lessons I learned.

In the initial post about my Pinterest strategy, I mentioned that the whole project started when I realized that I needed to grow the traffic to my fashion website, and decided to focus on Pinterest as the main social platform for this purpose. I had been pinning and creating boards but came to a revelation that my efforts were useless since I only had 28 followers. There was no point in spending time adding content to my boards when nobody ever saw them.

That’s when I decided to pause the content creation activities and instead focus on growing my following. The easiest way to grow the number of followers seemed to simply follow others. I was skeptical at first, but after a quick try, I was amazed at how well it worked. I quickly grew my following to over 100 users. The whole process is described in the initial post.

Since that post, I continued utilizing the same strategy and followed about 500 people per day. The “following” sessions were split into several time chunks, mainly because Pinterest doesn’t allow you to follow too many users at once, to prevent spam.

This turned out to be a good thing for me because I was surprised at how addictive this process was. Before I started, I thought that it would be very boring to sit and keep clicking the “follow” button on an endless number of users. In reality, it was (and still is) a fascinating experience.

How do I find users to follow?

My goal was to connect to women that are interested in fashion, so I decided to focus on followers of major fashion brands and websites. For example, I went to Pinterest profiles of brands such as Vogue, Ralph Lauren, and jCrew, as well as smaller fashion-oriented websites such as Who What Wear and Stylecaster.

A great way to discover these accounts is to do a search for a particular interest, for example, “outfit ideas”, and then click on the “boards” tab. This will bring up a list of boards that are focused on the particular interest of yours.

Pinterest search for outfit ideas, boards section

Pinterest search for outfit ideas, boards section

Then I would click on the board, and then on the user who created that board. Then I click on the “Followers” tab and go through the long lists of followers.

For each follower, you can see their name, number of followers, profile picture and a couple pins from their boards. I used that information to make a “follow” or “don’t follow” decision, without clicking through to their profiles. This allowed me to speed up the process.

How I decide who to follow

When following so many users, speed is important, and you don’t have time to think. I use the profile picture to make an estimated guess on whether the person fits into my “ideal customer” profile. Since my website is focused on middle-aged women, I used the profile pictures to make a judgment if the user would fit into that category.

Pinterest user followers

Pinterest user followers

I avoided following teenagers and older women, and men, obviously. I used clues such as kids in the photo, that most probably meant that the person has a family. A lot of women posted their wedding photos to their profiles, which is, again, a clue that they are in a more mature phase of life since they were married.

Also, I would favor photos that looked more professional as opposed to snapshots of a bunch of partying girls holding beers.

A lot of pinners use group photos as their profile picture, either with their friends or their husband/wife or partner. Those are a little tricky because it’s not obvious who the user is. For photos with couples, I have to check the username to see if it’s a woman. There are many guys that post photos of themselves with their female partners, which makes it more difficult to make an instant decision.

Of course, not every profile picture has a real photo of a user. There are a lot of photos of pets, celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, and illustrations. I would follow those if I see that the person used their real name (or at least what looks like a real name), and are interested in fashion – based on the four thumbnails that represent some of their pins that are displayed next to their profile picture.

Lastly, I would follow someone who doesn’t have a profile picture at all, if I see that they pin fashion-related items.

Profile picture is very important to get more followers

After observing my own behavior after following several thousand of Pinterest users, I discovered that the profile picture is the most important factor in the decision to follow someone.

The high speed of following doesn’t allow me to think and weigh in different factors about a user: the decision is made instantaneously and is therefore based on emotion rather than rational judgment.

Since I only have a glimpse of a second to make a call, I use my intuition which is a very subconscious and emotional creature. There is no time to read descriptions, check out the profiles and website links, so the picture becomes the deciding factor.

Real photo of the user is the best

Profile picture that looks like an authentic photo of the user makes me click the “follow” button without thinking.

Here are some other factors to consider:

  • A photo of a face is better than a full-body photo.
  • A photo where eyes are not covered is better than one where the person is wearing, say, sunglasses.
  • A face that looks straight into the camera is better than a person that looks away.
  • A genuine smile is an absolute winner.

Who I would NOT follow

There are some profile pictures that send a very a negative message, in my own personal opinion. In this case, I would not follow that user. I don’t have any facts to back up this decision, but I am not just a business person but also a human being, and I decided to follow my gut feeling and not follow users that trigger a negative reaction.

I avoid following users that have these profile pictures:

  • Weird, crazy or scary face expressions
  • Strange body poses like laying on bed with your feet in the air (taken from the person’s back)
  • Overly sexual pose
  • Presence of disturbing props (I saw one woman that was pointing a gun at the camera – no thanks!)
  • Scary dolls without eyes
  • Scary-looking animals
  • A person smoking or drinking

Also, I avoid following users without any pins. Since my ultimate goal is to have my followers re-pin my pins, I favor users that are active and have boards and pins.

Profile picture photoshoot

After doing this for some time and making these observations, I realized that my own profile picture didn’t meet my own standards. I used a logo and the name of my website, that looked pretty cute, but it wasn’t a picture with a face.

I decided to take a photograph of myself, in a fashion-themed and artistic style. Since I am into photography, I had the skills and the gear to create a professionally-looking photo.

I also knew that it’s harder than it seems, and how much work goes into those polished and styled photos. Starting with selecting location, lighting, and background, setting up the lights, reflectors, and other gear, to hair, makeup, and clothing.

Pinterest profile photo session: the setup

Pinterest profile photo session: the setup

It took about a day to execute, but I was quite happy with the results. After some editing in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, I uploaded it to Pinterest yesterday.

It still remains to see if the new profile photo generates a higher rate of “follow backs”, but I am quite certain that it will.

In Conclusion

Right now, I get one follower for every 11-12 people that I follow. I will give it a couple more weeks to see if this number improves.

I have already noticed that my pins get more repins and likes, so I know that the strategy works. I can resume my content creation activities and start posting articles and outfits to my website. And hopefully, the traffic will increase at a higher pace.

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