I am dancing my victory dance and opening up a bottle of champagne now (virtually) because I tripled my Pinterest followers in less than 24 hours. I applied a simple strategy that doesn’t involve anything complicated and saw immediate results. It may seem trivial and obvious for an experienced marketer, but seeing these results is a big deal for me.
My fashion website acts as a testing platform, while I am learning the basics of online marketing. When I started this website a couple years ago, I didn’t know where it would take me and how long I will be working on it. This was the reason why I decided to keep it a secret to my friends and family.
An immediate consequence of this decision was that I wasn’t able to use my personal social network to get the website off the ground. I saw it as a challenge and was curious to find out how hard it would be to build a website starting from nothing.
The answer was: very hard. And much harder than I anticipated. I admit that I didn’t put that much effort into it either, and I am sure things would have been different if I dedicated more time to it. But the lesson to be learned by anyone trying to get something similar started: expect to work hard for a long time without seeing any results of your actions.
Only recently I started to see a small growth in traffic, and my social accounts for that website look like a graveyard.
Putting all eggs in one basket
Speaking of social accounts: my initial strategy was to register the fashion website on all the social platforms and throw in random posts with a frequency of between every second week to once in two-three months. Yeah…
When I saw how well that worked – well, it didn’t work at all – I decided to focus my energy on 1-2 networks. Not all social networks are created equal, and they attract a different kind of users. I wanted to focus on the networks where my target audience was hanging out.
Pinterest is the winner
Since my fashion website is pretty much all about the looks, or pictures, Pinterest was the obvious winner. The other reason why Pinterest was the best pick is because Pinterest is dominated by women, and one of the most popular subjects is fashion – which goes very well with my fashion website’s target audience as well.
Initially, I only had one board on Pinterest, featuring the outfits from my website. Then I learned that it’s better to mix content from different sources, and create several boards, so I started pinning other users’ pins and created more specialized boards for different fashion items, styles, and trends.
This gained a couple of followers, but things were going slowly. Finally, I decided that it didn’t make sense to keep adding content if nobody ever saw it. Even though I enjoyed using Pinterest and growing my boards, it was time to start treating it like a business and not a hobby.
Strategy to get more followers on Pinterest
I decided that I am going to scale down on content creation and focus on growing the follower base instead. This is when I stumbled on an article from QuickSprout on how to grow your social following and one tip in the article was to start following other people. When a Pinterest user sees that you have followed them, they may follow you back. Sounds simple, and I have heard this before, but now I decided to test it.
Up until now, I was very selective with who I followed. The main reason for that was that I was using their content for pinning. The content would show up in my home feed and I would scan it and pin the stuff that I liked. So it was important to only follow the boards that were relevant.
For this experiment, I needed to start following users, not boards. A Pinterest user would normally have boards related to different interests, not only fashion. They would have interior design, food, and other boards. This would flood my home feed with unrelated pins.
Well, I decided that I am still going to go through with it. Instead of using the home feed as a source of content, I would make searches to find pins for my boards. For example, I can search for “work outfits”, or “summer fashion”. In fact, this strategy is even better, because I can be much more focused on what I am looking for, instead of blindly browsing my home feed that had a mix of everything.
This will also help me grow my boards in a more efficient way. For example, I have a board for outfits with a nautical theme that didn’t have a lot of pins. I did a search for “nautical outfits” and got a lot of good quality pins, all fitting the nautical theme. It is much easier to look for pins with a specific board in mind, instead of browsing and trying to figure out what board to pin each item to.
How to find users
After I’ve decided to sacrifice my home feed, the next question was: how do I find users that I could follow? I didn’t want to follow random people: I wanted to target the audience that would be interested in visiting my website.
What if I looked up brands that my target users liked, and followed their followers? I am targeting middle-aged professional women that want to look classy but chic. So I came up with a list of fashion and beauty brands that those women would like, found their official Pinterest accounts, and went to their users’ tab.
Ok, now what? It felt wrong to blindly follow everyone on the list, mainly because it made me feel like a spammer. Later I realized that there is another reason for why it’s not the best strategy: Pinterest has a cap on how many users you can follow in one sitting, and once you reach the limit, you have to wait for some time before you can continue.
I decided to look at two things: the profile photo and the number of followers they had. I would use the profile photo to make an educated guess of whether they fit my target group. And I would follow only the users that didn’t have many followers.
My theory was that if a user has a lot of followers, they pay less attention to new followers. On the other hand, a user with few followers would be curious to see who their new follower is, and will be more likely to follow them back.
Not sure if this theory is backed by research, but I am pretty sure that I am right. So I scanned lists of users and followed the women who had a decent profile picture and no more than 200-300 followers.
I spent about an hour yesterday afternoon following people. The results were immediate. As I was busy clicking the “follow” button, I saw the red notification icon lighting up, and saw people following me back. This went on the whole evening yesterday. I started with 28 followers yesterday afternoon, and this morning it grew to 80. Wow.
80 followers may not sound very impressive, but consider this: it took many months to grow my following to 28 users, and only one hour to almost triple it!
My online adventures have so far been very time-consuming and not so fruitful, so seeing this kind of results, although small, is a big deal for me. It gives me proof for the advice from successful bloggers: you need to hang in there and keep going, even if you don’t see immediate results.
P.S. While I was writing this blog post, my follower count grew to 80. I also noticed that my home feed didn’t get flooded with unrelated content, which makes me wonder if Pinterest customizes the content to my interests, or if the nearly 1,000 users that I now follow don’t post that much?
A note: As I am publishing this post the next morning, my follower list grew to 118 people overnight!
Update June 29, 2015: Read the follow-up article “Following 7000 Pinterest Users: Lessons Learned”
- Following 7000 Pinterest Users: Lessons Learned (follow up post)
- Stop Guessing: Here’s a Social Media Strategy That Works (QuickSprout Blog Post)
- How to Turn Pinterest into a Revenue Generating Channel (QuickSprout infographic)
- Pinterest’s Demographics Mean It Could Become The Next Monster Social Advertising Platform (Business Insider Report)