Pinterest, Explained

February 5, 2014


pinterestBy Terry Doherty —

Most people think of Pinterest as a platform for individuals: hobbyists looking for project ideas; brides-to-be collecting wedding ideas; recipes and grilling ideas; and home decorating suggestions. Notice I said “individuals,” not “women.” There are plenty of men on Pinterest. Even famous men.

Pinterest is for businesses, too. In November 2012, Pinterest launched business accounts so that companies could create pages that promote their business online.

Here I provided a ton of information to help you make sense of this social marketing tool for your business. Let me know what you think by adding your thoughts to the comments section below!


verbs: Pin, re-pin
Users: “pinners”
Launched: March 2010

— A personal social media platform where users organize digital content (photos, illustrations, drawings, infographics, etc.) by theme or topic relevant to their own interests.

— A content sharing network where users can see what other Pinners are doing and add that to their own collections.

— A free bookmarking tool for displaying and sharing visual content.


Pinning is easy. Pinners love being able to click “Pin it” and add an item to one of their boards. When they do, you now reach people who follow them, but who may not have known about you … until now. Win-win!

Click on the screenshot below to see an section of this image enlarged to show some of the different ways people have incorporated “Independent Book Publishing Association” into their personal boards.

From a business perspective, Pinterest makes it easy to attract customers. Think of your boards (aka “pinboards”) as a cross between a catalog and a store display. Here are just a few of the things you can do to encourage people to visit, follow, and browse your offerings.

  • Set up boards by product line (e.g., genre) and fill the board with book cover images.
  • Host boards that your authors / illustrators fill with some of their favorite things.
  • Invite key players to collaborate on a group board.
  • Curate boards that share information relevant to the topics important to you (e.g., literacy, green living, et al).
  • Create a News & Media board that shares your awards and recognition, Videos, and other newsworthy visuals.
  • Embed topical boards on your blog or website to offer even more information to visitors.

Creating a space that features your book cover(s) is a logical first step. The next step is to create boards that are an extension of the subjects that are (a) covered by the books you publish; or (b) important to you. This helps people learn more about you because you are giving them something they value. Did you publish a book about hiking in the Appalachian mountains? Then maybe you want a board that features photos and lists about what to take on a hike or what to be aware of.

It is very easy to welcome people into your community because every time you pin something, it shows up on the main Pinterest home page that everyone can see. When people repin something, it stays at the top of their queue.


You have to understand copyright and licensing. With Pinterest, this is imperative. For content you own, there is no problem … but when you start pinning other people’s stuff, you need to know the rules. That goes for running contests, too. Pinterest is a great platform for contests, just know the rules of the road.

If you have ever visited Pinterest, you already know: it is addictive. It is very easy to fall into the proverbial rabbit hole and forget why you are using Pinterest. It is so much fun to start browsing pins that have nothing to do with work. With so much cool content, it is also easy to over-pin.

Pinning is a blast but you can have too many boards. Variety is important, but don’t create a board for every little thing. That leads to redundancy, which leads to more work. Who wants that? There is no way to “merge” boards, so select each board’s topic / theme carefully.


TIP: It may help to use your computer screen as the “master board.” What are the topics (boards) you want people to click on most? Keep them at the top so that pinners don’t have to scroll down.

Pinterest wants you to pick a category, and the categories are very rigid. There is no “publishing” category. If you publish only one genre of books (let’s say humor), then it is easy for you. If your books cross multiple genres or audiences, it is very tough.

Unlike Twitter and Facebook, analytics for Pinterest are not quite there yet. There are tools that are helpful, but not nearly as extensive as what is available for other platforms.


What makes Pinterest particularly valuable for business is the ease with which you can promote your work without directly selling. Ultimately, you can engage potential customers and build communities around your brand for the long term (not just by purchasing a single product).

A Pinterest presence creates an accessible (read: wordless) medium through which people can see the many facets of who you are as a brand. When people explore your “Great Hikes” board, they have an instant panorama of recommendations, ideas, and suggestions.

Pinterest can tell your story – past, present, and future – in ways that are engaging, visually appealing, and (most importantly) shareable.

Are you using Pinterest for your business? Share your link in the comments below so we can follow your boards and see your story!

Fun Facts

  • A May 2012 case study by found that users visiting its site from Pinterest spent $180 compared with $85 spent from users coming from FaceBook. The study of the 50,000 visitors also found that these users spent less time on the company’s website, choosing instead to browse from the company’s pinboard.
  • According to a March 2013 analysis on the Huffington Post, each time they visit the site, Pinterest users spend 15.8 minutes “pinning.” In contrast, Facebook users will only spend 12.1 minutes flipping through your latest vacation album.
  • “THE” optimum time for pinning during the business day is between 2:00pm and 4:00pm (EST) In the evening, the best time is 8:00pm to 1:00am (EST). [Source:]

Reading Worth Pinning

9 Ways to Create a Simple and Successful Pinterest Strategy in 2014
White Glove Marketing, January 2014

3 Ways to Make Pinterest Part of Your Marketing Strategy, December 2013

Why Businesses Should Not Ignore Pinterest, September 2013

Pinterest Contests 101, August 2013

Pinterest Contests Guidelines: What Brands and Bloggers Need to Know
January 2014

About the Author:

Terry-DohertyTerry is a voracious reader with a keen analytical eye and a lifelong passion for writing. Combine a passion for reading and kids, a natural affinity for analysis, and a love of solving puzzles, and you’ve got Terry.

Before becoming a Mom in late 2001, she spent nearly 20 years as a research analyst, supervisor, mentor, trainer, and analytical program manager with the federal government. She has drawn on her acclaimed expertise as a national security analyst in her roles as senior editor and publishing director for an independent house; and mentor for both her consulting business & flourishing literacy nonprofit.

Now, she uses those extensive skills in research, analysis, writing, editing and interpersonal communication, in three roles: Mom; Executive Director of The Reading Tub®, a family literacy nonprofit; and Director of New Media & Alumni Education for the Mom’s Choice Awards.

Terry is a dedicated, lifelong student, always eager to share her expertise with those eager to learn. She heartily ascribes to Thomas Jefferson’s statement: “I cannot live without books.” Learn more at

5 responses to “Pinterest, Explained”

  1. Diane DeVillers says:

    I relished your two articles about twitter and pinterest, I only recently starting blogging, on my shameless self promotion tour, when my book “The Eve Chronicles” a paperback came out. So I am learning how to utilize these places to draw people in and still blog other stuff, like one of ten posts before i bring up my book again. I did learn that to repin brings the most important pins you want to be at the top. This article was very useful to someone just understanding how to blog. I also do google+ which is good as it puts the picture up or video pic up when you cut and paste something into it. ALso wordpress, worldpulse, tumblr stumbleupon, still learning what to blog, which ones are only pictures, I just love the site where i read this the Independent publishers, where i just enjoy the daily posts of people like you that are on top of the power of social media. And i liked the most optimal times to post. thanks again

    • It sure seems like you are more than *just* a blogger Diane! Congrats on all your efforts to harness the power of social in your marketing.

      Your comment is so timely … my next column is a 2-part series on Google+, so I hope you’ll find that helpful. And you’ve given me an idea for my May column: blogging. [You’ve got Rule #1 covered – leaving a meaningful comment!]

      Last but not least, thank you for the kind words. I am so honored to be part of the IBPA blogging team and am glad that readers are finding the content valuable.

  2. […] Doherty, T. 2014, Pintrest, Explained, viewed September 13th 2014, […]

  3. Just started an account. Still totally confused by the other stuff that Pinterest put there for me based on my 5 topics I had to give them. It is not my style and I don’t want it. Is there a way to clear that?

  4. Hi Billie,

    Sorry to hear about your frustration. Pinterest requires those 5 topics in hopes of getting you started. Unfollowing is pretty easy.

    When you go to your “homepage” there is a list of labels under your description. The one on the far right is “following.” Click that.

    The next thing to pop up is a set of three labels, the first one being “Topics.” The 5 topics you selected should be listed and you should have the option to “Unfollow.”

    I will note, though that if you are not following other pinners or other boards, you may not be able to ditch those topics.

    If that doesn’t work, let me know and we can connect via email.
    ~ Terry

Leave a Reply

How to Get Involved!
Marketing Opportunities

From mailings to exhibits, see how IBPA's marketing programs help you grow your sales.

Educational Opportunities

Attend a seminar, ask an expert, and get more free advice with our educational programs.

Become a member

Access exclusive members-only benefits starting at just $10.