It’s that time of year again – back-to-school signage in every retail establishment, signaling that summer has come to a close. While you’re busy creating back-to-school boards, pinning away everything from new fall fashions to obscure organizational solutions, you may notice Pinterest’s new “buy button” feature. What could be more convenient? Sweet shopping freedom! Alas, freedom isn’t free. And neither is this feature from a paid media perspective.

You probably knew that, but very little is actually known about basic Pinterest features, fundamentals, and best practices, primarily because buying placement on Pinterest is a pretty new feature — it’s only been around since January 1 of this year. But what does this newcomer have that it’s paid social peers don’t?


It’s the first day of school at Paid Social Media High (PSMH). The first one to arrive? LinkedIn, of course. Miss Type-A. She’s always perfectly punctual. For LinkedIn, school isn’t working; its networking, and extracurricular activities are just a way to beef up her resume. You never know when you might find yourself in an impromptu interview. Facebook enters the room: Mr. Popular. He has tons of friends and everyone likes him. Right as the bell rings, Twitter scurries into her seat:The Queen Bee. She’s always late because she can’t stop talking in the hallway, but can you blame her? All her followers are in her homeroom this year. #Blessed.

The teacher welcomes her students and has everyone introduce themselves. If you’ve ever watched any 90’s movie set in high school, you know what comes next. The new kid walks into the room. His name is Pinterest, and he is wearing sunglasses indoors, of course, because he’s mysterious and nobody knows much about him yet.


No one can stop talking about how cool Pinterest is, but most of the chatter is strictly speculation. So what’s the truth? What best practices can you utilize in your Pinterest efforts? Class is in session.

Hashtags Don’t Really Help 

This seems counterintuitive. With platforms like Twitter and Instagram, hashtags make you more searchable to your audience. However, adding too many hashtags works against your efforts in a couple of ways.

  • First, if you search for a phrase like “back to school” in Pinterest, and then search for “#BackToSchool,” you’ll get totally different results. Think about how you would naturally search for something. You probably wouldn’t enter a hashtag as a query. If I were promoting this season’s hottest No. 2 pencils, and used “#BacktoSchool” in the pin description, you might never see my awesome pencils.
  • Hashtags can also lead your pinner (and ultimately, converter) away from your pin. If I added the hashtag #CoolestPencilsEver to my pin description, all the pinners would need to do is simply click on this hashtag to be led away from my pin. Here, they discover another company’s really cool pencils, and they convert. Your pencils are quickly forgotten. If you are passionate about using hashtags in your pin descriptions, hashtag your company’s name. That way, the pinner can discover more of your offerings, not someone else’s.
  • Worse yet, getting too hashtag happy can get your pin disapproved all together. Along with listed prices, specific dates and improper grammatical usages, too many hashtags gives Pinterest the right to reject your pin. #sorrynotsorry.

Frilly Language Fails

Pin titles and descriptions seem like the perfect place for clever content and witty wording. Hey, I like a good alliteration as much as the next person. The trap here is getting so caught up in saying something catchy that you neglect important keywords relevant to your product.

Suppose my company sold backpacks, but not just any backpacks, they’re crazy backpacks engineered by NASA to make your books weightless. I want my audience to know all about what makes these backpacks so rad. I title the pin with the backpack’s name “SpacePack 3000.” In the description, I put “Engineered by NASA scientists, books feel weightless. Available in ‘Nebula Navy’ and ‘Black Hole’ colors.” Creative? Yes. Search-friendly? No. In the process of making my description interesting, I’m hurting my pin’s search potential, because nowhere does my pin simply mention “backpack.”

Someone who might be interested in my backpack might search for “backpack for school,” or “new book bags.” Use rich keywords that not only describe, but identify your product. Your pin description, title, and even your account description are extremely keyword sensitive, so really make the words you use here count. This way, your pin isn’t excluded from a relevant search. This is true from both a paid and organic approach, so it’s noteworthy no matter what goals your business is trying to accomplish through Pinterest.

Campaign Structure Matters 

Like the classmate who offers you a pen after he has just sneezed on it, sometimes Pinterest hurts you when it’s just trying to help. This is especially true when it comes to the structure of your promoted pin campaigns. Like many ad-serving platforms, Pinterest will start showing the most successful pin in your campaign most frequently. This sounds kind of awesome initially, and you think, “Thanks Pinterest, you’re always looking out for me.” Not so fast.

Pop quiz: you have a particular pin that’s performing great in its campaign. You’re selling high-end locker décor and want to build upon your current success. You:

A. Keep the ball rolling on this campaign and add some new, snazzy magnet pins to the campaign, just to keep it fresh.

B. Wing it ­– add no new pins and let the successful campaign continue to perform well by perhaps increasing the campaign’s daily spend budget. Why mess with a good thing?

C. I didn’t study

D. None of the above

What’s the answer? The always reliable, “None of the above.” The problem here is that adding new pins to an already successful campaign can end in trouble. It’s likely that within that campaign, your new snazzy magnet pins won’t be served to pinners very often, if at all. The solution is to give your new pins a chance to shine. Give them their own campaign, where they won’t be fighting against each other for impression share (or using up the same budget to do so).

It turns out that Pinterest isn’t that mysterious of a guy after all. Contrary to PMSH’s rumor mill, he isn’t in the witness protection program or a vampire. He’s just a smart addition to the current cast of paid social characters. You and Pinterest might even end up as friends, now that you’ve taken a moment to learn what he’s all about — not a fan of hashtags, pretty careful with his word choice, and all around an organized fellow. Class dismissed.

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