5 Ways for Influencers to Leverage Pinterest’s Smart Feed Algorithm

Opinion: It’s all about great content and making sure that content can be found

Pinterest is "more of a search engine than a social network"

If you’ve been thinking of Pinterest as a social platform similar to Instagram or Facebook, it’s probably time to adjust your influencer marketing strategy. Influencer marketing on Pinterest is a whole different ballgame than other social networks, because— surprise!—Pinterest is not a social network.

You could say Pinterest is a “visual discovery tool,” or, as Pinterest says on its website, “the world’s greatest catalog of ideas.” It’s probably most accurate to go with what head of vertical strategy Brian Monahan recently stated: Pinterest is “more of a search engine than a social network.”

Rather than prioritizing social sharing, influencer marketing on Pinterest is all about great content—and more important, making sure that great content can be found. Pinterest’s smart feed uses an algorithm to determine each user’s feed, with Pins being shown as “best first” rather than “newest first.” With more than 50 billion Pins on any number of topics (1.7 billion recipe Pins alone), marketers need to focus on making their content as searchable as possible.

Here are five ways for influencers to leverage Pinterest’s smart feed algorithm:

  1. Keywords are critical: Keywords are non-negotiable. They should be included in Pin descriptions, board titles, image text and the influencer’s profile. Use descriptive terms that are specifically aimed at your audience. Research relevant keywords by typing in a search query (related to your promotion) on Pinterest—you’ll notice that the site auto-suggests terms to help you narrow your search. These are likely to be the sorts of words and phrases you want to include in order for your content to match your target audience’s interests and searches.
  2. Include a call to action: Pin design strategies often include a visual CTA, but a lesser-known tip is to include a CTA within the first three lines of the keyword description. “How to,” “Top 5 Tips for,” “Limited Offer”—whatever it is, make sure there’s a strong invitation for the pinner to click through.
  3. Don’t forget about hashtags (yet): Whatever you know about hashtags and Pinterest, you may as well plan to check back in six months because it’s likely to change. In the past, hashtags were virtually useless on the platform, while the latest word from Pinterest headquarters is that hashtags now work like they do anywhere else. Still, they aren’t as commonly used as they are on Twitter or Instagram. Whatever Pinterest eventually decides to do with hashtags, we currently recommend that Pin descriptions include at least one or two with specific keywords. Don’t go overboard, because an endless paragraph of hashtags comes across as spammy to most users, and Pinterest itself may lower the rank of a Pin that doesn’t seem authentic. In our experience, it works better to include the hashtags at the end of the Pin description rather than the beginning. Hashtags now have their place and can help facilitate search, but the description is what will entice users to click through to your content.
  4. Niche boards outperform general boards: When influencers promote sponsored blog posts via Pinterest, the board they pin to should be a good fit for the brand. In this case, search performance should be prioritized over influencer audience size. A general board (“Yummy!”), no matter how many followers it has, is not going to give a Pin the same search results as a well-titled niche board (“Easy Weekday Dinner Ideas”).
  5. Timing is important: With the smart feed, users are no longer seeing live updates in their feed from the people they follow. Instead, they see a combination of repins from users they are following, related Pins and Pins from their interests. It can take months for pins to work their way into the algorithm and start showing up in users’ feeds. With this in mind, it’s important to begin pinning your seasonal content three to four months in advance. For example, by the beginning of September, you should start sprinkling in holiday content.

Danielle Wiley is founder and CEO of influencer marketing agency Sway Group.