Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Four Tips for Happy Pinning on Pinterest

There's been a lot of great discussion lately on some of the downsides of using Pinterest. You can read Diane and Kim's posts that, I think, tackle some of the issues quite well. The comments are also part of a great conversation, so be sure to dive in to them.

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After all this discussion, I thought it might be useful to put together a few basic tips on how to use Pinterest effectively. Pinterest is an amazing resource, allowing you to quickly and easily visually bookmark all kinds of projects, recipes, color inspiration, fashion, decor and more. It satisfies a lot of needs in a very beautiful, simple way. Even though I've been using Pinterest for a year or so, I still consider it a young enough medium/tool that there is an opportunity here to shape how people use it. Before things like poor attribution and improper linking become too rampant, I think there are a few simple things we can do to influence how everyone uses Pinterest.

At the end of the day, we can really only control how we personally use something. If we choose to do our best to stick to a few simple guidelines and habits on Pinterest, that will eventually ripple out and create trends among Pinterest users that benefit everyone.

So here are a few things tips for using Pinterest effectively. If you have others you'd like to share in the comments, go for it!
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Note: I'm including some image examples of how I pinned poorly and then went back and changed it throughout this post. Nobody's perfect, but we can all change, right?

Click Through Before You Repin
Part of the beauty of Pinterest is how easy it is to see something and quickly repin it. Often, the picture is enough to get an idea of what the project or tip is, so the instant inclination is to just click one button to repin and -BOOM!- you're done. Here's the problem, though: Often times, pins are ... for lack of a better word: Wonky. Sometimes they go to just a picture, not a web site. Sometimes they go to the home or index page of a web site or blog, and not the specific entry related to the image pinned, leaving you to scroll for ages to find the post you thought you were repinning. I've even clicked through on a pin only to be directed to a password-protected web site. Waahuh?

If you take a moment to click through before you repin something, you can make sure the pin takes to you the right place, or you can find the right link and repin from there. You may also find (as in the password protected web site example) that the item really isn't worth repinning. Don't perpetuate poor pins. (say that ten times fast) This step may take a few extra minutes, but if everyone starts doing it, before long it will be a non-issue.

Pin Correct Links
When you are pinning something yourself (not repinning something you find on Pinterest) be sure to pin the best possible link you can. If you are reading a blog, check to make sure that you have clicked in to the actual specific blog post from which you wish to pin an image. Don't pin from the index or home page of the blog. You can check the address bar in your browser to make sure you've got the right thing pulled up. This means that your pin will take people directly to the post from which you are pinning, and no matter how many times it gets repinned, they'll always be able to get right to the good stuff.

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Avoid pinning from a google image search. If you find a good image, click through to the web site and pin from there.

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If you are pinning something you've found on Flickr, check to see if there is a blog post associated with the image. Click thought and pin from that post instead.

**UPDATE: Here's a helpful link from June of PlanetJune for tracking down proper credit for creditless photos you find pinned on Pinterest. Excellent tips!** 

Use Thoughtful and Thorough Attribution
So often on Pinterest (and, yes, I've been guilty of the same thing, but I'm changing that) I see pins that just have one or two word descriptions. "Cool." "Must try" and nothing else. Instead, get in the habit of taking a moment to write thoughtful and thorough comments to your pins or repins (which, again, means you'll need to click through if the initial pinner didn't include good attribution or descriptions). If you get in to the habit of doing this, your followers will see it and start doing it. As will their followers ... and the ripples keep going, just like pins on boards.

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Type a one-sentence description of what it is you are pinning, and include "by ____" indicating where you found it or who made it. Don't forget to add tags where appropriate - they make for easy searching! (I'm a big fan of the #DoctorWho tag)

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Be Respectful
Think for a moment before you pin something you find in an Etsy shop as "I could totally make this." Most of the discussion of ethics and Pinterest started with Etsy sellers who were upset by folks who were pinning their handmade products on DIY or Crafts to Make boards. As Diane and Kim so beautifully wrote, to some extent, you really relinquish control of your work once you put it out on to the internet. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't use some common sense and good manners when pinning items. I think much of the unrest could have been avoided if someone had pinned an item in an Etsy shop with a description like: "Beautiful knit piece from XXX Shop on Etsy, $45."

It's easy to get a bit deer-in-headlights on Pinterest because there is such an overload of delicious visual inspiration, but we can't let that keep us from slowing down just for a moment and thinking about how we would want someone to pin our work.

There are many other little things you can do to make your Pinterest experience richer for you and the folks who follow you, but I really think these four big picture guidelines can serve as the foundation for helping grow Pinterest into a vast, well-functioning, respectful resource, rather than a mass of poorly attributed, incorrectly linked mess of pictures (can anyone say Tumblr?).

Now go get pinning!

If you aren't familiar with Pinterest, or are just getting started, here are a few resources for you:


  1. Great post--you are my pinning hero!

  2. This is brilliantly done, Rach! Thank you so much for a very thorough and easy-to-follow take on attribution. They should make this post required reading for all new Pinterest users. I just updated my post with a link to this. Thanks so much!

  3. These are great ideas. I'm starting to use Pinterest more and I do try to always state who/where a photo is from in my description. I think I'll change my ways when repinning, too. :)

  4. Thanks, y'all! I think it's important to at least have these ideas floating in the back of your head, ya know? Even if we don't nail it perfectly 100% of the time, something is better than nothing. And if we can instill these habits moving forward, I think it will be better for everyone in the end. :)

  5. Rachel, you have done a great job here of sharing the correct way to credit bloggers work on Pinterest.

    To be honest, I had an excellent teacher in Diane when I first started participating so I didn't even know there were ways to pin that didn't carry attribution.

    But I can imagine the opposite is true of others who don't have the benefit of the tutorials provided by you or Diane and have inadvertently pinned happily away not realizing the attribution would not travel along with the pin if not done in a careful way as you have described here.

    I love Pinterest. And mostly because it gives me a quick and easy way to share the work of bloggers with other bloggers. I use it primarily as a sharing tool rather than an "reminder" tool. Still use my bookmarks for my personal crafty files.

    Those long linking posts take hours and hours to make, and Pinterest solves that problem so I can share the work of my favorite bloggers much more efficiently.

    This is a hugely helpful post and I thank you for all the time put into it. From now on, my pin descriptions will definitely carry the name of the creator just in case!

  6. Thank you thank you for writing this. My pet peeve is pins that are linked to a blog's home page.

  7. Great post! I would add please don't post the ingredients and recipe in its entirty as your description. It discourages clicking through to the author and besides it makes for a really long pin (kind of an eye sore). I love Pinterest!!!

  8. Pam - Indeed! Diane is my guru. She always approaches things so thoughtfully right from the get-go & is a great role model. Remember those drug education commercials from the 80s where the kid would yell, "I LEARNED IT BY WATCHING YOU!"? I always want to say that to Diane, but in a nice, non-cocaine way. ;) I'm guilty of pinning away without thought or checking through, but all the recent discussion about Pinterest lead me to reevaluate how I pin and pull together some basic tips for making it better.

    Kathi - I agree! Right after I wrote this post yesterday (literally) I saw a cute pin, followed it through to make sure it worked correctly and was met, instead, with the home page of a blog. I was curious to see how long it would take me to find the actual post - it was at least 3-4 pages back. I'll pin from that actual blog post instead of repinning the original to break that cycle.

    Katrina - that's an excellent point. Thanks so much for mentioning it. I agree on both things you mention. It is an eyesore, and I imagine it does slow people down from clicking through. Plus, I find that recipe blog posts usually offer so much more than just ingredients. There are all kinds of tips and tricks that are crucial to making the recipe work *just right*. To miss out on them would be a shame!

  9. So AWESOME, Rachel!! I have been really curious about Pinterest but not really sure how it all works! This makes me feel super excited to start pinning with confidence and you know I LOVE to follow the rules as a former girl scout! Yippeeee!!! Thanks Rach!! xoxoxo

  10. Guilty, guilty, guilty. But learning to improve. thanks!

  11. Great post! I try to give credit where credit is due especially when pinning directly from another blog. I was wondering though if anyone else is pinning from the Iphone app and if so what has your experience been? I have not been able to add or change a caption so there is no way to give said credit and I really do most pinning on the go. Otherwise I'd be stuck in front of my computer for hours as I love pinterest!

  12. I've got a draft post in my blog about pinterest....been toying with how to word it properly though.
    One question i have though (which may sound a bit silly) is do you pin for you or pin for others? I ask because I pin when I find something I want or want to specify for a client (each client get their own board) and I don't particuarlly want followers (i'd put it on private if there was that option) so when I pin, I don't put in a description.....I'm very guilty of just putting in a brief "colours" or "._". Because it's a fantastic way of having everything in one spot that I can get a quick visual for a design board (interior design).
    I do however head to the original pin to work out where the image has come from.
    Just my thoughts (which will probably change tmrw!)

  13. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I probably spend 5 times as much time at Pinterest than I would need to if just repinned everything I found interesting. The badly/non-attributed issue and badly linked pins really irk me so I try and track down the original source. It takes a lot of time, but I like to know who the creator is and the context of the photos.

    I find Google images search a great resource. It doesn't always work but I can often locate a photo's original source with a bit of research there.

  14. Just read liberal sprinkles comment after I wrote my comment. But I second her with google image search being a great tool. Or better yet install their app so you can right click on an image to get to see where the photo/image has turned up on the internet. I'd say I have an almost perfect record (not quite 100%) of finding the original source. Love this tool:)

  15. Thanks for sharing these tips! Especially the one about making sure to pin from the post page and not the main page. It's so frustrating when you have to look for a post.
    Another tip I thought I'd add, is that if you select the title of the post (or any other text on the page, just click and drag your mouse over) before you pin a photo, then it will automatically copy it into the description and you don't have to retype it....
    happy pinning!

  16. It's my pet peeve when people link to "page 5" of a blog instead of the actual post, too!

    One thing I always do is double-check recipes I find before re-pinning. Since I'm pinning as a reminder/to-try list for myself, I always make sure they link to someplace real AND the recipe sounds do-able for me. Otherwise when I go back to print the recipe, I'll realize that it's out of my skill level or has crazy ingredients - and it wasn't worth pinning in the first place!

  17. I mostly look at Pinterest on my phone, so I trust others have made the correct direct, attribution, etc. Lately, I've been making use of the like button and when I have time, check the link and re-pin.

    I agree with petite josette about highlighting text on the blog post before you click pin it as a nice hint for adding correct info

  18. @udandi - yep, I'm doing the "like-and-then-check-later" thing a lot these days, too!

    @Leiah - ditto, I always get a bit grumbly when I click through to check out a pin and it's to some random page of the blog instead of the actual post. I think part of the draw of Pinterest is how easy it is to quickly repin something, but if we're going to actually make it a sustainable, useful tool, we're going to have to take 30 seconds to check things before we pin/repin. I admit, it can slow you down, but in the end - if we all start doing this - it will become a non-issue and will make for a genuinely valuable resource. :)

    @Liberal Sprinkles - great tip! Thanks!

    @Belinda - that's something on my Pinterest Wish List: the ability to set up private boards. Sometimes I want to gather resources or inspiration for a particular project, but I don't want that to be public. Or, as you mention, you're trying to gather resources for clients. I hope that as Pinterest grows, they will listen to feedback and instate the ability to create private boards.

    I'd also love the ability to pin to multiple boards from one pin and have it not duplicate in the feed of my followers. :) (in case Pinterest peeps are reading this ... :)

    @Julie - I actually don't use the Pinterest app on my phone (long story, but I'm back on an oooold version of the iPhone for the time being, and I had to dump a lot of stuff) Anyone else with iPhone tips, feel free to chime in! I like udandi's tip of liking it on the phone and then batch checking/attributing/repinning when you get home.

    @Relaxnsmile - ditto, ditto, ditto ... and DITTO! That's why I wrote this - I'm changing my habits & hopefully this will inspire other folks to do the same. :)

    @Leslie - DOIT. ;)

  19. I get the reasoning behind tagging everything and being more specific in descriptions, but I look at Pinterest in a different way. Mostly I just want to look at and share pretty pictures. I feel lots of words take away from the beauty from a lot of the images I pin. I do add descriptions for tutorials and other things like that, but I'm not sure I could get too wordy with a lot of the images I pin. Hmm?

  20. Thanks for the post! I have never thought about Pinterest this way. I always make sure I attribute when I pin, but when I repin, it's just a quick thoughtless action. Also, I hadn't thought about all those poor Etsy folk. Yes, maybe I can make it myself, but it doesn't mean I have to use their idea to advertise my craftiness. I will be more careful from now on.


  21. @Renee - I totally get what you mean, and actually - succinct wording is best! At the very least, attribution for who created the image is the best to include! :)

    @Jenna - Indeed! And that's the point of all of this: not to make us all feel horrible and that we are Big Bag Pinners, but just to help slow us down and be more thoughtful and careful when pinning so Pinterest can grow into a healthy, well-attributed, useful resource. No guilt, no stress, just thoughtfulness! :)

  22. Great tips Rachel, thanks so much! I just started on Pinterest last month, and see how I could easily become an eye candy addict if not careful. :) I had no idea that putting a one-sentence description was actually a better thing to do, versus one or two words. My first pins were longer, but I kept noticing mostly one- and two-word descriptions from those I follow...so I actually thought THAT was the correct way. Glad to read this isn't really the case.

    Question: if you are repinning (versus pinning for first time) something, are you saying you should still list the attribution in your own description? That's something I have not been good about at all. I thought by mentioning who made it, for example, it would come across as sort of spammy.

    Sooo glad for your tips here, and for everyone's in the comments too! Thanks! :)

  23. Great post! I'd add one more thing (sorry if you've addressed this in the comments already), it's so important to make an effort to pin the actual owner of a picture. If you see a picture on a blog that's showcasing pics from lots of blogs, click through and pin the picture from the blog/site that actually posted it. I've had conversations with a few bloggers whose images were stolen and put up on another blog and then pins proliferated from the blog that stole the image. I always click through to see where the pin is coming from and pin the correct link.

  24. Very good and informative post! Thanks so much.

  25. excellent tips! I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with pinterest! I love the visual inspiration that it provides but worry that over time between repinning and improper pinning the original source will be lost. I didn't even realize I should be tagging the pins. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Great article with valid explanations to each point. I really hope I am not guilty of any of these. Will have to review my own pinterest board to double check. http://pinterest.com/polprairiemama/

  27. I wanted to update this post with a really great link to PlanetJune's post about tracking down credit-less photos on Pinterest. Very handy and very important! Enjoy!


    @Laura - The thing with Pinterest is that it's still a relatively young resource & there never have really been hard, fast "rules" on how to pin. The one or two word descriptions really don't do much in terms of offering information. Stick with your gut and give folks a quick description and proper attribution & it will help start a good trend toward that practice instead! :)

    I think it's always good practice to mention who made it and where you found it. Aside from being respectful to the person who created it, it's useful information for those who are interested in it! Not spammy at all! When you repin, you don't have to keep that original description (unless it's a thorough one with a good description and credit) Rather than perpetuate lack of credit, repin with the good stuff included! :)

    @Nat - this happens a lot when people pin from Tumblr, where image posting without any kind of credit or link is rampant. That's a big reason I'm hopeful people will share these tips: I don't want Pinterest to just turn in to a pretty version of Tumblr where things are poorly linked and not properly attributed! :)

    @Optimistic Mom - thanks!

    @Wendy - I can understand that love/hate. As with any digital resource, it's crucial to set up some personal time constraints to keep from getting totally sucked in. And while these few extra steps add a few minutes (or maybe even just seconds!) I do think it's worthwhile so that we move forward thoughtfully and build a truly useful resource in Pinterest. And tags are required, they are just a nice thing to add if you can to help other people find them while searching. :)

  28. Great article and a big help. I will take time to follow through the images before pinning and add more in depth descriptions.

  29. What a great post! I know I'm guilty of repinning before clicking through occasionally, and I'm one of those who uses the one to two-word descriptions on a lot of my pins. You've really put things into perspective as far as how we should be using the site. This post should be required reading for anyone with a Pinterest account.

  30. Thanks Rach!!!! I'm loving pinterest but very much new as to how the heck to use it!!! Your tips are great and have helped me to understand what the heck I'm doing with all this great info!!!!


  31. when I am repinning, I avoid clicking further as it seems to reconfigure the original page. Is there a way to avoid it becoming out of order, or am I just crazy? I don't want to miss a single thing :). I have gone back to inspiration and found there was no viable link to a project/tutorial and that made me sad.
    As far as Etsy goes, I understand the creator's dilemma, however, I can go on etsy and copy their work too. I think pinterest gives them free advertising. I can copy it but several other people might see it and just want to buy it.

  32. Thank you for the information... I'm going back thru my DIY board to make sure I give proper attribution to the creators, especially those I've repinned, that are actually from Etsy shops...

  33. Not sure if anyone mentioned this but when pinning a new item, select text (as if you are going to copy it) and when you click the Pin It icon, it will pull that into the description field. This makes it easy to include pertinent details of the photo.

  34. I am a librarian by training, so attributing things became second nature. The sheer volume of images on Pinterest does at times tempt me into pinning things that don't have attribution, and if I have time I will go and find the source, especially if it's from fffound or I'm curious, but I have passed by images with no attribution, because often they show up again, with a full citation.

  35. Thanks so much! I love this. It is so frustrating when I try to go to something I've pinned to find it is only a photo from flicr etc. I am repinning in hopes everyone will read this and follow your wonderful advice!

  36. Thanks for the advice. I always try to go back to the source material before pinning but hadn't realised I was making difficulties for ohters by not directing them to the specific post page. I will definitely do that in future. I love to see how many people repin my pins - quick ego boost - but prefer to search out the originals myself.

  37. thanks for this info, very helpful. I am new at Pinning & have pinned things that go nowhere when I try to find the item I pinned..I'm afraid I am guilty of going crazy on my pinning THEN check out the sites, only to delete several sites...I'll learn eventually, just don't want anyone upset with us newbies!

  38. In the last couple weeks, someone has been removing some of my boards, and replacing them with ads. I love, love, love Pinterest, but I get very
    upset when I spend time pinning and then someone removes them. I am addicted to Pinterest, so please let me know if there is anything I can do about this. Thank you.


Thank you so much for your comments! I read every single one of them. I do my best to respond when I can.

Have fun and be nice! :)