If you spend any time on social media at all, you know that Pinterest has captured the attention of a lot of people. It’s even had an entire series of posts written about it up at readwriteweb (read through all of the links — Pinterest grabbed a lot of attention over at rww). Tracey Neithercott’s talked about how she uses Pinterest for writing inspiration, while Whitney over at Youth Services Corner has talked about using Pinterest for youth programming idea inspiration. Oh, and a little news site called CNN’s talked about Pinterest being the hottest website of 2012.
I stumbled upon Pinterest last summer and used it as visual bookmarking and little more. I made up boards for recipes I wanted to try, boards for program ideas I’d like to try out at the library, some DIY stuff for myself, and more. I’m very much a visual person, so actually being able to SEE all of these bookmarks visually excites me. You can install a pinning button right onto your browser, so when you open up a blog post with a recipe that interests you, you can click the button and pin it without having to toggle between a number of different tabs.
Being that Pinterest is a social network, you can follow people whose pins interest you (and you can choose to follow specific boards of those people, rather than everything they pin). You can also choose to browse through the things everyone using Pinterest has pinned.
Pinterest thrives on the principle of discovery — the whole purpose of a site like Pinterest is that it leads to spontaneous finding of things you didn’t know you were looking for. It’s similar to how if you wander into a library and stumble upon book displays. You’re browsing without a clear goal in mind, and you’re picking up things along the way you didn’t know you were looking for. This is fundamentally different from, say, Google, where you have to actually use the site with a goal in mind. You’re not going to stumble upon a recipe or a youth programming idea without first putting a specific keyword search into Google, but on Pinterest, you can. Whether or not you know it, the internet’s moving more toward this discovery model of information retrieval, and sites like Pinterest are doing a good job making it happen.
For a long time, I avoided putting any of my own stuff up at Pinterest. It felt totally self-indulgent to create boards about, say, my book lists here at STACKED or create boards about books I love. Pinterest never seemed like a site about me, and I’m always on the fence about self-promotional stuff. A few months back, I discovered I could see what other people on Pinterest were pinning from the blog, and it was amazing to see people were actually saving things from STACKED (anyone who runs a website or blog can find out too — just swap out stackedbooks.org from that link and input your own site address). You can also see on your main Pinterest page what items from your own boards people have “repinned” onto their boards.
I’ve watched people like Leila use Pinterest to develop boards about book awards and book lists and link to their relevant reviews, and I started thinking about how Pinterest boards about books reminds me visually of a book display. Then I got to wondering what the potential spread of pinning books could be, given that all the things I pin will move to the main page and anyone who uses Pinterest can see these things. It was time to test this out.
Not everything I read ends up being blogged about here, but everything I read I do record on GoodReads. When I end up writing a review for STACKED and it posts, I head over there and link it. I decided in my grand experiment to use my personal GoodReads reviews as the pins.
I created three book-related boards: 2012 Books Read, Favorite books (must reads), and YA Booklists. The first two lists relied entirely on my GoodReads review links, while the final list was made up of the book lists I’ve made for our “Display This” series. With each list, I linked to a cover image and wrote a very short blurb about each of the books I included — I literally wrote the title, the author, and a quick reaction or thought on the title (if it was in the favorite books category). There is space, of course, to write a lot more about each of these items, but my goal was simply to see what kind of immediate spread these pins would have and whether it was worth pursuing this down the road.
After less than an hour, let me just say I am impressed.
This is only a snapshot of the activity other people have had with my Pinterest boards, but take a look at it for a second. In under an hour, my pin of Courtney Summers’s This is Not a Test garnered 10 repins and a number of “likes” (which, I’m not entirely sure what that DOES in Pinterest, but there it is). None of the people who repinned that pin are people who I follow or who follow me. My pin of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood captured 5 repins in the same time frame, and about 75% of the books and book lists I pinned were either repinned or earned a “like” from people with whom I have absolutely no relation. In under an hour. You don’t see that kind of response on a site like GoodReads because GoodReads, unlike Pinterest, is more dependent upon the search method of use. Your friends can see what you’re reading and reviewing, but not ALL of GoodReads can as easily as ALL of Pinterest can. The ten pins my original pin of the Summers book refer only to my original pin; it’s possible and quite likely that those ten people encouraged ten more pins, increasing my reach much, much beyond my own pin.
Let me repeat: in under one hour, the books I pinned into three different boards captured the attention of Pinterest users I have no relation to whatsoever. They found my pins through the main Pinterest page, and they were interested enough to save them and comment upon them. Now they’ve saved a link to not only a book cover, but also they have a link to my book review. I’m able to drive interest not only to the material at hand (the book), but also my own commentary on the material at hand.
I’m going to say that I expect these things to spread further over the next day or two, the next week or two, the next month or two, and they’ll continue to spread as long as people continue to use Pinterest as a tool of spontaneous discovery. If my goal as a book blogger is to spread the word about books (and simultaneously get people to read my opinion on these books), then I’m sold on the two seconds it takes to add my reviews to Pinterest, as well as the other places I post them. I’m reaching an entirely new and different audience — one that doesn’t necessarily engage with book blogs — and I’m able to pique the interest of new readers. I’m already thinking about the possibilities when it comes to things like the “So You Wanna Read YA?” series and how pinning those posts onto Pinterest can lead new readers to YA books (because it targets many of them specifically).
For what it’s worth, Pinterest is invite-only, but it’s easy to track down people who can hook you up with an invite — I’ve apparently got an unlimited supply as an early adopter. It’s a potential time suck in terms of finding content, but that’s the entire point (and it makes me smile when people talk about spending all day on Pinterest because that’s the entire principle behind a web discovery tool like it). There is a lot of junk to wade through on the site, especially if you wade through everyone’s pins, rather than just those pins or boards of people you follow. But you can make this site work for you and for the books you want to promote.
Rather than leave you on that note and encourage you to think about using it if you’re into books, I’ll give you some straight up ideas for how to use it. Why not develop a board of your favorite books? You’re creating a content-controlled favorite list and it makes it easy for other people to find potential “best” books and repin for their own sake. Why not develop book lists on specific subjects? I could see the value in having it become added or enhanced content for a blogger or as a way to gather material for a blog post. I’m toying with developing a series of boards about contemporary YA fiction that feature specific thematics (to go along with my database project). Whether or not people follow the boards wholly, there are people who will still find new books through the pins.
You could pin books that feature certain cover elements that are all the same (sad girls in pretty dresses, the almost-kiss face, covers that are all yellow, etc). You can pin books that pique your interest from other bloggers and generate interest that way. You can take a page out of Leila’s book and pin your reviews of award-winning books or use Pinterest as a way to keep yourself on track in different reading challenges or goals. You’re not only reaching your followers on Pinterest; you’re reaching potentially everyone who uses the site. Another bonus — at least in my experience — is the setup of Pinterest also seems to make images appear higher within the Google image search algorithm, meaning you may also be reaching people via traditional search methods.
If you’re on Pinterest, I recommend spending a little time thinking about how you could use it to further spread the word of good books. And if you’re not on Pinterest, I highly encourage you to consider it, whether for personal pinning or for the ability to discover a wealth of new things. I think the potential ability for not only bloggers, but authors and publicists, to utilize the service is wide, as well. All it takes is a little time and creativity.
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian turned editor for Book Riot. She's the author of IT HAPPENS: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader and the forthcoming Feminism For The Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, Spring 2017).