Pinterest And Instagram: A Tutorial

October 9, 2013 by Michelle

One of the sessions I was most looking forward to at Type A Conference was the Pinterest and Instagram session.  While I use both platforms (and who doesn’t?), I want to optimize them.  I want more followers and interactions and a stronger community.  And of course, I want the side benefit of driving more traffic to my site here.

The session with Sonja Foust and Heather Durdil delivered with plenty of information and tools that I didn’t know about, as well as some recommendations and how tos that are always a good reminder.  I’ve already started changing some things I do from the looks of my recipe images I pin to installing a different Pin It button.  And there’s plenty more to go.

Type A Conference was an amazing experience all around.  I’ve recapped all the Type A Conference sessions I attended, with the exception of the keynotes and the blog design that was a hands on session as I want to focus on the action items I am taking away from this conference.  I feel so much more confident about Vine and Instagram Video, mobile blogging, how to navigate Google+, semantic markup and webmaster tools, and more.

Pinterest and Instagram tutorial from Type A Conference


Why you should care about Pinterest

The first thing is traffic.  Pinterest accounts for 25% of referral traffic.  It’s overtaken Twitter referral traffic recently.  Pintester (Sonja’s site) is 75% referrals from Pinterest, but most sites aren’t that high.  70% of those referrals from Pinterest are new referrals.  It’s a very powerful way to move more traffic to your blog.

Optimizing images for Pinterest

Size matters.  Width is the important consideration first.  The maximum width is 736 pixels on Pinterest when you click on the stream and the image comes up in the big like box (not within the stream itself).  That doesn’t mean your image has to be that wide.  If your blog isn’t that wide, don’t do it.  My blog is 640, so mine are all 640 pixels.  It will show up that wide in the Pinterest like box when someone clicks on it in Pinterest.  Minimally, you want them to be 200 pixels wide, but the photos on your blog should be at least that wide anyway.  If they aren’t that wide, you’ll get bars on either side that don’t look pretty.

Aspect ratio is more important.  When talking aspect ratio in Pinterest.  The maximum ratio is 1:3 – 1 is the width and 3 is the height for the whole picture to show up in the stream in Pinterest.  If it is a longer image, it will be truncated in Pinterest.  If that works for you, that’s fine.  If you go with a longer image, it’s going to get cut off in the stream.

Many images are more like 2:3 because it fits better in the stream and makes it a size that people can easily read and look at in Pinterest, so shoot for a ratio close to that.

Pin It Buttons

Every post should have is a Pint It button.  If you don’t have it on your page , you need to get one.  Pinterest toes the line on what is ok for copyright.  People often won’t pin things unless they have permission to pin, and that Pin It button shows that it’s to to pin on Pinterest.  It provides the tacit approval people are looking for, so add the Pin It button even if images are already pinnable from the browser button, etc.

Another huge benefit of the Pin It button is that you can also specify which image from your post can be pinned.  You may have 10 images but you want one featured when people pin.  It also controls the description, etc more when you use a button on your site. That helps get the image and message onto Pinterest that is the one you want to share.

For your plugin for your pin it description, make sure you write something in there.  That ensures something will pop up in the description when someone goes to pin and saves them the time and energy of writing.  Write it from the perspective of the person who is going to pin, not your perspective.  That will populate when they pin from the Pin It button.  It’s a win win for everyone.

Even if you do put a Pin It button on your site, someone will pin the thumbnail or they’ll pin the wrong image or an ad or someone will download your image and upload it without the link to your site.  To help with that, put your blog information on the image somewhere either watermarking on the side or putting your blog address somewhere on the image which helps if people aren’t using Pinterest properly.  Doing this helps people then find the source of an image.

Telling A Story With Pinterest

The way you tell a story on Pinterest is through images.  The quickest way to tell the story if the photo doesn’t do that on its own is to put some text on your images.  If you’re doing a recipe blog, you might put the title of the recipe on the photo.  Or you might put the title of your blog post.  You might put a quote from your blog.  It all depends on what you’re writing about and what you want to highlight.

Making Pinterest Work For You

To help make sure you’re covering all your bases, name your image something descriptive.  When you download your image from a camera, it’s called something like image_1234.  That description isn’t helpful when the photo is online, so rename it something that makes sense when you upload them to your site.  Make sure you use your alt tag, as well.  Put a few words there because when people pull in a pin from your browser, sometimes the alt tag is what gets pulled in there for the description.  It helps to have that instead of nothing.

Pinterest just implemented new meta tags.  You can put them in your Pinterest images, and that can fix all the problems with people pinning the wrong image from your site, etc.  They can direct people to the right image to pin, as well.  You have to get in the html and do it for every image, but there will certainly be a plugin for this soon.  Keep it in the back of your mind.  Pinterest is always trying to get more powerful about their formatting, so keep up with their blog to see where they’re going.

If you do recipes or news articles or movies or product reviews, there are already meta tags for those categories. It does cool formatting things.  Check out for information on how they work and how to use them.

Analytics for Pinterest

Pinterest has some analytics built in, but you need a business account to access them.  You can do this via  Just click join as a business from your personal account; it doesn’t hurt anything.  You can see how many repins you’ve gotten on a certain day.  You can see how many pins from your website you’ve gotten.  It isn’t particularly useful (yet), but it’s fun to play with.

For better analytics, look at your Google Analytics.  Make sure that’s implemented on your site.  Look at your referral traffic.  You should see that you have some from Pinterest.  You can drill down into that and see the specific pins to see where your referral traffic is coming from.  That way you can tell what images are resonating with people on Pinterest, what content people like, what you may have done differently, etc.  It’s helpful.

There are lots of other analytics sites from PinLeague, Pinalyzer, Curalate, Octopin, Reachli, PinReach, PinPuff, Pinfluence – some are paid some are free.  See what might be interesting to you.

Building a Community

You want people’s eyeballs on your stuff.  It isn’t about putting your stuff up in a drive by and never coming back.  You need to have some well-organized boards.  When people look at your boards, they should be able to tell the topic by the title and what you’re pinning.  Try not to be too crazy about what you’re pinning.

Respond to comments if appropriate.  If someone asks a question, respond.  If someone gives you a compliment, respond.  If someone gives you hate, don’t respond.  Ever.  Just don’t engage.  It is really fun to engage with those who are starting a conversation.  If you have time to do it, it’s a great way to build community.

Don’t forget to pin things you love.  When people want to follow you, they want to see all that you’re pinning.  Just have one Pinterest account for everything, not one for your blog and one for everything else.

Always write your own descriptions when you repin.  The description will pull in from the original pin.  “My grandma tried this deodorant and didn’t like it” may be the original description, but it isn’t talking about your Grandma, so be sure the description when you repin sounds like it’s talking in your voice and sounds like it’s coming from you.  It should resonate when you repin an image.

You Can Schedule Pins

If you want to pin a ton of stuff at one time of day, you can schedule instead.  You don’t want to have people unfollow you if you pin a ton at once.  If you notice that a certain time of day is better for getting referral traffic, then you want to schedule them.  Side note – I had no idea we could schedule pins now, but using third party sites like Pingraphy (free) or Curalate (paid), you can schedule pins.

Ahaology is now a free app that schedules smartly like when pins are most effective – e.g., recipes at a certain time when they get the most traffic.


Your Instagram Profile Must Haves

Your profile should have three main things.  You should have a short bio.  Heather’s bio is: You can totally have mommy baby guilt when your babies are 15 and 18.  It just needs to be something that’s you and makes you real and likeable.

Include a link to your website, but don’t put the link in your profile section.  There is a clickable section where your link belongs, as you can’t click on the profile portion.  You can’t copy things in Instagram from your phone, so make sure it’s in the right place or people won’t take the time and effort to visit your site.

You want to have a photo of you in your profile.  While your kid and dog are cute, you want to have a photo of you so you can connect.  Instagram is really about connecting with people.  Instagram is a look into your life.  You want to know who you’re connecting with.  We’ll see the cute dog and awesome sunset in your photos.

Let your photos do the talking

You want to get close so you can really see what you’re focusing on.  Get low to see images on lower levels if that’s where the photo is.  Move your body to block things if you want to avoid certain images or people in the background.  Move your body so that your subject is in the ideal light and position.

Let your photo lead the eye through the photo.  What is your eye doing in the photo?  Does it stop somewhere?  Does it continue along?  Curves in the right place help.  Take different perspective shots. It keeps things interesting and unique.  You want to think outside the box because there is no right or wrong way to take a picture.

You want to take a picture that tells a story.  While it might not be the best picture, if it tells a story and shares the moment, it’s the one you want to share.  Sometimes you have to pull over to the side of the road because you need to capture the moment.  Take lots and lots of photos to get the right one for that moment.  You won’t get the right photo the first time, and you don’t get better unless you practice.  You can always delete them.  Just keep taking them.  You might take it and others don’t like it but you do.  Or others might like something and you don’t get it.  But as long as it resonates with you, take it and share it.

Instagram Usage Tips

  • Instagram’s photo resolution isn’t very high so if you want to make it a big shot, but you can edit photos with other apps.  You can try Afterlight, Overgram, Beautiful mess, Thonna Designs, Photoshop Express, or others.  Note that the majority of these work with iOS only and not Android or other systems. If someone posts a picture you like, you can ask what filter they used or if they used an outside app for editing.
  • When you post a photo, include a short and sweet description, not a novel.  People will lose interest if it’s too much.  Use hashtags; make up your own hashtags, but don’t use a lot of them.  It gets cluttered and what you are saying gets hard to read, and it’s hard to click on each of 15 hashtags.  If you have 9 or 10, no one is going to click on them to see why they’re hashtagged or what the hashtag means.
  • Don’t like your own photo.  You took your photo, you posted it.  It’s just weird to like your own photo.
  • Send people to your blog by directing them to your blog in your profile, not listing it in the comment.

Instagram Reminders

  • Remember that your photos are searchable if they’re public.  If you’re public, your photos are out there for everyone to see.
  • Do update your bio so that there’s something in there about you.  Update your photo and url.
  • Don’t include links in descriptions.
  • Use hashtags for inspiration.
  • You can participate in photo challenges.  You can really grow as a photographer with your phone by participating in the challenges.  They’re telling you to take a photo of a prompt, but you will also find other people to follow by doing this and vice versa.
  • Don’t share your photo across every platform.  You can share across platforms sometimes, but not every photo needs to be shared across every platform.
  • Don’t worry about numbers. Heather has fewer than 700 followers.  You can’t engage if you’re following 18,000 people.
  • It’s a real time application.  If you post something at 1:01 and 1:02, people have to scroll through it all.  Another side note, I just unfollowed someone on Instagram again today who post too many photos in a row on a regular basis and clogs my stream.  I’ve also blocked her on Google+ and unfollowed her on Twitter for the same reason.  Facebook has already filtered her out of my stream. And this is someone I like who does work I respect.  I’d like to see some things from her but not nearly the output she spews.
  • Don’t post photos you’re going to regret.
  • If you want to repost photos someone else has taken and shared either on Instagram or elsewhere, ask.  Don’t do it without their permission though.
  • Engage with your community.

Liked my recap?  I have more!  At Type A this year, I also wrote about:
Vine and Instagram Video
Mobile Blogging
How to Navigate Google+
Semantic Markup and Webmaster Tools
You can find all my Type A recaps from this and previous conferences under my Type A recap link
And every conference I’ve attended that had good content has been written up under my conference recap category

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