Is Pinterest A Waste Of Time Or A Hidden Goldmine?

This post by Nancy McAleer of Anna Maria Island Home Rental is part of a new VRMB guest post series designed to cover innovative subjects and give greater texture to the voices of listing site independence. If you enjoy it, feel free to leave Nancy a note in the comments area.

While researching about the correlation between vacation rentals and Pinterest, I’d have to say I was definitely underwhelmed! The articles I found cover just the basics of how to sign up, create a board...etc. Which leads me to believe the authors of these posts do not use Pinterest themselves. They’re only scratching the surface of how to best utilize Pinterest. In this post, I’m going to try to debunk the mysteries behind Pinterest and how to really maximize this social media platform.

I have to admit, I consider myself a Pinterest student and really don’t know absolutely everything about it (ie: promoting pins). I am however an early Pinterest pioneer in the vacation rental genre. I joined in 2012 right after I bought our vacation rentals and immediately saw the potential of using this digital scrapbook to enhance our guest experience. In 2014, I really saw what an impact it could make on sending traffic to my website, after I hosted several bloggers at my vacation rental and a contest to blast the articles.

1) What is Pinterest?

a) Features, Advantages, Benefits

Features: According to Pinterest, it’s a “visual bookmarking tool that helps people discover and save creative ideas.” It’s a huge platform used to showcase my vacation rentals and the surrounding area through photos. In my opinion, Pinterest has moved from a scrapbook platform with beautiful photos into a search engine and e-commerce platform for its users.

Advantages: Pinterest is a cool, cost effective, social media platform, used to market products, places and experiences. My photos have direct links to my website content. At present I do not use promotional Pins (Pinterest ads), so Pinterest for vacation rentals only costs me my time to pin.

Benefits: Pinterest is a traffic generator for my individual VR business and in some cases has garnered me a booking or two. But the reason I joined Pinterest was to create a better, more complete guest experience. I also joined Pinterest to build trust with potential clients who do not know me.

b) Why Pinterest is perfect for vacation rentals, specifically Anna Maria Island Home Rental

Check out my Pinterest report card for 2015 (below). Pretty sweet right? To put it into perspective for you, I have a WIX website that I created myself about 3 years ago. I own 3 properties. I am a vacation rental owner, not a property manager. In 2015 I received the same amount of views on Homewaway/VRBO that I did on my website. Pinterest drove 27% of the traffic. Although these stats are pretty good, I have plans to work my way to the top of the class in 2016.

Anna Maria Island Home Rental’s 2015 Report Card Stats:

1,866,351 saw my pins
19,243 re-pinned my content
4,761 visited my website

c) What to expect, a few demographic stats (50,000 ft view)

Let’s not get ahead of myself, and start at the beginning. Firstly, if you want any social media platform to work for your vacation rental, you need to ensure your client profile matches the demographics. Pay attention to your ideal match. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr are all major players. Check out the Pinterest statistics by Pew Research Center to see if Pinterest is right for your vacation rental business.

Percentage of Internet Users who use Pinterest

Photo credit: Pew Research Center

How to determine whether it will work for you

My client profile is professional, middle to upper class, families ranging in age from 35 to 60. Usually it’s women who contact me to plan their family vacations. I gather these stats from information I take with reservations. I do search my clients on Google+, Linkedin, etc… to join my networks. With these stats in mind, Pinterest is a perfect match for vacation rentals.

2) How to Start on Pinterest

a) Registration

I recommend you register as a business to allow you to get Pinterest Analytics. After you register follow the steps provided by Pinterest to get your website verified. Click the following links to get you started.

Get Pinterest for your vacation rental

Photo credit: Pinterest

Next step is to get the Pinterest Pin on your browser, to allow you to pin content quickly and easily. The following steps depend on your internet browser and website platform.

Add the ‘Pin it’ button on your website content that you wish for viewers to share.

Handy button for making pins

Photo credit: Pinterest

b) The Ins and Outs of Your First Pin

Always Be Aware of Your Client Profile

Before you just go and start pinning any and everything you can find, ensure that your articles are geared toward your Pinterest client profile. Do not just pin haphazardly as that will dilute the target of your initiative.

Be Visually Stimulating

“Pinterest is about achieving goals, dreaming of beautiful spaces and places, and planning future projects and travel plans”. (Pinterest)

Let’s face it: a Blog without a photo is really boring and will not likely garner many visitors to your article. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten sucked into the world of Blogging only to come up for air when the kids beg me for dinner. Great photos and a smart Blog article can guarantee you a steady stream of traffic to your website for years to come.

c) Good Habits to Follow

The best ways to garner social media attention to your Blog articles are sharing them on Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Instagram. You need to make it easy to share your article so it doesn’t receive a one-hit-wonder lifespan. What I love about Pinterest is that I really don’t have to do much. My followers and their followers and their followers and so on and so on do all the work for me. The life of a Pin is not limited to the date it is posted. It continues to stay alive and shared for years!

Make sure to select the right photos:

  • A photo that you have permission to use (your own, a friends', a photograph you purchased (ie: istock.com), Flickr Creative Commons, etc...
  • Always annotate the title of your article, website or brand name on your lead photo when posting content on your Blog. This decreases the likelihood of someone stealing your image and using it as their own. It also helps people search you and your business.
  • ​Ensure your images have space for your text or title, basically what you want your readers to know. This may technically be called the rule of thirds, but let’s keep it simple as possible. You need space for your title to be clear and concise.
  • ​Ensure your text is in colours that compliment the colours in your images
  • ​Ensure your text is fun and different. You can download fonts on my favourite free fonts website or use Canva, or any other app that may suit you better.
  • ​Eye catching high quality images. You can even create and combine multiple images onto one space. The templates and ideas are only limited by your imagination
  • ​Ensure that each image has Alt tags with keyword descriptions on your images. Refer to Google ‘Image Publishing Guidelines
  • ​Make your photos a snapshot of your article that is Useful and Helpful... following Matt’s Help Don’t Sell technique

Be “Pinnable"

Add the Pinterest social media buttons to your website to make it easy for visitors to pin and share your content and photos. Don’t just add them to a social media bar, but do add buttons (available in different sizes) next to the photos that you want pinned.

Be Helpful

- 59% of Pinterest users click on Pins that link to blog posts and articles. Only 25% actually click through to the website. Stay focused on Matt’s Help Don’t Sell Mantra. My clients are searching Pinterest like they search Google. They enter keywords to search for their interest. Usually travellers are interested in finding out about the area before they decide to start searching for a vacation rental. Posting my local expert information about my area, helps lead people to my website. In order to get them to click on my photo to read about it, it needs to be compelling. I have a secret board that I pin inspiration photos that I would like to emulate for my own articles in the future.

Leverage inspirational Pins for Your Vacation Rental to Drive Engagement

- Organize your boards! Make a board for each of the categories that your guests have asked you about. Restaurants, Things to Do, Area Attactions, Shopping are all obvious ones and will have a high search rate. Check out your local trip advisor forum to see what travellers are searching for. Make a board for each of these categories.The best boards are inspiring and visually beautiful as well as content rich.

- Pin a lifestyle that represents your brand. Do not pin solely your vacation rentals. This will influence emotions and buying behaviour of the vacation traveler. Instead, focus on all the peripheral things to do, food to taste, sights to see, clothes to wear...etc. about your destination.

Be Professional

I’m still growing in this area and have made a shift in 2016 to make my photos and content more professional. I’m doing this by using better graphics. I communicate my last minute deals and insider guide type information with slick looking magazine-quality graphics using the Canvas app mentioned above.

Be Social

Do join Pinterest Group boards, this will give you a larger audience than simply your own followers. Posting content that fits the group board profile with fabulous photos and interesting articles will increase the number of visitors to your website and hopefully convert into clients.

How to Join a Pinterest Group Board:

  1. Read the instructions on the top of the Group Board. Each administrator has their own rules about what they would like on their boards. Many do not allow advertising, so if you don’t want to get kicked out do follow all of the rules.
  2. Contact the “Board Administrator” and ask to join the group. They are the first person’s icon on the top left hand side of the board.
  3. You need to give the administrator your e-mail address associated with your Pinterest Board.

Alternatively, invite other brands/bloggers from your area to join a group board that you have created. This is a great chance to kind of become your own influencer in a way!

3) Best Practices

Be Business Minded

When you sign up for Pinterest for vacation rentals using a “Business Account’ you will have access to Pinterest Analytics. Here you will be able to see what Pins and boards are performing and which pins are getting click-throughs and re-pins. The analytics also offer demographic information.

Advertise Blog Articles and Website Information

There are a lot of steps that I have learned such as keywords, adding a place to your pins, descriptions, website links and more. Here is a great article for the Basics of Pinterest for Businesses.

PS: As of January 2015 there are over 70 million Pinterest users... that’s one heck of a free pool of potential clients in my opinion!

CASE STUDY

I always like to see people who have done it before trying new things. Check out how this small photo book business was picked up by a blogger and got 48,000 hits to their site the following week! Access the case study.

Pin Videos

For vacation rentals, Pinterest is all about visual stimulation and beautiful photographs of various subjects. But it doesn’t stop there. Do pin your home video tours and videos of your local area to highlight the vacation experience that you offer.

Example of a Vimeo Pin on Pinterest

Promotable Pins

Pinterest is slowly rolling out promotable pins. I am an individual vacation owner who currently does not need to promote my business through ads on social media. I have a high occupancy rate, so I will leave this article for another day. But like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, you can pay to get more exposure on Pinterest.

Be Found

If you are just pinning...you are doing it wrong! Don’t just re-pin posts from other businesses. Pin your own original articles and photos. Then go back to your board and take the time to edit your pin to add your “place”, a detailed description with keywords of your article and a CTA like “Read on” or “Click for details” as well as ensuring you have a link established.

I have changed the Pin description to a "Rich Pin" below by adding keywords and specific information about the Pin:

Check it out! Our Insider's Guide to the Best Beaches of Anna Maria Island, Florida. Click to read about Insider's Tips, amenities, beach accesses, things to do, beachside restaurants and more....
Vacation Rental Pinning Best Practices

Be the Local Expert

Small businesses like vacation rentals are up against huge competition. The way to get your foot in the door to drive traffic to your website is to become the local expert. I’ve tried to create the largest hub of information for my geographical area and have succeeded in offering the most boards, pins and followers than any other business in my local area. That includes the local county tourism board and property management companies that have over 300 units in my area. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to brag here. It’s been a ton of hard work and man hours to get me in this position and I do think being an early pioneer in this area has helped immensely!

Pinterest Users love being told what to do….

It’s true there are a lot of ‘How to’ pins in Pinterest, the landscape of Pinterest has changed astronomically in the past few years. There are tons of checklists, how to’s, guides, info graphics, maps and more. By being the local expert, you need to exploit this in your Pinterest marketing. My Insider Guide is one of my most popular pins.

Don’t make this mistake that I did!

I started my Pinterest page for my personal use, then it expanded into a marketing platform for my business. My background is in retail and I have a love for clothing and interior design. One of my most popular pins is a blue and white dress I purchased for my daughter (to date it has 2,697 re-pins and 631 likes). That has attracted the “wrong type of follower” for my business. I also have boards for a personal basement renovation, etc...Don’t do that! If you can’t help yourself like me, make a secret private board so no one can see it but you. You can only do this when you create a board, not after it’s published…. ugh!

Be Analytical

To measure your Pinterest successes, use your Pinterest Analytics. Once you set up your Pinterest Page and start Pinning from your website, use the Pinterest Analytics to find out what people are responding to. Here is an article to get you started.

4) Goals and Takeaways

Going from good to the top of the class….

My Goals

  • Narrow my Pinterest followers profile to target travellers to my area
  • Create a Pinning plan to compliment my Blog schedule
  • Create interesting articles and thumbnail photos to attract the ‘right’ engagement
  • Track Pinterest Analytics to gage my success on a regular basis
  • Optimize my website for pinning
  • Review and update old pins for rich descriptions using SEO keywords, links and location
  • Create better, professional images keeping in mind my 2016 branding strategy
  • Increase exposure by joining more group boards targeting travel experiences
  • Continue to cross promote Pinterest Pins through my other social media platforms (Facebook & Twitter)
  • Work with Bloggers to get more brand exposure

Follow this link to make your Pinterest 2016 goals

Feel free to share your Pinterest report card and goals in 2016 in the comments below.

Happy Pinning!

Matt's Key Takeaways

I want to first thank Nancy for this super comprehensive guide on how to use Pinterest: she is so good at explaining this stuff! I have to admit, I have never so much as created a Pinterest account, so my main takeaways from this post were as follows: (1) the typical Pinterest user is eerily identical to the typical vacation rental guest: we need to be where our potential market hangs out, (2) when done with a helpful (not salesy) twist, Pinterest can drive high quality traffic to your website (in Nancy's case, it accounted for 1/4 of her visitors), and (3) if you're looking to create a brand around your vacation rental, Pinterest is a great place to begin searching for inspiration and shaping that identity.

If anyone has questions for Nancy, success stories they've experienced with Pinterest, or takeaways from this guide, please use the comments section below.


    1. Great photography Purple Home! Try going back to edit your Pins to include more detailed descriptions, places and ‘Rich’ keyword information. Also, I would recommend beefing up your profile description to tell people what your business is all about. Happy Pinning!

  1. This is a well detailed article and useful article Nancy! One thing users may want to also incorporate is adding UTM codes to their pins so they can track that traffic back to their site more accurately. Also, in Google Analytics you can segment your traffic from Pinterest to make sure that your Pinterest traffic bounce rate is low, what pages they visit and where they exit. Do your Pinterest users spend time on your site or do they click and leave? Do they travel from your blog post and ever come back again or do they come back and book? Pinterest is a brand strategy, but for some who may think this strategy will actually bring them direct bookings they may want to track how much time they spend on Pinterest versus how much quality traffic the site is bringing them over time. The best way to determine if Pinterest is a valuable ROI is to track and measure. Let me know if you need more info on this!

    1. Excellent advice Jodi! I love using Google Analytics to track my Pinterest user metrics. I have to admit when I started Pinning years ago, I had no idea what I was doing! I was just trying to gather as much information on my area as possible. Now that I have honed a solid brand and marketing strategy it’s driving more quality traffic to my website. I still have work to do in this area, but the traffic generation alone since I started using Pinterest has helped my website’s Google ranking.

  2. Nice comprehensive article, Nancy! Generally I set clients up with Pinterest Pin-it buttons if they have a image-heavy site and blog. But I will refer then to this article if they are interested in going farther with Pinterest. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Dawn. I think it’s really beneficial to add Pinterest even if it is not an image heavy site. Pinterest is an easy way for travellers to create a “Favourites” list if you will by pinning a website to their “Vacation Planning” board. When I didn’t have my newest vacation rental property photos in a pinn-able format, many folks pinned my VR, where just my logo was pulled up. I was surprised that they kept it.

  3. Wow, thanks for such a thorough and thoughtful job Nancy! I’m going to have to re-evaluate where we go and where we want to be seen in the online world. Hattip to Matt as well for this gem. Andy

  4. I am noticing that pininterest is taking over the the content on image searches so your posting iis timely.
    Unfortunately I believe it encourages the infringement of copyright laws under its present TOS. My photos were pinned without my permission and no reference or click through was incorporated. I believe that it is particularly damaging to photographers amd expect a class action suit against It and could meet the same fate as Napster.
    It could serve as a clearing house for copyrighted material and function as a good medium as you use it, but presently it doesn’t.

    1. It’s a great reason to ensure the photos that you yourself own do have a watermark on them advertising your business Mark. Alternatively, if you don’t want the watermark to show up on your website, then behind the scenes in the ‘settings’ of a Pin, you can choose another image (the same one WITH a watermark) to show up on the actual PIN that is being used.

      I’m not sure why there was no link to your pinned content. You would have to do some trouble shooting using the Pinterest for Developers section or Google Business Analytics. There could be many factors.
      I have used the Pinterest for Developers to help me;
      https://developers.pinterest.com/docs/rich-pins/overview/

      As with many platforms including Tripadvisor, Facebook, etc… they include in their terms of service the right to use the PINs.

      b. How Pinterest and other users can use your content
      You grant Pinterest and its users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using the Pinterest Products. Nothing in these Terms shall restrict other legal rights Pinterest may have to User Content, for example under other licenses. We reserve the right to remove or modify User Content for any reason, including User Content that we believe violates these Terms or our policies.

      More about Pinterest Terms of Service here:
      https://about.pinterest.com/en/terms-service

      1. Sure.. Last week we had a young UK couple.. early 30.. The boy wanted to do a wedding proposal. So he asked us one week before for some flowers…a bottle of champaign ….and to light the fireplace.
        ..good old romantic school..

        1. What a lovely photo! If you can, try to increase the lighting/exposure on it. Then pop it into Canva app and add text to it. Maybe create a Blog article about ‘The most romantic wedding proposal White Rooms has ever seen’ and start Pinning! Love it!

  5. Good morning Nancy, I already have 93 boards on my Pinterest account and the subjects are all over the “board”… Would you suggest creating a new account specifically for my rentals in this circumstance?

    1. Without seeing your Pinterest Profile… I’m not sure.
      With 93 boards I am assuming you have A LOT of followers, depending on which boards they are following, they may or may not be your ideal clientele. You will have to go into each board and check the followers.
      If the majority of your boards are relating to your business, you may want to consider deleting the boards that don’t relate to your business and switching your current profile over.
      You can easily change the name of your profile to your business name in the profile settings area
      You can change your current Pinterest account to a Business one and have your website verified.
      I did it backward that way too when I started, the only downfall is that not all of your followers will be your true guest. But you will have more eyes on your profile compared to starting from ground zero.

  6. Wonderful post Nancy! Thanks so much for sharing your vast experience. I always love to read your posts on social media, as I consider you the Vacation Rental Social Media Queen.

    Move over Matt Landau – another guru is here to stay!

    1. I LOVE bloggers!!! I have to admit I’ve learned so much from working with them and analyzing what they do to gather large amounts of followers
      I highly recommend working with Professional bloggers, they will give you an instant boost!

  7. Nancy, after reading your excellent advices I started to use Pinterest. I am sure that there is a big potential there but till now didn’t manage to get one single follower. Everybody seems to be trying to sell something and nobody seems to be there to buy it. But of course I may be completely wrong since I am still struggling to find suitable groups. Hope to improve.

    1. Keep at it… As long as you are posting valuable information in relation to your destination and not being too sales-y, your following will grow. Do keep in mind to add keyword rich descriptions and the location to your pins, that way people will forget bad what they are searching for. Cross promoting your Pinterest boards will also increase your following.
      Good Luck!

  8. We seem to be building a good following for Istanbul Place Apartments on Pinterest, but I think I need to get going with the Rich Pins. Even if Pinterest doesn’t give us much in the way of direct leads, my feeling is that it provides some background information/trust if prospective guests check out our profile:
    https://tr.pinterest.com/istanbulplace/
    Thank you for your helpful article Nancy. If you can see other ways for us to improve I’d love to hear.

    1. Hi Julia,

      You’re doing a great job on Pinterest already… Congrats!
      I would suggest placing keyword rich words on the titles of your boards… For example instead of ‘Our Holiday Apartments’ I would rename that board ‘Istanbul Vacation Rentals’ or ‘Istanbul Holiday Rentals’. You want to choose the words that people will enter into the search bar of Pinterest to FIND what they are looking for.
      If you create a Blog page on your website, it will be easier to constantly post useful and interesting information that will link Pinterest users directly to your website.

      PS: Loved Istanbul when I stayed there last summer for a few days. It was truly unique and the food was AMAZING!!!

      1. Many thanks Nancy. I’ve started tweaking the board names, as you suggest, and I’m half-way through writing my first blog post – a bit of a hurdle. All great advice. It’s great to hear that you enjoyed Istanbul. If you’re heading our way ever again do please get in touch!

          1. Hi Julia, sorry just saw your comment from 2 months ago. I had a chance to read your latest blog post. Well done by the way for continuing with it. Just remember to create ‘links’ within your text to your properties and home pages, etc… within your website. It will help draw the reader that came to you via social media to understand your business and what you are offering. It’s sort of like inserting a ‘call to action’ button within your blog article. I also like to include a little ‘call to action’ at the bottom of each of my blog articles so that a reader can easily contact me through a contact us button or something like that. Hope you are doing well and thriving with the upheaval in your area. Best of luck!

          2. Thanks so much Nancy. Yes it’s tricky times for us. We’re treasuring the journalists and human rights activists that we’re hosting more than ever these days! Sadly my ‘family travel’ blog post isn’t much use at the moment, but I do appreciate your point about linking more from the blog and will do that in future. You’re also making me think that a page on our website dedicated to email-list sign-up would be a good idea, along with links from blog to that too. And perhaps some sort of new adventure-travel-motivational Pinterest board! *sigh*

  9. Thought I would share my latest guest inquiry’s comments that I got today… she found me through Pinterest. Although I am already booked and couldn’t accommodate her, she gave me some great feedback without solicitation….
    It’s a great lesson to work towards listing site independence. It seems both the guests and the owners want the same thing. We just have to find a way to connect with our respective community/guests.

    “Hi Nancy,

    You’re doing a great job getting your property out on Pinterest!! I can understand why you’re booked. Thanks so much for the help. You sort of dominate Pinterest. I’m trying to stay away from VRBO as they have gotten expensive with fees for homeowners and vacationers, but it’s not always easy.

    Feel free to pass along my email to anyone on the north end with a pool and, hopefully, a view!
    Thank you so much for passing my information along! Best wishes!

    Thanks,
    Courtney”

  10. Hi Nancy,

    Would you say there is a board you created that has specifically attracted people to renting your properties or did you have previous clients who struck interest in other properties via Pinterest and booked that way?

    Thanks!
    Megan

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