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What Is Pinterest, And How It Works – Like Really Works!

Pinterest is a search engine. And this is something Pinterest does state on its website. Visual discovery.

Pinterest does not categorize itself as a ‘social network’ when you visit their ‘What is Pinterest?’ page. The majority of people think and associate Pinterest as a social media platform. When, in reality, the social aspect of the site is abysmal. The CEO of Pinterest Benjamin Silbermann said in an interview that “Pinterest isn’t a social network.”

Pinterest is a visual discovery platform and thus making it more of a search engine than a social network.

What Pinterest is all about

Pinterest is all about images and videos, all things visual a.k.a pins. Pins are the things you talk about when you use Pinterest. 

According to the CEO of Pinterest, Pinterest is about giving insipirations to people.

Google, as a search engine, gives you results in a text format and as links to websites. Pinterest gives you results in a visual form. Images, videos, people, products, boards, and pins are the things you can search for in Pinterest.

Pinterest is growing fast as a platform. In the year 2016, there were roughly 128 monthly active users, and when we got to the year 2019, there were already more than 300 million monthly active users. That is a growth of 234% in just three short years.


Pinterest IPO

In April 2019, Pinterest released its IPO. The company went public on the stock market and now trade under the ticker PINS on the New Your Stock Exchange.

How Pinterest works

When we understand that Pinterest is a visual search engine. We start to think of it a bit differently. Rather than finding people to follow or swaying people to support you. We focus on creating beautiful pins/images that attract our potential customer or website visitor.

Pinterest is about visual discovery, and so we must put our efforts on the image and getting that shown in people’s home feed.

The home feed (also called smart feed in Pinterest) is the first thing you see when you log into Pinterest, ideas that might be of your interest. The goal in Pinterest is to get traffic to your products, services, websites, and content. 

How you can use Pinterest

You can use Pinterest either by visiting through your web browser. If you use mobile you the option to download the Pinterest app to your phone and use Pinterest that way.

Pinterest is free to use and does not require you to insert credit card details when signing in. When and if you want to place ads into Pinterest, then a credit card is required.

You can sign-in to Pinterest with your email address, Google account, or Facebook account. You can not use Pinterest without an account, so it’s a must to have if you want to use Pinterest.

Pinterest asks you a few questions and figures out your preferences so that it can personalize your experience inside the platform.

People use Pinterest for multiple reasons, such as:

  1. Finding inspiration
  2. Finding products and services
  3. To promote products and services
  4. To share content
  5. To get website traffic

How to use Pinterest effectively

You start by creating an account to Pinterest. When you have created your account, you can start using Pinterest.

Inside Pinterest, you can change your account settings, claim a website, enable or disable notifications, privacy & data, security, and apps.

Settings adjusted, it’s time to get familiar with boards, pinning, creating images, following boards, and using the search bar.

Below I will go into detail how you can use Pinterest effectively.

  1. Setting up a Pinterest account
  2. Settings
  3. Business account
  4. Pinterest analytics
  5. Creating boards
  6. Creating images/pins
  7. Pinning other people’s images on Pinterest
  8. Pinning images from websites (Pin it button)
  9. Following boards
  10. Group boards
  11. Following people
  12. Using the search bar on Pinterest
  13. Rich pins
  14. Ads

1. Setting up a Pinterest account

You set up a Pinterest account by visiting website or downloading the Pinterest app to your mobile phone.

As mentioned before, you can use your email address, Google account, or Facebook account to sign in to the service.

Setting up a Pinterest account is a pretty straightforward process but what you want to remember is to set up your feed to include things you are interested in. This option is presented to you when you sign up to use Pinterest.


When you have created your account, a feed is presented to you. Including ideas/pins for you to discover. Remember that Pinterest is about visual discovery, and users are using the platform to get inspired.

Pinterest has mentioned that 98% of Pinterest users go out and try the ideas they find on Pinterest. What this means is that people are looking for products, ideas, and services from Pinterest.

This makes Pinterest a search engine first and foremost so you might want to use it from that perspective.

You should also think the reason you want to use Pinterest and what is the purpose of joining the platform.

For business purposes, it’s useful to know that out of the 300+ million users it has, around 70% is female users.

2. Settings

From the settings menu, you can adjust your personal information related to your Pinterest account. You can customize notifications, privacy, and security settings as well as upload your profile image.

From the settings, you can also adjust whether you want to make your Pinterest account a business account.

3. Business account

If you change your personal Pinterest account to a business account. You can use Pinterest analytics which is super useful if you want to take advantage of Pinterest from a marketing and business perspective. 

4. Pinterest Analytics

If you create a business account, you can access Pinterest analytics. The analytics give you insights on how your account is performing and what type of audience you are reaching, for example.


You can enable and disable different filters to get specific data on the performance of your account. It might take a while before you see any real results with your account.

Analytics has filters for:

  • Content type
  • Claimed accounts (website, social media accounts)
  • Devices
  • Source
  • Format

Analytics is especially useful for analyzing the performance of your pins link clicks, link click rate among other metrics.

5. Creating boards

When you have your Pinterest account set up, settings in place, and you know what you are going to be using Pinterest for.

You can create boards by going into your profile and selecting the Boards tab.

You create a board by clicking the red + button ‘Create board.’

Create board

Select a name for your board. The name should include a description that says what the board is all about. If you name the board as Chocolate chip cookies, then the board should preferably include pins related to the topic and shouldn’t include things like car engines.

 You can also select the visibility of the board. Secret meaning that only you see the board in your profile. This is useful if you want to fill your board with pins first and then publish the board for others to explore and discover.

Board settings

You may want to set up your board before filling the board with pins. You can name your board again if there was a typo of some kind or you want to rebrand your board again. Board description should include a small summary of what the board is about. Also, include some keywords into the mix to make the board easier to find. 

If the board is about chocolate chip cookies, the category should probably be ‘food and drink.’

You can change the cover when you have pins on the board. Collaborators are useful when you want to create a group board where others can pin images for you. 

6. Creating images/pins

When you have your board created. You can start to include pins to the board. Select the + button, either the grey one on top of the board or the one with the red circle. Both of these options let you create pins. 

The pin is basically an image or a video. 

Recommendations for images

  • File type: PNG or high-resolution JPG
  • Max file size: 32Mb
  • Aspect ratio: Recommended 2:3 aspect ratio, or 1000×1500 pixels. If you have a bigger pin, it might get truncated.
  • Character count for the headline: Up to 100 characters
  • Character count for description: Up to 500 characters. Around 50-60 characters will be visible in people’s feed. Then a ‘Read more’ text appears instead of your text. 

Recommendations for videos:

  • File type: .mp4, .mov or .m4v
  • Encoding: H.264 or H.265
  • Max file size: Up to 2GB
  • Video length: Minimum 4 seconds, maximum 15 minutes
  • Aspect ratio: Shorter than 1:2 (width:height), taller than 1.91:1. It’s recommended that you create videos as square (1:1) or vertical (2:3, 9:16).
  • Character count for the headline: Up to 100 characters
  • Character count for description: Up to 500 characters. Around 50-60 characters will be visible in people’s feed. Then a ‘Read more’ text appears instead of your text.

‘Add the destination link’, this should point to the article, product, or website that is relevant or about the pin you have posted to Pinterest.

7. Pinning other peoples’ images on Pinterest

When you are browsing and viewing your home feed. You have the option to Save pins from your feed to your boards.

You may want to do this if you’re going to save interesting pins for further exploration. You may not want to pin other people’s pins to your boards if you’re going to keep your boards only for your content.

Boards can be seen as a store for other people. If you pin other peoples images to your boards, you are promoting their content and products. On the other hand, you are creating variation and interesting boards by having pins from other people.

People like to follow boards that have useful pins for them. If your board and profile are filled with only your own pins, then you could be limiting yourself a bit.

You can aim for a balance between having your pins and having other peoples pins. You can also go for a fully branded Pinterest profile that only has content from your site — promoting only your content. Making your Pinterest profile showcasing your business and brand.

8.Pinning images from websites (Pinterest save button)

You can add a ‘Pinterest save button’ to your web browser to make saving images to your boards easier. Without the ‘save button’ you would have to save the image somewhere and then publish that pin through a Pinterest user interface, which isn’t the most time-saving thing to do.


9. Following boards and pinners/people

When you are accustomed to pinning and discovering things from Pinterest. You might want to start following people or boards that are of your interest.

You can do this easily by navigating through a pin to the pinner and then either following all of the users’ boards by selecting the follow button on the right side of the users’ profile. 

You can also select individual boards to follow if everything you see is not for you.


10. Group boards

If you remember the collaborators part from the board creation part. Group boards are precisely those. Group boards are a bit different than normal boards. You can request to join a group board and if accepted in. You can start pinning to that board too (within the rules mentioned in the board), and everyone collaborating to that board will see your pin.

Group boards are useful for high exposure (if and when there’s a lot of people collaborating in the board) very fast. However, group boards can become very annoying very soon, if people start to pin images that you don’t want to be pinned into that board. 

Group boards can be useful if you like to gain exposure to your profile and content. But it can be a bit annoying to own one. 


11. Using the search bar on Pinterest

You can use the search bar to search for your pins, product pins, videos, people, and boards.

To activate the above feature, you first have to type keywords or a search query to the search bar for the menu to appear on the right side of the search bar.


12. Rich pins

Rich pins are pins that have more options and data included with the pin. There are four types of rich pins currently:

  • Article
  • Recipe
  • Product
  • App

You can apply and activate rich pins by adding meta tags to your websites ‘<head>’ tag.

You can get the meta tags by searching Pinterest rich pins and getting the needed meta tags from the Pinterest developers site.

You apply and activate rich pins only once to your website, and then every article or blog post has a rich pin feature in them. Meaning that if you have an image in an article and that image is pinned to Pinterest. The pin has rich features accompanied by the pin.

Rich pin on recipe could have, for example, service size, cooking time and ingredients already attached to the pin without you typing those to the description part of the pin.


13. Ads

When you have a business account on Pinterest. You can use ads to promote your pins and content in your profile. 


You can create five different ad campaigns in Pinterest

  • Brand awareness
  • Video views
  • Traffic
  • App install
  • Conversions

Each campaign works a bit differently. And while the features and targeting are not yet as precise as Facebooks Ad manager. Pinterest still offers an excellent selection of targeting, such as language, location, device, keywords, audience interests, etc.

While the campaigns are currently “limited to five different types”, there’s space for more campaign types to come.

Final thoughts

It feels like now that the company went IPO, they can truly grow. They introduced ads a few years ago and considering the growth the platform is having. It’s pretty safe to say that exciting times are coming to Pinterest. 

The user base is vast, and more and more men are finding the platform useful to their online business. While the majority is still female users (around 70%), men are starting to see the benefits Pinterest offers.

Pinterest is an excellent platform for content creators as creating pins for articles and then sharing them on Pinterest is something of an easy thing to do. Especially if you a 3rd party scheduling service like Tailwind.

Pinterest tries to leave the social network naming out of their business and focus on visual discovery, making Pinterest an alternative to Google. In a different way, of course. 

Juha Ekman

Hi there, I’m Juha Ekman. A few years ago, I started my online business selling online courses and digital products. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with learning, especially learning marketing, sales, and everything about passive income. It’s been quite a ride, and there has been a lot of ups and downs along the way. This is the site where I share everything I’ve learned.