What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a site that allows users to “pin” and save visual imagery from across the web, and create boards that group like things together, like a virtual scrapbook of ideas. Users can follow each other, or follow particular pin boards that have been curated by users. They can “like” or “pin” an item, and they can also send it to others. It’s visual heavy, rather than text heavy, but the visuals are less about your personal world and experience and more aspirational. Since it is such a visual-driven, scrapbook site, it’s best to curate from professional photos rather than creating your own images, like you do in Instagram. (If you are a pro, or a really good hobbyist then give it a try! And send me your boards).
Pinterest has an interesting (ha!) reputation in social media. I have the feeling that a lot of big media places don’t know what to do with it, and other places see it mostly as a “mommy-blogger” or “idyllic/unrealistic” wasteland of pins that make pinners go mad with desire and frustration. As a woman who loves pretty things and loves making her surroundings pleasant to be in, and loves cooking and crafts and art and design, I see how easy it would be to dismiss Pinterest as just that wonderland/wasteland.
Why use it as an author?
Even though it can be a little aspirational-heavy, and a source for frustration to some, it is also a great place to help an author or creator focus their brand, as well as a useful tool to inspire or stimulate creativity. I’ve gotten so many ideas from Pinterest for both my writing and my life, that even if it weren’t very useful for social media purposes, I’d still be writing this post.
So how do I use my Pinterest?
As a Creativity Energy Shot:
- When I am starting a new story I create boards for my major characters by “casting” the character. I have already spent a great deal of time thinking about these characters and about their appearances and personalities. Once I have a fair idea of the character, time period, and socio-economic status (to name a few factors) I start searching for actors who can embody this role. I think of what types of roles they’ve played before, what they look like when happy, sad, angry, flirting, and so on, and I look for them in shots, expressions or costumes that I can imagine my characters in. That helps me visualize and describe my characters in more detail, giving them a more realistic range of emotions and reactions.
- I pin clothing that my characters might wear. This is part of the “oohh, pretty!” reaction I so often have on Pinterest, but it’s also about realism. Clothing informs so much about our world, way of life, and way of seeing ourselves, that I’m always trying to learn more about how my characters would have dressed. For instance, if my character is wearing a corset, chemise, drawers, petticoats, stockings and garters, plus her dress, she’s going to have a very different reaction to a hot, sunny day than I might wearing my jeans, tank top and flip flops. Or, if she’s wearing her ratty, around the house dress for a day of tidying and a guest shows up dressed for calling, there will be extra tension in the scene. I need to know about the costumes so I can help inform the underlying details of a scene.
- I pin locations and scenery. Basically, this informs my writing in much the same way that the clothing does. I want to know the world my characters inhabit because it informs their view of the world and their behavior. I also like to think about what a scene would look like if I were watching it in a film, so I love to have strong visuals of a potential room that I can imagine my characters moving through. I think about how a scene would be blocked, and that informs the reactions and behaviors too. This has nothing to do with Pinterest, but you will often find me sketching the exterior or the floor plan of an important location, including major furniture, so that I can more accurately visualize it while I write.
As a Social Media platform:
I’m just starting to transition my Pinterest into a place that can work as both an inspiration to my writing and a platform for social media engagement, so this list might grow in time. These are ideas I’m already working with, or might try:
- As a place to share how I stay motivated. I’ve been adding to a board all of the images, quotes and encouragements I appreciate and can read through when I need that extra pick-me-up. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll probably see some of my Inspiration Monday images from this board.
- As a place to showcase my novel inspirations. Although some of my boards are public now, a few are secret because I’m not ready to share them, or the work they’ve inspired yet. But, once I’m in a place where I’d want to publicize my work, I’d use the character, clothing or location boards I mentioned above, or create new boards that are curated from the others to let others see what my visual landscape was as I wrote.
- As a place to let characters “speak”. The movie Gone Girl did an interesting media campaign using Pinterest to display boards “created” by the character Amy, and inspired by some of the details she mentions in her diaries. If you are familiar with the book or film, you might like to see how they did it. I think it’s a very cool idea, and fits perfectly into the persona the character creates for herself, but it is a little creepy, when you think about this character’s true personality. I think it would be interesting for other authors to adopt this idea, so that their readers can have more glimpses into this character’s world.
- To showcase cover art. If you’re self publishing, this would be a great way to host a contest, get feedback and also some engagement from readers. If you’re traditionally published, it is a great way to show a visual catalog. Sometimes the cover sticks in people’s minds more strongly than titles, as any bookseller who has been asked to find a book with a “blue cover”. Make sure you follow Pinterest’s rules for contests and also know your audience. (Both of those reminders come from Reedsy‘s great post giving a step-by-step approach to Pinterest).
- To generate images for Twitter. Images and Twitter go hand in hand. Using Pinterest, from your own boards, or what you’re liking, is a great way to generate content for Twitter that can be shared, discussed and re-pinned.
- To drive Pinners to your blog. By adding a “pin it” button to your images, or posts, you can let fans pin and save your work, or share it. Unfortunately, this does require a widget, which the free WordPress blog option doesn’t seem to allow, which is why I don’t have one at this time.
Want more tips?
Why not try Pinterest’s brand guidelines for business?
Or Reedy’s Step by Step Guide if you’re really new to the whole concept.
Maybe you want 34 ways to use it?
Are you an author who uses Pinterest? How and why? Follow me on Pinterest and I’d love to see what you’re pinning too!