2016 Conference

Nailing Pinterest: It’s not all Wedding Dresses and Desserts

Jackie Vetrano
Communications Coordinator
Skidmore College
Can higher education really fit in the same spaces as wedding dresses, DIY, and desserts? It can, and Skidmore College is using their Pinterest account in alignment with two main goals: increase applications, and drive alumni to give to the college while simultaneously breaking down silos.

Let’s start with a quiz (for prizes!):

  • The main demographic of Pinterest users is middle-aged women. This is false. Pinterest has over 150 million active users and the number of male users doubled in 2014. Especially important is that 50% of millennials are on Pinterest to plan their future, which includes prospective students through graduating college seniors.
  • You should delete pins if they don’t see engagement over the first three months. Also false! Pins could take weeks, months, or years to gain ground. Pinterest is truly an investment. You should only delete pins if they have bad images or lead to broken links.
  • Pinterest success is best measured by the number of followers you have. False…ish. You can have millions of followers, but if none of them are engaged, does that mean success? Much like a tree falling in a forest with no one around to hear it…no. Success is better measured by the number of repins, or the number of pins created from your institution’s website.

The Process

What do you have?

Taking a look at what already exists on your institution’s Pinterest account. Was there a strategy set, or was it created on the fly? Sometimes, boards are created with pins that don’t resonate with an audience. For example, Skidmore had a Commencement board, with photos of graduates and no captions. These pins should have been a photo gallery, as not many users would be looking for images of recent Skidmore College graduates on Pinterest.

To determine if a board or pin should stay or go, consider the intention or purpose – does it tell a story, are the pin images quality with helpful captions, and is the link the user is driven to relevant to the content of the pin? By this point in your audit, you’ll start to get inspired for new board ideas, or ways to combine what you already have. Pinterest favors a few number of robust boards instead of many boards with few pins.

Use Search Terms

Skidmore’s website uses Google Search, which provides helpful insight to what users are looking for when they arrive there. 700 or so search terms later, new Pinterest board ideas were created! Many of the search terms could be combined into categories:

  • Employment, student employment, jobs, internships: What resources are available for students who are about to enter the workforce?
  • Visit, campus visit, campus map: What ways can Skidmore show off its campus to prospective students who are using Pinterest to plan their future?
  • Study abroad, spring break: Consider the opportunities off-campus!
  • Dining hall, dining, food: Because food is important to prospective students, while considering current students who may be learning to cook for themselves.

Quality ideas for boards

Thanks to search terms, student opinion, and a dash of creativity, Skidmore has begun to produce pins for new boards, and combined old content to strengthen their presence. Board ideas included:

  • Skidmore Dining Hall Recipes: A collaboration with dining services by hosting easy-to-make recipes on Skidmore’s website.
  • Getting a Job After Skidmore: Using resources found on the Career Development Center’s website to reach students who are entering the workforce.
  • Get fit with Skids: Skids, Skidmore’s Thoroughbred mascot, is featured on a series of infographics, with workouts users can do at home created by Skidmore’s athletic coaches.

Creating a Calendar

Although many social media managers use a content calendar to plan for the day or week ahead on each channel, thinking about a Pinterest calendar requires brains to stretch a little further. Because pins take some time to gain traction, a Pinterest content calendar considers trends and fads that are coming up in the next few months, and not what’s happening today. This includes considering national holidays and fads, as well as cycles on campus and for prospective students.

It’s helpful to break a Pinterest calendar down by month, instead of by day or year. Even though it feels funny, pin content about holiday gifts and wintertime in October! Even though they aren’t relevant in that moment, the pins will be given some time to gain traction.

A Pin-Friendly Website

Thinking back to Skidmore’s goals – prospective students and donors – it was very important to ensure their website was Pinterest-friendly. This will increase engagement with their pins on Pinterest as well as make it easier for users to pin content straight from

The most important step is to confirm your institution’s website. You first need a business account, and can then verify your site with one click. This will give access to analytics regarding your pins, as well as traffic to your website.

Rich Pins involve a bit more work, as it requires additional metadata on your website. There are five types of Rich Pins: movie, recipe, article, product, or place. Skidmore uses recipe Rich Pins, and plans to use article Rich Pins to leverage their upcoming blog. Rich Pins are more engaging than standard pins, as they bold and enlarge the recipe name (for example), include a serving size, and even show an ingredient list sorted by type!

Rich Pins are implemented straight into the <body> on the specific page using Open Graph or Schema. Each type of Rich Pin has a different set of required fields, which are listed on Pinterest’s developer site. After you’ve added your metadata, you must validate the URL – but don’t worry, this is the first and last time you’ll need to.

Maneuvering Content

You don’t necessarily need to create a whole new chunk of content to implement it on Pinterest – after you’ve made a plan, get going with what you already have!

Images are key to high engagement on Pinterest. They should be portrait style, as Pinterest has a maximum width but not a maximum height for pins. Even if you’re not a designer, you can create suitable images using free apps such as Adobe Spark or Canva.

If images are the most important part of a pin, the caption is a close second. These should be roughly 300 words, with SEO in mind. Find your voice and skip the hashtag – Pinterest is really a search engine disguised as a social media platform.

Experts will tell you to pin 20-30 times a day, but let’s be real with ourselves…’aint nobody got time for that! Pinterest favors users who pin consistently over time and not those who pin in big “spurts” with radio silence for days or weeks on end. Think about what is realistic and increase if you can. There are scheduling tools available to help you carry the load, too.

Promoted Pins

A Promoted Pin is a synonym for an advertisement on Pinterest. If you’re going to invest in Pinterest, it requires a good reason, specific keywords, and really really good timing. Even though your calendar is reflective of upcoming fads, your Promoted Pins should be relevant today.

What Now?

Everyone leaves HighEd Web overwhelmed with ideas and things to implement. But where to start?

Next Week: Audit your Pinterest account and determine what should stay, go, or be edited.

Next Month: Create new ideas for Pinterest boards using search terms, your campus culture and traditions, and analytics on Pinterest. Make a calendar, too!

Next Semester: You’re on your way! Implement your calendar and continue to find collaborative opportunities with other departments. Break down those silos!

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By Jackie Vetrano

Jackie Vetrano is the assistant director of MBA prospect management & marketing at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She manages and implements the lead-nurture strategy using email as well as other important touchpoints to encourage prospective students to apply to the top-ranked MBA program. Outside of work, you’ll find Jackie participating in hot yoga, out on a run, or watching reality television. She also enjoys traveling, petting her cat, and spending time with her partner trying new foods and experiences.