March 12, 2012
Pinterest: Friend or Foe to the Blogosphere?
When I first started blogging, my goal was the same as everyone else. I wanted to draw in readers and create a loyal audience. I scoured the Internet for advice on how to do this and the articles all preached the same thing: Market yourself. Experts said you must spend at least as much time visiting other sites, commenting on other blogs, and getting your name out there as you do on the actual writing. If you don’t network, you may write amazing content but no one but your Mom will ever read it. I have found this to be very true…until now.
What has changed? One word: Pinterest. It is estimated that Pinterest is the fastest-growing social media site ever, even including Facebook. Over the past few months, millions have signed up so they can join their friends in the “Pin” frenzy that is overtaking America. The demographic flocking to Pinterst is largely young adult women, searching for everything from wedding ideas to recipes, to crafts for adults and kids. Of course, bloggers who market to people outside this demographic have not been affected as much by Pinterest.
Before Pinterest exploded, people who start out blogging were often surprised by how long it took to build up readers. There are literally millions of bloggers out there, all trying to acquire loyal readers. The process of slowly winning one follower at a time can be pain-staking. Pinterest is changing all that and proving to be a marvelous gift for struggling bloggers. Crystal Underwood is a great example. Crystal is a Mom with tons of ideas on crafts and activities for kids. She started blogging at Growing a Jeweled Rose only a few months ago. When she first started, she struggled to get even 100 hits per day. Then she discovered Pinterest. Crystal reports that she recently received over 7000 hits in one day. She attributes this entirely to Pinterest. She focused on using graphics to create a “pinnable image” and suddenly thousands of people were flocking to her previously struggling blog. Without Pinterest, Crystal would have blogged about the same content, but only hundreds of people would have seen it.
However, Crystal is not working alone. The true power of Pinterest comes when bloggers collaborate together. Crystal is part of the Kid Blogger Network, which is a group of over 100 powerful Mom bloggers. These women have a collaborative board on Pinterest, which boasts over 12,000 followers. Without this collaborative board, Crystal would have probably gathered a few hundred Pinterest followers and it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective for her. These collaborative Pinterest boards are popping up all over the place and they allow bloggers to work together in a way that was never possible through other social networking sites.
Not everyone has seen results like Crystal did, with an over 7000% increase in traffic, but out of the the 40 bloggers surveyed for this article, every single one reported that their traffic has at least doubled or tripled or more in the past few months and they attribute it to Pinterest.
Even established bloggers are seeing huge spikes in traffic. Deborah Stewart from Teach Preschool has been blogging for two years now and has built up an amazing group of loyal readers with a bounce rate of less than 65%. She has acquired close to 30,000 Facebook followers, which is something even many successful business owners haven’t achieved yet. Yet even Deborah has noticed major change in the past few months. Prior to Pinterest, her site gained steady, healthy traffic every month, but from just December 2011 to February 2012, her traffic doubled. This is a sharp increase for an established site like Teach Preschool. In December, most of her traffic (aside from Google) came from Facebook. However, by February, Pinterest had become her highest referring site (again, aside from Google).
Despite these wonderful outcomes, some disturbing trends are beginning to emerge. Over a dozen bloggers interviewed for this article reported seeing a decrease in comments, which tend to indicate the level of reader participation. A few bloggers did report seeing more comments, but one thing is clear: the huge spike in traffic hasn’t brought an equivalent number of comments. In fact, the ratio of comments to number of page views is significantly lower than it was a few months ago. This begs the question: Are viewers merely buzzing through Pinterest without really reading anything? Many would argue that the entire purpose of blogging is to create a loyal and engaged group of readers. If people aren’t leaving comments, are they really engaged or merely glancing at ideas, like they would a magazine?
Maria from Mama Mia’s Heart2Heart has noticed a drastic increase in traffic (over 1000% increase), but when asked if she has also seen a spike in comments she says, “It really saddens me because I don’t get too many comments anymore. I see that the post is getting viewed and being pinned but not a whole lot of comments about it. Someone mentioned about the bounce rate going up and I’ve noticed that as well. I’m probably getting many first time visitors on my blog through Pinterest.”
With Pinterest yielding such large results, many bloggers report that they are spending less time on social outlets like Twitter and Facebook, since they get much faster results from Pinterest. It is certainly makes logical sense to spend your time where get the most bang for your buck, but will ignoring traditional social media outlets eventually be a detriment to bloggers, especially newer ones?
Several of the bloggers surveyed also reported that they have changed the way they blog in the past few months. They adjust their posts to make them “Pinterest-friendly”. In other words, they try to pick topics that will appeal the most to Pinterest readers and they also create graphics and take photos that look “pinnable.”
While this makes perfect sense, will this desire to cater to Pinterest encourage creativity or stifle it? Once the initial hype of a popular pin dies down, usually within the first 12-24 hours, traffic drastically drops and bloggers must find the next “pinnable idea” in order to sustain the same level of readers.
Creativity certainly doesn’t seem to be lacking on Pinterest, but one thing that does seem to hard to find is revenue for bloggers. Even with numbers like 35,000 hits for one post, zero percent of the bloggers surveyed said that they have seen an increase in the amount of advertisers offering to partner with them. Of course, many bloggers aren’t in this for the money, but the reality is that almost everyone would like to make at least a modest income through blogging.
Traditionally, people though that the more hits they received, the more money they could make. This doesn’t seem to be the case with hits that come from Pinterest, which makes you wonder, is all this traffic really worth anything?
Another concern for the blogging world is a potential for a decreased sense of community through linky parties. In a linky party, the idea is to go to another blogger’s website and “link” your site directly on the page. Then everyone who has joined the party tries to visit other sites so that everyone gets more exposure and traffic. The correct ettiquette for a linky party is to leave a comment on a site and they should theortically feel obligated to visit and comment back. This not only creates more traffic for everyone, but also a strong sense of community as everyone is communicating to get to know each other. However, this can be very time-consuming and it takes a long time to significantly increase traffic this way. Out of the bloggers surveyed, 7 out of 10 reported that they are now joining less linky parties. Let’s face it. Most bloggers have a second job and they only have so much time for blogging and networking. It just makes sense to go where you see results.
Kristen has certainly seen results. She posted on her blog, Busy Kids = Happy Mom, about 37 Lessons for her sons and it really struck a nerve with Pinterst users. That one post alone has received 35,000 hits – a staggering amount for single post. Kristen is also a member of the Kid Blogger Network and although she is very supportive of other bloggers, when asked about linky parties, Kristen says, “I haven’t done any linky parties for awhile now. It used to be the main way I got my name out there; however, they never brought much traffic back to my blog unless I was “featured”. Pinterest is easier to use for me and one post can hit thousands of viewers immediately.”
A few bloggers who were surveyed emphatically say that they still participate in linky parties, so it may be a personal preference, but everyone seems to agree on one thing: linkys are now done for the sense of community with other bloggers and not for the traffic. The blogging world is huge and can be intimidating so it is important for bloggers to be able to rely on each other for support. That is something that will likely never change, even with Pinterest.
On top of the decrease in people wanting to join linky parties, there is another dark side to Pinterest. A few bloggers have reported incidents of what is now being referred to as “Pinterest melt-down,” meaning that Pinterest can actually be a de-motivator. Bloggers see so much amazing content on Pinterest that they begin to wonder if they really have anything additional to offer the world and several bloggers even reported that they considered giving up blogging all together.
Despite these nagging concerns, there is some silver lining. When you dig into Teach Preschool’s analytics, although her view to comment ratio has decreased, her bounce rate, time on site, and page views per visit remain constant. It is encouraging that there wasn’t a sharp decrease in these other metrics:
The steady rate of pages per visit and time on site suggest that Deborah’s readers are still in fact, loyal and engaged in her site. One the other hand, other bloggers did report seeing an increase in bounce rate. It might turn out that Pinterest will be a positive for established readers, but only time will tell if Pinterest can help new bloggers create loyal readers or simply lots of traffic. One thing is clear. Pinterest was an amazing idea and I wish I’d though of it myself!
Special thanks to the following bloggers for their contribution to this article:
Busy Kids = Happy Mom, Growing a Jeweled Rose, Mama Mia’s Heart2Heart, Teach Preschool , Mama Smiles, Nurture Store, Glittering Muffins, Red Ted Art, Creative With Kids, The Mommies Made Me Do It, Carrots Are Orange , Dilly Dali Art, Imagination Soup, Creative Family Fun, JDaniel 4′s Mom, Toddler Approved, Living Montessori Now, Word Play House, Montessori Tidbits, Rainy Day Mum, The Outlaw Mom Blog, Come Together Kids, Make, Do and Friend, Little Stories, Kids* Stuff* World, Paint Cut Paste, Critters and Crayons, Kindergarten for Teachers and Parents
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