THE FORMER APPLE RETAIL GURU WAS SEVERELY HUMBLED AFTER FLAMING OUT AT JC PENNEY. ONLY A STARTUP COULD SAVE HIM.
Most mornings, Ron Johnson rises just after 4 a.m., without the use of an alarm clock, and sets off on a five-mile run. "My strategy is, if I wake up before 3 a.m., I go back to sleep," he explains to a group of his employees, a dozen men and women in their twenties who listen with a mix of awe and a little horror. Next, he hits 50 chip shots in his backyard in Atherton, California—"because your short game matters"—and then, as the sun is coming up, he spends a couple of hours answering emails.
Johnson’s goal is to get his blood flowing before he ever sets foot in the offices of Enjoy, the Silicon Valley e-commerce startup he founded last year, and which officially launched in May. He tries to spend the entire workday in meetings, usually receiving updates and conducting informal reviews with groups of employees like this one.
Johnson has a desk with a computer on it, but he almost never sits there, and although he carries an iPhone, he mostly gestures with it. In my time with him, I never once saw him even glance at the screen. "Anytime you’re going to your phone, it’s a withdrawal from a relationship," Johnson says. "The team needs to feel your presence, your concentration, your interest."
Johnson, 56, has found that he can be efficient this way, so much so that on most days, he heads home around 3 p.m. Family matters to him—he’s married and has a daughter, 20, and a son who’s 18—and, as he explains, he’s not as young as he once was. "You’ll find, when you get older, the cycles tend to get the better of you," he says, leaning back in his chair, allowing his legs to slide forward and his hands to fall behind his head, as he breaks into a wide smile.
His audience, part of a team that delivers high-end consumer electronics to people’s homes, laughs politely. Many of them started their careers at the Apple Store, which Johnson helped create, so they regard him as a hero, and also as a bit of an alien. Although we are sitting in the offices of a small Bay Area tech company, the CEO is dressed as if he’d just stepped off the back nine at Pinehurst—white Lacoste polo shirt, light-blue trousers, athletic socks, and golf shoes. Johnson’s background, habits, and mannerisms run contrary to just about every stereotype about what makes for a successful startup CEO.
Most tech company founders are coolly rational engineers; Johnson is a marketing guy with strong emotions and a penchant for showmanship. He is a regular churchgoer, a man of faith. Most Silicon Valley founders are proud workaholics; Johnson sports a tan acquired during a nearly monthlong summer vacation on the French Riviera. And then there’s the age thing: Johnson is almost twice as old as the typical founder of a venture-capital-backed tech startup, according to a Harvard Business Review study.
Still, he is among the most accomplished retail minds of the past two decades, having orchestrated the design partnerships that turned Target, the Minnesota-born discount chain, into "Tar-zhay", the middlebrow mega-retailer, while developing a playbook that H&M, Uniqlo, and many others have copied. Johnson’s work at the Apple Store created a business that makes more money per square foot than any other retailer in America and helped to transform a geeky niche brand into one as ubiquitous, beloved, and profitable as any American company in history.
Then, he had the audacity to attempt one of the most ambitious business turnarounds in modern memory—remaking JCPenney, the ailing department store chain. Even after the public humiliation of his firing, Johnson could have found work with any number of other struggling retailers, become a very well-paid consultant or investor, or even retired. Instead he is going for broke, having raised $80 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Highland Capital Partners, and Andreessen Horowitz, among other investors, including Johnson himself, to found Enjoy. The company sells consumer electronics via the web—AT&T iPhones, GoPro video cameras, Sonos speaker systems, DJI drones—and has its couriers, or "Experts," in Johnson’s parlance, act as modern-day Maytag Men, hand-delivering the items in as little as four hours (currently in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York) and giving customers lessons on how to use them. The company offers service calls, too, with Experts showing up at your house and helping you learn how to use your digital camera or smartphone. The cost is $99 per visit, though it’s free if you buy something through Enjoy. "What we’re trying to do is deliver unimagined customer experience," Johnson says. "It’s better than a store, it’s the same price as online, and it’s faster than even Amazon Prime."
Enjoy, like all startups these days, dreams of both changing the world and becoming an insanely valuable enterprise. But for Johnson, Enjoy is more than even that. It’s a chance to find himself.
"If you have thoughts, jump in," Johnson says to me as he convenes a 9 a.m. meeting with eight employees in Enjoy’s Menlo Park headquarters late this summer. "Why not?" Having started his career as a trainee at Mervyn’s department stores, he runs Enjoy like a retail manager, paying little attention to hierarchy, preferring huddles to one-on-one meetings, and asking for direct feedback from anyone who happens to be in the room.
At the time of our meeting, Enjoy is about a month away from the biggest day in its brief history: the launch of Apple’s new iPhones 6s and 6s Plus. Thanks to a deal Johnson made with AT&T, hundreds of the carrier’s customers in Enjoy’s delivery areas are expected to buy phones each day, which means that the company’s Experts will have to hustle to fulfill all of those orders. But for the partnership to work for Enjoy, AT&T customers need to see the service as more than merely free delivery. Johnson slouches in his chair, sips from a big bottle of Smart Water, and counsels the group packed into a small conference room. "You’re in the relationship business," he says. "The measure of success is if they come back" and buy something else. "You don’t go on a date to see the movie; you go to a movie because you’re interested in a relationship."
Enjoy’s Experts hope they’ll be able to form emotional bonds with these new customers, but they will also need to gather a raft of data, including email addresses and their technology preferences, so that Enjoy will be able to market to those customers directly. The current plan is to do this through a survey on an iPad, but Johnson thinks that sounds a little tacky. "What if the Expert could do it through a natural conversation?" he asks. "That’s very different from, ‘Give us all your information.’" He suggests that the Expert memorize the responses to input later, the way waiters at fancy restaurants take orders without a notepad.
Johnson, who grew up in Edina, Minnesota, is still very much the humble Midwesterner—he often begins sentences with "my instinct" or "my intuition"—but there’s no doubt who is in charge. When the company’s head of supply chain, Omar Devlin, a former Apple operations guru, suggests that Enjoy shoot to have its Experts show up on time 95% of the time, which he says would be an appropriately impressive, and achievable, goal, Johnson starts to lose his composure. "Ninety what?" he asks. "Ninety-five percent would be a very good accomplishment. But 98% is a better goal." When I ask Johnson about it later, he tells me that he rarely prepares for meetings, choosing instead to react emotionally to what’s being discussed. "I want to create a space where everything is in the moment."
Johnson is full of these Zen-like aphorisms, often telling employees to "ruthlessly eliminate hurry." He projects this calm in part by hurrying when nobody is looking. "Underneath that calm is a boiling cauldron," says Bill Campbell, a former Apple board member and a longtime friend of Johnson’s.
If Johnson’s management style sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s modeled after that of one of his mentors: Steve Jobs. By 2000, Johnson had become a retail wunderkind (at almost 40) after recruiting acclaimed architect and designer Michael Graves to produce a housewares collection for Target, where Johnson was the VP of merchandising. Jobs was in the market for a retail genius to run his planned stores. "Steve and I connected right away," Johnson tells me. After all, he sold Graves by telling him, "Good design shouldn’t be expensive." Jobs saw a kindred spirit in Johnson.
The Apple Stores were, by every measure, an unprecedented success and made Johnson’s then-counterintuitive decisions—the high-end locations for a computer store, the layouts that emphasized what you could do with Apple’s products, and, of course, the Genius Bar—into retail orthodoxy. Less appreciated, then and even now, is Johnson’s idea that he could find enough employees who, as he puts it, "know technology and can love people." He personally interviewed every Apple Store leader and insisted that those folks personally interview every employee on his or her team (often 100 people or more) to imbue Apple Stores with a culture of personal service. "My whole goal was that everyone knew someone well who knew me well," he says.
Johnson’s bet on people was expensive, but it is one of the secrets to Apple Stores’ success. "There’s a Midwestern warmth," says Campbell. "Ron put that humanness in there."
By 2011, Apple Stores were generating $5,600 per square foot, and Johnson was the biggest star in American retail. Johnson admits now that running it had begun to feel "like hitting golf balls"—fun, yes, but no longer some great adventure. "We knew how to design a store, we knew how to deliver a great experience," he says, "but it wasn’t challenging." Not only that, but Jobs had already indicated that Tim Cook would succeed him as CEO; it was unlikely that Johnson would ever get that job.
A few months before Jobs’s death in October of that year, the activist investor Bill Ackman approached Johnson with a particularly intriguing challenge: Could the guy who made Apple a cool retailer do the same for the venerable but dowdy department store JCPenney?
Johnson’s roots were in department stores, so he was tempted. He could stay at Apple for the rest of his career, but should he? Penney’s may have been a faded brand, but it was also a very recognizable name. As Peter Bell, a friend of Johnson’s and a partner at Highland Capital Partners (which led Enjoy’s $50 million second round of financing), tells me, "You can say that Ron had bad judgment. But it would have been glorious if it had worked." He accepted the job.
Johnson’s troubles as CEO started almost immediately. His first public move at Penney’s was to stage an Apple-style launch event, where he unveiled a more youthful logo and a "fair and square" pricing scheme that ditched coupons and sales in favor of round numbers. The changes, bolstered by a dramatic new ad campaign starring Ellen DeGeneres that first aired during the Oscars, represented an elegant solution to the problem of rampant discounting, albeit one that none of the company’s customers, many of them coupon-loving senior citizens, had asked for. (In his 12 years at Apple, Johnson had internalized Jobs’s disdain for focus groups and customer tests, so he hadn’t bothered vetting any of his new ideas.) "We insulted the core customer," he now admits.
Not surprisingly, sales fell precipitously, the company lost close to $1 billion for the year, and the board began to wonder if Johnson knew what he was doing. "You watch Steve [Jobs] do a turnaround and you sit there and think, ‘I would like to be the architect of something like that,’ " says Campbell, explaining Johnson’s thought process. But, he notes, Apple’s turnaround "took seven or eight years, and Ron did not have that chance." Under pressure, Johnson dug in, stubbornly refusing to test new initiatives and reportedly approaching the old Penney’s culture with the sort of contempt Jobs had once reserved for Apple’s competitors. With his family in Menlo Park, Johnson commuted to Plano, Texas, by private jet—all while laying off 19,000 employees.
The adventure, which ended with still more losses and Johnson’s firing in April 2013, damaged his reputation (commentators began to suggest that he’d merely coasted off of Jobs’s brilliance) and his bank account. He had invested $50 million personally in JCPenney warrants, which will only mature if the stock price rises above $30 a share by 2018. Today, the share price is around $10 and Johnson’s investment looks, essentially, worthless.
Those closest to Johnson say he approached failure in much the same way he approaches everything: with preternatural cheeriness. "Ron is relentlessly positive," says John Ortberg, the senior pastor at Menlo.Church, where Johnson regularly attends services. Even so, Ortberg continues, "the criticisms marked him. There’s a recognition of things he can’t control."
Johnson’s friend Marc Andreessen advised him to take a year off, but soon after his firing, startup CEOs started calling, asking him to speak to their teams. "I think they felt sorry for me after the Penney’s thing," he says with a chuckle. He spoke at Airbnb, Dropbox, Box, and Google, and met with founders of up-and-coming retail startups, such as the Bay Area’s Philz Coffee and the L.A.–based clothing brand Nasty Gal. (He’s now an investor in both.) He also met with a number of consumer electronics startups, including Jawbone and Sonos, which were looking for better ways to get their products into consumers’ hands. "The question that kept coming up was, ‘How do we go to market?’ " he says. "The old way is not working."
In a meeting with Sonos CEO John MacFarlane, Johnson suggested that Sonos send representatives to customers’ homes to sell the company’s high-end sound systems. MacFarlane loved the idea—"The best place to experience a Sonos product is in your own home," he tells me—but told Johnson that Sonos, which reportedly sells more than $1 billion in products annually, could not support such an operation. He suggested that Johnson do it himself, with a startup.
Enjoy initially came to Johnson as a tagline. "One day I woke up and said, ‘Order today, enjoy tomorrow,’ " he recalls. The original concept was simple: "What if we just brought the best of the Apple Store to the customer," Johnson suggested to Tom Suiter, a former Apple creative director who had worked with him on Apple Store displays. Suiter, who would join Enjoy as cofounder and its head of creative, loved the idea and began working on branding right away. "I really felt like if there was anybody who could do this, it was Ron," he says.
For Johnson, who was raised Lutheran, the decision to start Enjoy was partly spiritual. He had regular lunches with Ortberg, who encouraged him to think about work as an extension of his beliefs, as "love made visible." Johnson has never talked about his faith publicly, but it’s been a part of who he is since he was a little boy. It informs how he thinks about designing stores and creating great customer experiences. "I’d sum up the whole Bible in four words: Love God, love others," Johnson says. "Most love is not emotional love. It’s rooted in compassion or help. Look at the Genius Bar. You’re just helping people. And so that’s what my governor is: How do you create an environment where you feel this love? Because love is contagious."
Johnson’s rebirth as a startup entrepreneur allowed him to recast the trajectory of his entire career. What he’d loved about Apple, partly, was that Jobs had essentially given him a blank slate. And what had doomed him at Penney’s was that it was an entrenched brand, making the wild changes he’d sought all but impossible. "I realized big companies are not my thing," he says, despite having spent his life working within them. "I love creating, and I love beginnings. It felt like, ‘I can do this.’ "
Johnson was not shy about using his Rolodex to give Enjoy a leg up. His first call was to AT&T Mobile CEO Ralph de la Vega, who agreed to become Enjoy’s first partner, and one of Johnson’s initial investors was Oak Investment Partners, where Johnson’s mentor at Mervyn’s, Jerry Gallagher, had worked before he died in 2014. Johnson did not ask Apple CEO Tim Cook for help; he wanted to prove himself as an entrepreneur first. "If I went to Tim, it’d feel like he was doing me a favor," he says. "I want to earn the right to serve Apple."
On a Saturday night this summer, on a bit of a whim—and okay, maybe after a glass of wine or two—I log on to Enjoy’s website. I’m tempted by a $1,500 Boosted electric skateboard, but my wife quickly vetoes that idea. I then gravitate toward the Sonos Playbar, which is basically a fancy speaker for your television that costs $700, plus tax. Seven hundred dollars seems like a lot of money to spend on a single speaker, but it’s half the price of what I really want, and my wife is open to something that would improve the sound on our TV. Enjoy has a generous return policy, so if I have any regrets, I can always send it back. And hey, this is for work, right?
The following morning, my phone rings. "Hi, I’m your Enjoy Expert, Omar." He sounds genuinely enthusiastic even though he has been assigned to come to my apartment at 5 p.m. on a Sunday. He promises to send me a text when he’s an hour away. Omar turns out to be Omar Pouerie, 26, a former Apple Store employee with a mohawk and a calming presence. He arrives at my front door at 5 p.m. sharp, having already tested and updated the software on my new speaker back at the Enjoy "house," as the company calls its home base in each city. (Enjoy does not have traditional retail space, but rents hip lofts in New York and Menlo Park for its Experts to commune. Johnson is already looking at possible locations in Los Angeles, where it’ll likely land next.)
Omar, who wears a uniform Johnson designed with Uniqlo to convey trust—white button-down shirt, blue puffer vest—works efficiently, and he quickly walks me and my wife through the basics of how to use the speaker. He supervises as we each download the Sonos app onto our phones, and shows me how to connect my Spotify account so that we can stream music. Omar and I trade parenting tips—my wife and I had recently had a baby; Omar also has young children—and within 25 minutes he makes a discreet exit, without pausing for a tip, which Enjoy prohibits. "You gotta have really good EQ," says Johnson, referring to the measure of emotional intelligence. "But you don’t want to get too personal."
The experience is incredibly convenient, and perhaps, more importantly, it makes buyer’s remorse seem unthinkable. By the time Omar walks out the door, I am committed to my extravagant purchase. After all, it’s already blasting music.
This is by design. When Johnson and I speak three days later in Menlo Park, he informs me that over the company’s first 1,000 or so orders, Enjoy hasn’t had a single return, which is one of the reasons the company can afford such high-touch service. Based on typical retail margins, Enjoy probably made about $200 on my Sonos order, which means that Omar only has to make a few visits each day before Enjoy can profitably afford to pay his salary. And Omar does make a salary. Though Enjoy allows its Experts to set their own hours and work remotely like Uber drivers, they get the flexibility of the gig economy with the economic security of a very good retail job—salaried employment, with stock options and health benefits.
If my Enjoy visit felt special, that’s because it literally was. During my time with Johnson and Enjoy in New York later in August, I learn that Johnson’s company—with 135 employees in two cities and $80 million in venture capital in the bank—is only selling a handful of items each day. Johnson proudly notes that on the previous day, a Monday, Enjoy Experts made 20 visits in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, a record for the company up until that point.
The number seems small to me, but not to Johnson. "When you start something new, by definition it’s going to be small," he tells his staff during an all-hands meeting shortly after lunch. "We always tend to want to be in a hurry, but what’s exciting is how quickly we’re learning and improving." He notes that Enjoy is just nearly 100 days old, and that the 20-order day puts it roughly on pace with Uber’s run rate over the same time period.
The numbers will get much bigger this fall with the new iPhone launch, when Enjoy expects to add 10,000 new customers over six weeks. "That’s what’s going to catapult us into the public consciousness," he says, reminding his team that Apple Stores once weren’t much farther along. Johnson recalls that on the morning of the Apple Store’s 100th day, he was driving into the company’s Cupertino headquarters when he got an irate call from Jobs, complaining about a store Johnson’s team had recently opened in the Willow Bend shopping mall, not far from JCPenney’s Plano, Texas, headquarters. "The new store we opened is awful!" Johnson screams, doing his best Steve Jobs imitation.
Johnson tells the story with a fond nostalgia. "These things are hard," he says. "But we’re going to have a better 100th day, aren’t we? And no one’s gonna call me about Willow Bend."
He pauses and glances around the room. "Now, today’s sales could be lower," he adds, with just a hint of concern. "I don’t want to ask how we’re doing today. I hope it’s good." He smiles at the crowd—first at the Experts and then at the executives who are lined up near the company kitchen. He very much wants to know how today’s numbers look.
"A drone [order] just went through," a young woman calls out. The DJI drones that Enjoy sells start at $700, and it's another customer who may return to buy a new iPhone this fall.
It’s just one sale, Johnson knows, but he exhales and a wide smile forms across his face.
Instagram can be an incredibly powerful platform for marketers. With nearly 28 percent of the U.S. population now using it, there is no better platform for marketers who want to promote visual content. While the app alone may be enough to get you started, using the right tools can really ramp up your results. For those who want to take their Instagram marketing to the next level, consider the following:
Ever wonder which images are most effective with your audience or which hashtags you should be using to get the maximum visibility for your images? Piqora lets you know exactly which images get the most likes and comments so you can constantly be improving on your content strategy. Piqora also provides unique hashtag analytics, giving you important insights into which individual users are using certain hashtags, and how influential those users are. This is a great feature for finding and following influencers in your niche.
This is another graphic app that’s easier than easy to use. Simply plug in the text you want, and watch as the app creates a stunning graphic you can download and share on social media. If you want to play around with your graphic to add your own style, you can certainly do this too. With options like color and style adjustments, filters, special effects and text layouts, you can customize your graphics to give them a style all their own. Struggling with finding suitable quotes to use in your images? An added bonus is that Word Dream provides you with hundreds of inspiring and motivational quotes you can use for your designs. Word Dream is available free for a limited time on iTunes and Google Play.
Repost lets you easily repost photos on Instagram while giving credit to the original poster. It also lets you see which photos and users are getting the most reposts, as well as allowing you to search for relevant users, tags and contests. Available on both iOS and Android.
Owned by Piqora (see above), Tapshop lets you turn your Instagram into an online shopping portal. When users click on a link within your profile, they’ll be taken to a landing page full of your products they’ve liked. They can then buy any product on that page, and the next time they "like" a photo on your feed? They automatically get an email with a link to buy that product.
Have you ever noticed your follower count going down, and wanted to know exactly who has unfollowed you? Crowdfire gives you an easy way to find inactive followers and unfollower, find new users to follow and keep track of how your social media updates impact your follow / unfollower numbers.
Do you ever have images on your computer that you want to share on Instagram? You have to get them into your phone, then type your description on that tiny little keyword. With Schedugram, you can now post to Instagram from your computer. It lets you easily schedule and manage your Instagram posts via a single or bulk upload so you can plan ahead. Have more than one account? Schedugram also lets you manage and post to multiple accounts all from the same dashboard.
Iconosquare is another fantastic tool for viewing Instagram via the web. It gives you the ability to respond to comments, search for posts by hashtag keywords, plus a new contest feature. The tool also allows you to easily see who your friends are following, and to see what content is currently getting the most likes and comments via the Populars tab. It also gives you access to a whole host of unique analytics, like love rate, talk rate and post distribution.
Diptic is a photo collage app, however, it isn't like the most other collage apps. Diptic actually has a couple of features that sets it apart such as animated photo collages and video collaging that you can put to music. Unfortunately, the full range of this app's functionality is only available for iOS, but they do have an Android app.
Tagboard allows you to search and follow hashtags to see content that is being shared. It’s a great way to find popular social media posts you can share with your audience. Plus, it also offers a content aggregation feature for events, websites, etc.
Which tools would you add to this list? What’s your go-to Instagram tool? Feel free to share below.
Despite that, it doesn’t get as much attention as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
This is mainly because it’s a unique network. Every single post on it is an image (with a short optional description).
Pinterest can be an amazing traffic source as long as you can create some sort of visual content in your niche.
And although it takes some time to learn how to use Pinterest effectively, it’s pretty simple once you understand it.
In this post, I’m going to show you how you can drive thousands of visitors a month to your website with Pinterest.
2 reasons why Pinterest is an amazing traffic source
The unique aspects of Pinterest are the reasons why Pinterest can be a great option for those businesses whose past social media marketing failed.
In particular, you need to understand two main reasons for using Pinterest to determine if it’s the right platform for you.
Reason #1 – Pins have great longevity: One of the problems with most social networks is that whatever you post stays visible only for a short period of time: anywhere from an hour to a few days at the most.
So even though you’re continually creating content on the network, you don’t benefit from it after you’ve initially posted it.
Seems like a waste, doesn’t it?
But Pinterest is different.
You can make a “pin” (share an image) that will continue to get views and shares over time.
It might not have the level of consistency that good search engine rankings have, but it’s much closer to achieving that kind of impact than any other social network.
If you’re active on Pinterest for a long time, the traffic will really add up.
For example, the food blog Pinch of Yum sharedthat they get about 500,000 visitors per month from Pinterest.
Even if they stopped being active on the network, they would still get a large portion of that referral traffic for the foreseeable future.
Compare that to other networks, like Facebook and Twitter, where your traffic would take a nosedive shortly after you stop posting.
Reason #2 – Pinterest was designed for sharing: One of the reasons why pins live for so long is that users are always looking for more things to share.
If a user likes a pin, they either “like” it or “repin” (share) it.
Good pictures can get hundreds or even thousands of repins.
Unlike other social networks, Pinterest isn’t about posting status updates about what happened during the day. It’s about sharing and consuming images and, by extension, content they link to.
Creating an account that attracts followers (3 key areas)
The first practical thing you need to know is how Pinterest works.
At first, it might seem a bit complex, but I promise that it’s fairly simple.
You start by creating an account, just like you would on any other social network.
When other users visit your profile, they’ll see something like this:
Your profile is composed of 5 main areas:
Your logo - If your logo is very plain, you might want to create a custom image instead.
Your brand name – It should reflect your business, but you could also use a personal account with your name.
Your website URL
A description – A one- or two-line description that explains what you do.
Boards – These boards act as silos for the content you share on Pinterest (your pins are kept inside, depending on how you tag them). You should create a board for each category of images you plan to share (you can do this later).
Setting up your account: To start with, go to Pinterest, and sign up for a new account. You’ll want to select “continue as a business” on the first screen (after you enter your email):
Then, fill out the fields as usual:
If at any point you want to change your profile, you can do so by navigating to your profile and clicking “Edit Profile” in the top right corner:
Using Pinterest is simple: Like I mentioned before, there is only one type of content on Pinterest – “pins.”
A pin always consists of an image. It also typically has a description, which can also include hashtags.
It’s a good idea to include keywords in your description so that you show up when people use the search bar on Pinterest (which they do quite often).
As you can see in the pin above, you can either “pin it” to share it or you can “like it.”
Users see a variety of pins all at once as small versions. They can click on those to see their full versions.
Users can find pins using the search bar or looking through their feed.
Their feed consists of pins that the users they are following have posted (more on this later).
And that’s really all there is to using Pinterest at a basic level.
How to drive insane referral traffic with pins
Because of how Pinterest is set up, driving traffic back to your website isn’t difficult.
Here’s the basic idea:
Pin attractive images from your blog content (or product pages)
Put URL of the blog post as the link
Get as many likes and repins on Pinterest as possible (more views)
Repeat steps 1-3 over and over again
Watch referral traffic grow exponentially
There’re obviously a few finer details in each of the steps, but that’s what the rest of this post covers.
Creating a pin the right way: The one part of using Pinterest that we haven’t covered yet is actually making a pin.
Depending on the popularity of your blog, you might find that your readers are already creating tons of pins for you.
You can check by going to:
Replace “quicksprout” with your domain name.
On top of those pins, you’ll want to regularly make pins of your own to add to your boards.
Unlike with most networks, you can get away, for the most part, with posting only your own content, but it’s still a good idea to repin content from other Pinterest users as well.
To make your own pin, look at the top left of any of your boards. You’ll see a grey “add a pin” button in the top left.
Click it, and either upload a picture or enter a link to an image.
If you only put in a picture, your pin will look very plain, like this:
If you click the pin (anywhere on the thumbnail), it will bring up the full pin.
Click on the “edit” button at the top of the pin:
This will bring up a pop-up that allows you to edit the key information.
You can choose the board where the pin should live as well as enter a description plus the URL that it should point to:
I know it may be tempting to link to a sales page, but always link to the most relevant to the image page. That’s what a Pinterest user is looking for if they click through to the URL.
After you’ve set the website address, users viewing your pin will have two different links that will point to that address:
Now that you know how to create a pin, you need to learn one more important thing about them: how to pick images that users love to share.
Ideally, create one for every single blog post you publish, and then pin it as well.
Type #2 – Infographics (or parts of them): Another type of image that you can use in many ways beyond Pinterest is infographics.
There’s no better way to summarize a lot of complex information in one image than an infographic.
A well-made infographic will drive traffic from Pinterest for years as it will continue to get repins and likes over time.
On top of the standard type of infographic, step-by-step instructions are also popular on Pinterest.
Take a procedure to do something, and create an image for each step of the process:
One big benefit of infographics on Pinterest beyond the fact that they are extremely shareable is that most users will click through to your site to see if there’s more background information on the image.
These types of images do well on most social networks, but they do especially well on Pinterest.
Pinterest users appreciate images with lots of useful information, but they also appreciate a great design.
So something like this, despite just being a custom image for a blog post, can get repinned over 8,000 times:
The downside of these images is that they’re going to cost more than the other types of images.
Unless you have the talent yourself, you’ll have to hire a freelancer from a site like Upwork. Depending on the quality you’re looking for, each image can cost anywhere from a few dollars to $100.
Get hundreds (or thousands) of followers with Pinterest contests
By now, you understand the basics of the network.
One key component of getting a lot of repins and likes is having a large following.
Your followers will see your pins in their home feed and will have the ability to repin them, which will show your pins to all of their followers (and so on).
If you have a really amazing picture, it can go viral even if you have a small following. But in most cases, it won’t happen.
If you have thousands of followers, I can virtually guarantee that you can get a few dozen of repins on any of your pins very quickly, which will expose your content to a new audience, leading to more views, repins, and followers.
In short: getting followers is important if you want to succeed on Pinterest.
I’m going to show you a few different strategies you can use to gain followers and get exposure for your content.
We’ll start with Pinterest contests.
The basic idea is to offer a prize for pinning something relevant to your brand, with the winner chosen at random. If the prize is great, the contest can spread to a wide audience, and you can pick up a lot of followers.
Unfortunately, these aren’t as effective as they used to be because Pinterest started to enforce some strict rules.
For example, you cannot ask users to follow you, repin, or share your images in order to get extra entries into the contest.
If you’re looking to get a lot of followers quickly, this is your best bet (but make the prize attractive).
Step #1 – Come up with a simple idea and prize: Ideally, the main details about the contest should be captured in an attractive image that you can pin.
And although you can’t tell users to do certain things, you can link the image to the Rules page on your own website (which is a good idea).
A lot of the success of your contest will be based on the prize. It has to be something that your target audience would be willing to create an image, or repin one of your existing pins, for.
On top of the prize, you will need to give the contest participants a specific task to do to gain an entry into the contest.
A common one is to take a picture with your product and add a specific hashtag that you create.
Or you can ask them to follow you and repin a picture from one of your boards.
Even if they don’t win, you could still offer them a consolation prize, like a discount, to try to encourage a sale.
Important note on contests: A successful contest needs to be seen by a lot of people. There’s no sense giving away a thousand dollars or a product worth that much if only 20 people enter the contest.
This is why you should wait until you start getting regular repins and engagement on your pins naturally, before you launch a contest.
You can also promote your contest on other social media channels.
The more followers you already have, the more repins you will get, which will lead to exposure to your target audience that you want.
The other benefit of this is that a contest will help convert existing followers on Pinterest into email subscribers, which is a better channel for marketing.
So, how else can you get more followers? Here’s an option you can use if you are starting from scratch…
Have spare time? How to get thousands of followers naturally
Social media is all about connecting to other people and brands.
And although Pinterest is a fairly unique network, it’s no different in regards to this aspect.
In order to get people to follow you, you need to make some sort of connection with them.
It could be through commenting on their pins or sharing their pins, but the simplest and most scalable option is to follow other users.
When you follow another user, they get a notification. Most of the time, they will check out your profile.
If they like your profile and like the content you post on your boards (which is why it’s important to be active), they’ll follow you back.
Depending on how good your profile is and how well you pick the people you follow, 1-10% of them will follow you back.
But there are limits. In order to prevent spammers, Pinterest imposed limits on the number of people you can follow within an hour. It’s currently at 300 people per hour.
If you go over this limit, you’ll risk getting your account suspended or banned.
It takes about 5-15 minutes to follow this many people, and it will get you anywhere from 3 to 30 new followers.
Although that sounds like a lot of work, imagine if you did that just twice a day. Even with mediocre results, let’s say 10 new followers, you’d pick up 600 new followers in a month, and 7,200 in a year.
That’s a pretty large following.
If you also consider that your following will grow from getting repins and likes, you can multiply that total by 2, 3, or more.
Yes, you’ll have to be dedicated, but this simple math shows that this strategy can work.
A lot of your success will be determined by whom you follow. If you run an account about home decorating but follow football fans, you’ll get a terrible follow-back rate.
To avoid this, use the following two different methods to find users to follow who are actually interested in your content.
Finding people to follow – method #1 (keywords): Pinterest has a pretty good search function. Type in your niche into the search bar, and press enter (it will divide it into separate words automatically):
This will bring up all pins relevant to those keywords.
Obviously, if someone pins or repins an image that is related to your keywords, they’re probably interested in the topic.
Next, you’ll have to click on the name of the sharer (at the bottom of each pin) one by one.
That will bring you to the board to which they pinned the image. Click their name and image once again on that page (on the top left) in order to see their main profile:
On their profile, click the “Follow” button on the top right in bright red:
Alternatively, instead of clicking on the sharer’s name, you can click the image of the original pin and scroll down to the bottom.
Just past the comments, you’ll see a section that says “saved by [Pinterest user]”, which has the “Follow” button right beside it for you to click:
This gets you some very targeted people to follow, but it is fairly time consuming. I’d recommend mixing this method with method #2.
Finding people to follow – method #2 (competitors): Instead of trying to find people who are probably interested in your niche, you can find people who are definitely interested in it.
How? By searching for your competitors.
For example, if I wanted to get more followers interested in social media marketing, I might search for “social media examiner” on Pinterest. If they have an account, it will come up in the suggestions bar under “pinners”:
Click their name, and it will take you to their profile.
Assuming they are a strong competitor, they should have thousands of followers, which you can see at the top of their profile.
Click the follower count in order to bring up a list of all their followers (from newest to oldest).
The nice thing about this option is that there is a follow button under all of the followers.
You’ll likely see that some followers have zero or very few pins or followers themselves. Or they might not have a display picture (just a red thumbtack).
These aren’t active users, so don’t waste your follow limit on following them.
What about automation? I understand that this is a pretty tedious task. But it’s also a very effective way to build your follower list with very little cost.
If you do look around on Google, you’ll find tools that allow you to automatically follow people using the above methods. You can set the limits to make sure the tool doesn’t follow too many people in a short time period.
Here’s the thing: If you get caught, your account will be banned. Any hard work that went into it will be erased in a second.
Bots can do strange things sometimes, or you might set the limits just a bit too high and set off triggers that get you into trouble.
I do not recommend using bots to get followers, but if you do, always err on the side of caution.
The better option, if you don’t want to do this yourself, is to hire a foreign freelancer to do it for you (you can find one on Elance, for example).
Create a quick video of what you want them to do, how many people they should follow in an hour, and how many hours you’d like them to do it in a day.
I would only do this at the beginning since there is a risk in giving someone else access to the account.
Ultimately, it’s a boring task but something that you should do yourself. Find a way to clear 20 minutes a day to do it, and get it done.
Hint: Make this change on your blog posts to amplify their reach
We’ve covered a ton already—just about everything you need to know about using Pinterest effectively for your business:
how to create an account
how to pin and repin images
what kinds of images work best
how to get followers
And if you do all that, you can be successful on Pinterest.
But there’s one really easy way to get even more out of your pins.
Since you’ll be creating most of your images for your blog posts first and then pinning them on Pinterest, why not let your other blog readers do that as well?
You can use a WordPress plugin to automatically add a “Pin it” button to all of your blog images, which will show up any time someone hovers over them with their mouse.
With the button, a reader can pin the image with just a few clicks.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, go to its settings to make sure everything is configured correctly:
The most important setting is the “Show Pin It Button On Image Hover” option along with the color and size of the button.
You want to pick a color that makes it stand out from most of your images and website.
Getting extra pins from your blog readers will help increase the longevity of your pins even more.
Every time an old picture gets pinned again, it will be shown to the pinner’s followers as well as at the top of any relevant searches.
Pinterest is a unique social network with a lot of aspects that make it a great marketing channel.
If you follow the steps in this post and stay consistent with the process, I guarantee that you will be driving thousands of visits to your website every month with minimal effort at that point.
Once you start driving a solid amount of traffic, you can work on increasing your email opt-in rate and eventually turning those subscribers into customers.
I know that learning an entire social network marketing strategy in one post can be a little overwhelming, so leave me any questions you have in the comments below.