The 10,000 Club

Pinterest may not be making the same waves as Instagram, but it certainly feels a lot less invasive. In this monthly feature dedicated to mobile photography platforms we profile image producers with 10,000+ followers. We ask some of those questions which can’t be replied to with ‘likes’ or emoticons. We look at where they stand on mobile-based photography, what their ambitions are and if social mobile image-making is the future of photography.

Most people have heard of Pinterest, but not everybody is using it. Described as a visual Google engine, Pinterest has over 100 million users every month and a mostly female demographic. The virtual scrapbook is a wellspring of inspiration with curated boards and original content. So, is Pinterest the answer to Google’s image deficit?

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Holly Wulff Peterson is an Irish, London-based photographer and food stylist. Her minimalist aesthetic has allowed her to cultivate over 20K followers on Pinterest. With more than 1.7 billion recipes, curated boards on wedding inspiration, DIY projects and more, Pinterest isn’t just a source of images but an instrumental platform for information.

The majority of social media platforms rely on a large number of followers, however Pinterest is a little different. Holly explains: “The thing on Instagram is sometimes someone will share what you do and it can drive traffic to you. On Pinterest you don’t really have that option – it’s almost organic.

“Pinterest say the numbers that you have don’t matter as much. It’s more about the engagement you have. You really measure it on how many click-throughs you get to websites and how many people are saving your images. Some people can have a lot of followers but not a lot of engagement.”

In many ways the social imperfections that are prevalent on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook appear to be absent on Pinterest. And unlike other outlets the vitriol is minimal, if not non-existent. While community interaction is nominal on Pinterest there certainly is a lot more freedom to share ideas without deprecation. Is Pinterest the happiest social media platform?

Cherry+and+Black+Pepper+Ice+Cream+with+a+Balsamic+Toffee+Syrup

How did you get started on Pinterest?
I was living in Asia. I moved there about four years ago and I was working for an online fashion company, which was in the growing stages. I had a lot free time surprisingly and there were a couple of platforms – We Heart It and Pinterest – and I remember being really excited that there was this place where I could find all these images. Growing up I would buy magazines and cut everything out that I liked and stick it in a book. I did that until I was probably 24. I just wanted to keep references for everything, and suddenly there were all these platforms online where you could save them all to these boards and keep them within categories. I found it really fascinating and inspiring. I started working with some bloggers in Singapore and styling for them, and using all these boards that I had for inspiration. Suddenly I was actually getting work out of my style and how I had curated that stuff.

How does Pinterest work?
You can get really organised with it. If you want to renovate your kitchen you can literally type in all your keywords. Instead of going to Google to find something you want for your home you come straight to Pinterest, because you can already see what you’re getting when you go onto the platform. It’s a way for you to save either recipes or images that you’re really inspired by, or drawn to, or that you want for reference.

Who are some pioneering people on Pinterest that have inspired or directed you?
One good friend is Renée Kemps and she has a minimal and clean Pinterest account. It’s very fresh and quite young, and I like a lot of the images that she pins. Also Our Food Stories – they have a really beautiful account. Adventures in Cooking is another one. There are a lot of food accounts that I follow. Also Izy from Top With Cinnamon. They are all very different in their style, but I really take inspiration from the different things that they do. They pin a lot of their own content, which is really nice because you feel like you’re getting a consistent source of images from them.

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What flaws exist on Pinterest?
You don’t have a lot of engagement with people who are following you. People don’t comment so much. I wish that there were more opportunities to be able to connect with the people that are following you and that you’re following, and have more conversations with them, because you’re all interested in the same thing. It feels very isolated sometimes.

Instagram has about 50 million more users than Pinterest. How is Pinterest different to other social media platforms?
I think that Pinterest almost relieves the pressure. You can go onto Pinterest and it’s very positive as a social media platform, despite the fact that you don’t have a lot of interaction with people. People are putting up things they think are beautiful, interesting and worth sharing. I feel on Instagram there can be a lot negativity and a lot of criticism. You totally remove that from Pinterest. People are very warmly receptive to that. When you’re putting stuff on Instagram you’re almost putting yourself on Instagram, whereas on Pinterest you’re putting your inspiration and ideas, which is a little bit less pressure.

There’s a celebrity culture that exists on social media, is that the case with Pinterest?
I would say that some really big Youtubers and bloggers have some really strong followers on Pinterest. Maybe there is a little bit of that, but I would say that you really take out that personal element. Also there’s probably a lot of sex sells on Instagram and I don’t feel that exists so much on Pinterest. I think the people who are following you are genuinely interested in what you’re doing, whereas on Instagram it can be a little celebrity style.

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What does somebody have to do on Pinterest to go from a few thousand followers to 7 or 8 million?
It’s being consistent with what you post and posting a lot. I think it’s about having a lot of boards and being specific about them. I’m doing not doing this quite right, but instead of having just one food board you really need to break it down into categories like pastry, sweet and savoury and doughnuts. The smaller categories you have the more engagement you get and the more people you actually get following your individual boards. Having a really good main page that’s really branded almost, so people can see your style straight away when they go onto your page. Those cover boards that you have on your Pinterest account are very important for people to know.

Is Pinterest promotional?
They have this new thing now where you can do promoted pins, so you can pay to have your pins promoted on the platform. I actually did a test campaign with them where we worked on a Christmas campaign and the engagement I got was insane from doing that. These promoted pins really work. Most people get the money from sponsorships and working with brands on Instagram and people don’t seem to utilise it on Pinterest, which is strange because on Instagram for example someone sees your item on a picture with someone, but there’s no way for them to act on that. They can’t click through and buy it in the same way. Whereas on Pinterest it’s just there for you.

On Instagram people take issue to advertising, Pinterest seems less invasive and subtle…
…It’s more acceptable. I think it’s very obvious when someone on Instagram is creating a sponsored post. The problem with Instagram is it can be quite sneaky. People cannot say something is sponsored when it clearly is. I feel like people are getting a little tired of that and it’s really obvious when people do. Personally it drives me away because it feels like I’m being sold to. I don’t think Instagram should be that. But, of course people have to make money. On Pinterest it’s much easier to create those posts with subtlety and people subconsciously already expect it. On Instagram people don’t like it to be shoved down their throats, however on Pinterest people actively want to know where things are from. I feel like you do have a lot more freedom to be able to create sponsored content when you’re sharing it on Pinterest, especially if you’re sharing it on your own blog and then pinning it from your blog or other people’s blogs. People are much more accepting of that.

How would you describe your own Pinterest and boards?
I would say that it’s minimal but cosy. I want people to feel like they get some inspiration from what they see, and that it’s almost like a lifestyle brand. I have one board that is called ‘life’ and I feel like for me it’s almost like this dream life that you want to have. You want to travel and sit in the mountains drinking coffee.

It feels quite Nordic…
…My husband is Danish and in Denmark they have this concept of Hygge, and that basically means the ultimate coziness and the absence of anything unpleasant. It’s long dinners with candlelight and in the summer it’s late nights in a forest talking and drinking and laughing. But there’s a lot of minimalism in Scandinavia as well. That’s really influenced me.

Sweden+photography+workshop

In terms of the creative side and photographic side, how intrinsic is the quality of the image on Pinterest to whether people are going to follow you or not?
For me personally it’s really important, but I think across the board if you were to look at Pinterest’s most pinned pins some of them might not be particularly attractive. I think they have a huge audience around the world. I would say my version is quite stylised. Not everybody is looking for that. From my personal perspective the quality of the images is the most important thing. Sometimes even the quality of the content is a little less important on Pinterest, because you’re really instantly drawn to that first image that you see.

Is it an entrepreneurial platform? 
I think it’s a great way to share content that either you’ve created yourself – I get a lot of traffic to my blog from Pinterest and that’s because I share my stuff on Pinterest. If you’re talking in the hundreds of thousands of followers you definitely could have some kind of job out of that, because those jobs do exist offline as well. It’s essentially content curation. You can really utilise it, but I think it’s important if you want to showcase your own stuff you need to be doing stuff somewhere else like a blog. I don’t use it so much to make money from, but I think it could be really entrepreneurial for the right person.

Will Pinterest become outdated?
I don’t think so. I can’t really see how because I’ve become bored with other social media, but I’ve never become bored of Pinterest because it’s a place where you can be very specific about what you want to consume. There’s not really any opinions or ideas that put you off. It’s all very positive and it’s very visually appealing. For people who are creative it starts to become the go to place instead of Google.

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You have the curators of these boards on Pinterest, where do the photographers of those pictures fit into all of this?
I’ve had a few instances where people have messaged me and asked me to link through to their website. For me I try really hard to keep that credit obvious and visible, because they’ve done so much of that work. It’s only right to do that. I have seen a few of my own images where people have changed the comments, and taken the images and put them on their own website and I politely ask them to link through. Most people want the links to the website so most people don’t remove them. It’s not like Instagram where people pretend it’s their own image. When you’re looking at a pin on Pinterest there is no way to tell who took that image unless you click-through, and even then it might be on tumblr. You could watermark, but then it compromises the quality of the image and Pinterest is mostly about images being really beautiful. But it’s less brazen than Instagram.

What are your ambitions with Pinterest and food photography?
For me I will always use Pinterest as my biggest source of inspiration and when I’m a little stuck with an idea I will always go there first. I can’t see that changing because there are constantly thousands and thousands of images coming onto that site all the time. I want to start taking a lot that stuff offline and start creating more stuff for myself and share my work within publications and creating a lot more content as opposed to posting it.

Follow Holly on Pinterest and Instagram or visit her website: freckleandwulff.com 

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