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Polite pinning: Understanding Pinterest etiquette

SALT LAKE CITY — Pinterest has broken through to the top of social media sites, what with its 104 million users as of April. With so many users generating content on the site, a look at acceptable use and etiquette may be in order.

  1. Use descriptive and searchable captions
  2. A pitfall of giving so many users permission to create content is that it is entirely up to them to determine how searchable an image is. Many times, users simply put a period or something along the lines of, "I love this!" in the description box of a pin.

    What is helpful to other users — especially those using the search function on the Pinterest website — is to use descriptive words, or keywords. The description only needs to have three to five words at the least, but feel free to use more.

    One way to do this may be by using hashtags, or words with the number sign placed before them. For example: "I love these curtains. #purple #velvet." When people search "purple" or "velvet," or either of those hashtags, your pin will appear.

    Crediting artists or photographers is also a good way to create a searchable description.

    If you are creating original pins, adding descriptions with the "pin it" browser extension button is a breeze. Highlight the text on the page you want to use as your description, and then hit the button. The text you highlight will automatically appear in the description box after you select a photo. ou can select which board to pin it to and then pin.

    Bonus: using key words will get you more repins and likes, and possibly followers. For businesses and brands, this is not only polite, but crucial.

  3. Don't give it all away
  4. While captions are great and useful, some pinners tend to go overboard. Pinning an entire recipe or tutorial from a site is not appropriate, and doesn't leave future pinners any incentive to click through to the creator's site. This robs sites of traffic and subsequently, revenue. A simple description of the recipe encourage people to click through, instead of reading an entire recipe on Pinterest.

  5. Link to original image sources, when possible
  6. Similar to the previous point, the purpose of this point is to get people clicking through to the originator of an image. This is not likely to happen, however, if your pin links to a site that reused the image, and especially if that site does not credit the original.

    One way to ensure that your pin credits the creator is to click through before you pin. If the image does not appear to be from the site originally, (fairly easy to spot on a blog, but much more obvious if it takes you to a tumblr site) do a reverse Google image search.

    To do so, save the image to your desktop, go to, click the camera icon in the search bar and click search. If the site with the original image pulls up in your first search, click on that page, and recreate a pin from that page. If it doesn't, try putting a few key words in describing the image and search again.

    If you can't find where the image was created, it never hurts to crowdsource; in your pin description, you can ask if anybody knows who the designer/photographer/painter is and edit if anyone guides you to it.

  7. Don't be an addict
  8. As a courtesy to those who follow you, don't repin everything you see. Be selective. As Anna Post, spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute, put it: "only repin as much as you would be comfortable having repined from you."

    Some people may follow hundreds of other pinners, but others may only follow a handful. If you are pinning dozens of pins over the course of a few hours, you may be the only person filling that homepage, moving others' content to the bottom. On Facebook, this can get someone hidden from a news feed, and on Pinterest, it may get you unfollowed. If you pin many things and then never look at them again (or ever use them), maybe it's time to take a break and limit your time on the site, and how much you share.


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