Thursday, April 25, 2013

The mystery behind 15,000 new Pinterest followers

The Interesting graphics board
Let me be clear upfront: If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to gaining 15,000 new followers on Pinterest in a very short time this is not the blog post for you.

My purpose, from a social media strategy perspective, is to solve a mystery.

If you have wondered why people connect on Pinterest or what attracts people to certain others or their particular boards on Pinterest then I hope my questions here will at the least get you thinking and/or provide some insight.

Some background

On April 11 I was a quiet Pinterest user. I had under a 1,000 people following my various Pinterest boards.

The boards are organized around the things I care about. The board New Zealand!, for example, is images of my home country and the board RIT is about the place I teach (and love) in Rochester, N.Y.

One board Interesting graphics was always my most popular and, as of April 11, in had 286 followers.

But on that day something happened. Starting a little after 9 a.m. EDT I started getting notifications from Pinterest that said, for example, "Sarah Jones and 49 others have started following your board Interesting graphics." 

These notifications began arriving regularly. Every 15 to 20 minutes. Within four days I was approaching 5,000 followers. Within a week it was just over 10,000. As of today (April 25) that board has 15,298 followers.

That’s an amazing 15,013 new followers in just 14 days.

Why is this happening?
For more than a week I have tried everything I know to discover why this might be happening.
  • Is it because I posted an amazing infographic that people shared a lot? A search through that board for the past month of activity reveals no unusual volume of sharing.
  • I Googled my name and the name of the board … nothing in the search results indicates anyone recommended the board. (That’s too bad because I would thank them.)
  • I talked to experts in web marketing and analytics to see if there is any way to find the course of all this attention … and apparently there is not.
  • I emailed the Pinterest Help Desk … and got this response: "Unfortunately, we’re a small team and we won't be able to respond to your email." 

So, what now?

I guess I’m hoping someone reading this can help solve the mystery.

Perhaps there are others who have had similar experiences.

Can you help? Please let me know in the Comments area – I would really appreciate it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to learn and 'win' on a #Twitterchat

Where can you learn a lot about social media quickly? On a Twitter chat of course. It is surprising how many have yet to discover this collaborative learning technique which, of course, can be about any topic.

Twitter chats use hashtags
A Twitter chat is a great way to learn
A Twitter chat is a way for people on Twitter to discuss a topic at a set time and day and to keep track of everyone’s comments and responses by using a hashtag. The great appeal for many is that each comment must be 140 characters or less.

But if you’ve never been on a Twitter chat before it can be intimidating. Here are some basic tips:


Complete your Twitter profile: This means that you have a picture of you as your avatar and your bio is filled out including your geographic location. Why does this matter? A Twitter chat is a great opportunity to pick up new followers, but an incomplete profile is equivalent to saying "stay away."

Alert your followers when you’re about to join a Twitter chat and apologize (yes, apologize) because the tweet volume is going to be a lot higher than usual for the next hour.

Use the chat’s specific hashtag:  This is so everyone will see your tweets even if they are not a follower of yours. For example a Twitter chat about Twitter chats might have the hashtag #twtcht.

Understand the format of the chat: Usually there will be a moderator who posts questions that are numbered so that people responding can number their answers. For example: "Q1: What makes a Twitter chat effective? #twtcht" "A1: It brings together expertise from a wide range of people who would otherwise not meet #twtcht".

Only participate in chats about things you care about.  This seems obvious, but you’ll be wasting your time otherwise. See "Resources" below for places to find Twitter chats.

Be a contributor to the discussion by asking thoughtful questions or adding your own insights to others’ comments.

Remember that a Twitter chat is public. Everything you say on the chat can be seen by anyone following the hashtag and this content lives on the Web forever. Think twice before hitting the "tweet" button.

Use tools that simplify participation:

My favorite is Tweet Grid because it is web-based (no downloads needed) and can track up to nine searches that update automatically on the same screen.  There are a variety of layout options and I usually select the "1x2" option so I can track the Twitter chat hashtag and any mentions of me (so I can respond quickly). You use Tweet Grid by entering the hashtag in the box labeled "hashtag" and then every tweet you send (once logged into your Twitter account on Tweet Grid) automatically includes the hashtag. 

Tweetchat is a web-based service that manages the Twitterchat in a single column.  Users sign in with a Twitter account, enter the hashtag they want to tweet to in the box and Tweetchat automatically adds the hashtag to all outgoing tweets (so remember to disable this when the chat is over). Tweetchat also allows you to highlight the moderators – a good way to not miss any of the questions and key comments.

A little less convenient is Tweetdeck, an application now owned by Twitter that must be downloaded to your computer ahead of time. (You will also have to download Adobe Air if you’re not already running it since this is what powers Tweetdeck.) Tweetdeck can be a good Twitter content management system outside of a Twitter chat, but can be useful during a chat as well. Just be sure to update your API settings so that the hashtag updates for your chat are in real time or you’ll miss out on a lot of the conversation.


Retweet every post you like, because it clutters up the chat and usually does not add real value to the discussion.

Call out another participant. Twitter chats are places for positive back-and-forth discussions. If you violently disagree with someone this is a public forum and not the place to “get into it.”

Be spammy: Which means don’t push your own agenda with links to your blog or your company’s content. This will be viewed by some as irrelevant content and hurt your social media reputation.

  • List of Tweetchats By Day of Week - a long, wiki-like list of chats by topic and day of the week
  • Twubs - a hashtag discovery tool that can show you if a hashtag you plan to use is available
So, are you ready to jump into a Twitter chat? Did I leave out anything you’d like to know? Let me know.

Related content:

Friday, April 5, 2013

10 Tips for Social Media Beginners

Social media is big in 2013. How big? If you haven’t seen one of Erik Qualman’s excellent Social Media Revolution videos you should click on the image below and watch one now.

And social media is only going to get bigger. For many who have yet to dip their toe into the social media wading pool this is a scary thing.

But, really, you don’t have to do everything at once and you can certainly try one platform and slowly learn to use it in a way that makes sense to you. So how do you get started?

5 First Steps in Social Media:

1. Decide on a goal: Do you want to talk with distant family members more frequently? Or use it for professional or social networking? To learn a new skill? Before jumping in you need to understand "why" you're doing this. If you aren't sure, ask friends and family why they're on social media

2. Pick one platform: Look at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn and Foursquare. Or ask a friend to show you their pages in these networks and have them explain how they use them. Take your time, but pick just one to get started on.

3. Sign up for that network: Again, ask a friend for help or do some Google research on how to get started on that particular platform. Complete your profile. If you have a smartphone, download the app(s) onto your mobile device. Spend time creating an online image that looks and sounds appealing.

4. Watch, listen and learn: Social media is all about conversations and to converse you must first listen. Pay attention to how others use the network and how they interact with others. Connect with just a few well-known friends at first. Very slowly expand your network to other people you find interesting.

5. Seek expertise: Use Google search to find other blog posts, white papers and how-to videos. Sign up for a class (see below) or join a club or group that shares best practices.

OK, so you’re off and running, but, can you mess up in social media? Well sure, but almost nothing you do on social media will have serious consequences. However, there are a few things you might do that will slow your progress. So avoid these mistakes:

5 Rookie Mistakes in Social Media:

1. Being self-absorbed: Remember, social media is like a social gathering – no one wants to spend time with the bore who only talks about themselves or things that matter to them. Find ways to help others, answer their questions, comment on or share their posts.

2. Talk too much: Again, no one likes a conversation hog. Sharing 25 internet memes goes very quickly from funny to irritating. Be selective. Think about what you would like to see show up in your social feed. Share accordingly.

3. Wildly erratic presence: Not being on your network for days and then sharing 15 updates in an hour is no way to connect with people. Space out your contributions and if you need to look into using tools such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Buffer that can help with content scheduling.

4. Not reciprocating: You should always follow back anyone who is relevant to your goals in social media, thank people who share your content and, most importantly, reply to anyone who talks to or mentions you.

5. Being impatient: Don’t get anxious about the size of your network. A quality network takes time to grow and eventually it will grow exponentially. The person who is desperate for friends or followers is somewhat unattractive on social media.

So, are you ready to dip your toes into social media? Do you know someone who needs a nudge to get started? Perhaps this post helps.

Class: If you’re in the Rochester, N.Y. area I will be teaching a class called "Social Media For Beginners" 6:30-8:30 pm on Tuesday, April 16 at the Rochester Brainery. It is designed as a hands-on, getting-started type of class. If you have questions about the class please don’t hesitate to contact me at

Related content:
5 Really Useful Sites for Social Media Newbies
6 Reasons to Finally Join Twitter