This is an opinionated post from Skylar, arguing the counter-point about why Pinterest and social media is a waste of time. Lots of food bloggers use Pinterest very successfully and derive income from it and it may have a place in your particular strategy, but the negative side of it all needs to be acknowledged so that bloggers are fully aware of what they're getting themselves into. If you do want to pursue using Pinterest as a strategy, we recommend TastyPins to handle your Pinterest needs.
We see lots of questions about how to get more Pinterest traffic, and why you might have lost some traffic. Social media companies like Pinterest are unprofitable, money-losing companies have to continually try new tactics and change their practices in order to find a way to be profitable, and if that means that you lose, then it's not really their problem.
Recently, there was a change from the former long-pin preference to a 2:3 image ratio. If you've set up 1,000 long-pin images, you now have to re-do them all.
This is an unpopular opinion in the food blogging niche, but Pinterest and social media in general is a trend-driven short-term, and short-sighted strategy.
It's low quality, very brief bursts of traffic that can drive pageviews, which translates to cheap, short-term ad revenue, and is addictive. But it's here today and gone tomorrow and you'll have gained nothing long-term from it in 5 years.
This is a good read: https://www.thedrum.com/industryinsights/2017/07/27/whats-your-problem-overcoming-short-termism-social-media
Social media benefits the social media companies, not you
The content that you spend hours working on drives free user engagement on other websites (eg. Pinterest.com), who can monetize that traffic and engagement. Every time you view and respond to a conversion thread in Facebook, it generates a pageview that they can sell to 5 different advertisers. And you're paid nothing for this.
Contrast this to driving engagement directly on your blog - where the pageviews benefit you directly.
Taking this a step further, the content on Facebook that you spend time on is gone within a week, usually never to be found again. Take 10 seconds to think of all the content you put up there last year, that's disappeared forever. Content on your own website however, will continue to draw visitors and ad revenue and engagement for years to come.
Realize that you're in a vacuum
Social media is an interruption-based platform that's highly untargeted. Do people actually go to Pinterest looking for recipes? Maybe. But I've never met a single non-food-blogger in real life who told me about some great recipe they found on Pinterest.
Similarly, if you were looking for a fitness product or financial services, would you want to scroll through pages of bullshit pins, or would you head straight to Google and get 10 immediate results for exactly what you're looking for?
Despite all the rhetoric about Pinterest being a "visual search engine", it fails at delivery on one of the killer features: delivering what I want. Pin boards aren't good search tools - they're half-relevant categories curated by non-experts who are more interested in getting CTRs than understanding what the searcher is looking for.
You should be focused on building a long-term, sustainable business
Learn photography skills so you can bill yourself out local food brands and companies.
Learn copywriting so that you can sell yourself as a conversion-increasing PROFIT CENTER instead of expense to clients.
Learn about nutrition and get certified so that you can sell yourself as a nutrition planner/consultant.
Start building your portfolio and practicing public speaking so that you can get featured in magazines, trade-shows and TV segments.
These are all skills that translate to the real world. They amplify your immediate value and future-proof you against changes in whatever trend you're currently riding.
That's not to say you shouldn't take advantage of trends and changes. Times of change can be difficult and tumultuous and are perfect times to step up because some percentage of the old user base will churn and fail to stay on top of things.
Why do food bloggers love Pinterest?
Simply: it drives traffic/pageviews, which when you're on an ad network like Mediavine or Adthrive, is how you make money. Mediavine (at the time of writing) requires about 30,000 pageviews per month from North America, and Adthrive about 100,000 pageviews per month.
Pinterest can absolutely be a traffic driver to get you up to those numbers, but it's like taking on a whole other job in addition to running your blog. You'll need to invest significant time in learning the formats they require, more time creating pinnable images for each post, and more time revising these images over the years.
The problem is that pageviews do not mean anything in the real world. Companies that pay for ads are ultimately looking to drive sales. Sales are based on targeted content driving conversion rates at a high enough rate to generate an ROI on their ad spend. The entire business model of social media companies is pretending that social media users browsing food images for what to cook tonight, clicking on a food blog to be shown advertisements for cars and credit cards is simply unsustainable. It's a house of cards that's going to collapse.
Is it worth it for you? That will depend on how much work you're willing to put in, and whether you're okay with a short-term ROI (return-on-investment - your time) instead of long-term ROI.
What is Pinterest good for?
Pinterest is great at finding people who share similar interests to you, which includes finding fellow food bloggers. If you're capturing their emails and connecting with them via blog comments and honest, manually written emails, it can be a great way to build an "audience" that can help amplify your content.
This critical step #2 for real engagement is usually forgotten, and results in thousands of people ignoring thousands of other people.
The question you have to answer for your visitors is "what's in it for me?" - why is the other food blogger going to bother promoting your content? How can you support them and add value to their life, and in turn, generate a willingness to have them help you in return?
I have been using the Foodie Pro theme for a few years now and the biggest reason I stick with Feast is because of posts like this. Despite that what you have written is only a small step beyond common sense, it surprises me how few people take these views. I have a few influencer friends and am both fascinated and saddened by their so-called growth. Social media is a fun way to disconnect from life for a little while, to scroll and sometimes feel inspired, but the mind boggles at how little people consider the purpose of these platforms. Many food bloggers I have known over the last 10+ years (I have had a food blog since the early 2000s) have been duped by the immediacy of social media to put their sites on the back burner. There is little to no consideration that the purpose of any social media company is to make money from users' work and that one change from that company can guillotine a person's income virtually overnight (and maybe most importantly, they don't care). But perhaps this is a lesson people must learn on their own (I did back in the earlier days of Cafepress, where I made a significant chunk of change before they slashed user earnings and went public). Anyway, it's nice to know I'm not alone in this thinking!
Skylar Bowker says
Thanks so much for the feedback and sharing your experiences Kip! Social does it have its place, but like you've pointed out, experience shows that it's a short-term strategy and it shouldn't be your primary source of traffic or revenue.