How to create Pinterest graphics packed with brand personality
and score clicks from your dream audience
by Brittany Taylor
published October 13, 2016
updated June 5, 2018
¶ How long does it take your eyes to glaze over when you’re scrolling through Pinterest? One minute? Two? Ten?
I know exactly how you feel, which is why I went on a rampage and started writing down every single memorable, interesting, original graphic headline I saw on Pinterest; took notes on what I learned; and decided to share those notes with you right here, right now.
Boom, baby. It’s time for a little Pinterest magic. On the docket: 18 lessons and wayyy too many stellar examples of Pinterest graphic copy that would totally nab an A+. You know, if this were school house and I was handing out report cards. Lucky for you, I left that phase two decades ago. I know: phew, right?
But seriously: 18 copywriting lessons to help you create Pinterest graphics that stand out from the crowd (in good ways), get shares (like whoa), and clicks (from all the right people).
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Lesson #1: Use colloquialisms
“How to find Etsy tags that sell like hotcakes: Boost your shop sales and traffic instantly” – from Fuzzy and Birch, whose founder, Jenni, teaches miserable 9-to-5ers how to escape the rat race and build successful handmade businesses.
Jenni’s Pinterest is jam-packed with just-sassy-enough graphics. She mixes colloquialisms—“sell like hotcakes”—with temporal adverbs that promise snappy results. “Timely” is particularly effective because it latches on to our fixation on results we can see right this second.
Lesson #2: Describe emotions your audience can empathize with
“5 areas of your brand you should focus on when you feel like you’re not being heard” – from Alisha Nicole, the author of The Blogpreneur and Clarity Coach. Alisha helps creative women work through their fears, find focus, and make money from their passions.
This is one of those black sheep headlines that I discussed here. The great thing about this particular hed is that it zooms in on a very specific feeling: the worry that nobody’s hearing what we have to say. It’s a universal emotion. Even if you haven’t felt it since you were a kid or a student or an amateur, you know what it is. You’ll take a peek at this article—or at least save it—for future reference. You know, just in case.
Lesson #3: Use words that other people are ignoring
“5 ingredients for a stand-out blog image” – from Station Seven, an indie boss brand that creates premium WordPress themes and kick-ass Adobe Photoshop templates for bloggers, photogs, designers, and makers. It’s run by Brittni Rogers, Mike Rogers, and their ace team.
All of Station Seven’s graphics have one thing in common: The language is ultra-specific and just a bit different. Here, it’s “ingredients” that’s the stand-out. It’s an effective stand-in for “thing” or “rule” or “commandment” or some other word we see all the time, and it’s just a little bit quirky, too.
Lesson #4: Tack on catchy phrases
“How to create a killer content calendar (that works like gangbusters)” – from Kimberley Jimenez, who teaches entrepreneurs how to engage their target audiences on social media. She’s big on boosting bottom lines and upsizing her clients’ impact on the world. (I love that she makes that super clear in her bio—consider this a bonus tip, y’all.)
Parenthetical phrases are on my top-10 list of effective writing techniques. Subheadlines, which add an extra layer of explanation to a traditional article headline, are Pinterest main-stays. The parenthetical phrase is one step up (and I love it).
“Why + how to update your old blog posts (I got 490,000+ pageviews when I did!) from Yes and Yes
Lesson #5: Emphasize the “easy” (or odd-ball) angle
“10-minute product listing makeover for creatives” – from Marketing Creativity, marketing consultant’s Lisa Jacob’s blog. Lisa shares insight and strategies from her personal experience of turning a Benjamin into an Etsy success story.
This graphic pairs that temporal word choice (“10-minute”) with a fun word (“makeover”) that we don’t see too often outside of the fashion/beauty/design world. “Makeover” feels fresh and ever-so-slightly DIY (also see: “ingredients,” used above) while “10-minute” feels do-able.
Lesson #6: Use personal pronouns to share personal stories
“The most important part of my brand design process” – from Spruce Rd., a design studio that focuses exclusively on creating custom brand identities. Founder Jamie Starcevich also creates courses for would-be designers and is the mastermind behind the Lunch + Learn workshop series.
If you’ve been on SeeBrittWrite for, oh, 10 seconds, you know I’m all over first-person pronouns (“I,” “me,” and “mine”). While second-person pronouns (“you” and “your”) are effective—in fact, they’re proven conversion words in sales copy—the use of the first-person here feels intimate. It also gives this post a behind-the-scenes feel, even though the post itself is highly instructive.
“Mistakes I made leaving my full-time job (to work for myself)” from Krista Rae
Lesson #7: Pick ridiculously funny words
“3 ick-free ways to promote affiliate links on social media” – from Olyvia, Erika Madden’s consultancy for bosses who want to look irresistible online. She’s all about communication, reputation, and marketing prowess.
Olyvia is full of graphics I wanted to include here, and this is the one that makes the cut...almost entirely because “ick-free” makes me giggle. Giggling is good, guys. Giggling is memorable, and that’s what you want. Choose language that stands out as being both true and unusual.
Lesson #8: Give slang a try
“Step by step instructions on how I took a meh Squarespace template and made it unique” – from Forth and Create, the business blog home of graphic designer Meagen. Forth and Create’s shop stocks pre-made logos and design elements while the blog is a stellar source of blogging advice, worksheets, and e-courses.
I was in high school when “meh” became a thing, so it’s slang word that comes with a lot of nostalgia for me (also see: “rad” and “groovy” [apparently I was a flower child in another life]). Slang is something English teachers hate, but for us bloggers, it’s one more way we can reach out and touch our readers.
“Take the crazy out of your day. Plan your social media content” from Meighan O’Toole
Lesson #9: Be brutally honest (and a little less than PG)
“Why most advice on getting clients is bullshit (and what to do instead)” – from The Freelance Hustle, founded by Kayli, a self-professed freelanced nomad and full-time dreamer. Kayli is a 9-to-5 renegade. She’s all about giving norms the middle finger and rewriting societal rules to fit the life that suits her best.
And her blog totally owns that point of view, both in the positions it takes (um, see above) and the language it uses (ditto). There’s some debate over whether or not bosses should use curse words in their marketing materials. The thing about curse words it that they’re divisive. If you’re a boss who makes certain four-letter words part of your daily vocabulary, you might be happy to let a portion of your potential audience self-select out of your content. That’s a choice you need to make for yourself—and once you do, own it.
Lesson #10: Add in an audience modifier
“7 things you must stop doing if you want to be fully booked” – from Betty Means Business, Kate Byrne’s home on the WWW. Kate’s biggest “w” is “worth”—both the self- and net- variety. She helps her clients and audience fill their schedules and their bank accounts by working (and marketing) smart.
We know numbers are a good thing—generally, the bigger, the better—but the key to this Pinterest graphic headline is the audience modifier. What’s that? It’s the “…if you want to be fully booked” part. When you read those last seven words, your brain perks up. It says, “This brilliant blog post was written just for me! Obviously I am that person who wants to be fully booked, so, durr, I’m going to read this.”
Lesson #11: Twist typical platform language
“Insta-etiquette: The rules for reposting on Instagram” – from Small Talk Social, owner Stephanie Gilbert’s professional outlet for her social media addiction. At Small Talk, she works with her clients to use social platforms strategically and intentionally (emphasis on that last one—you know how much I love that!).
When Instagram first became a thing, it was insta-this and insta-that. Now, that fervor has died down…which means that those plays on the name of the platform have become catchy again rather than tired and overdone. If you’ve got a cute play on a name (or a tagline or mascot), run with it!
Lesson #12: Show off your originality
“Facebook reinvented: The new way to combat tricky algorithms” – from Think Creative Collective. When Abigail Pumphrey and Emylee Williams founded TCC in 2015, they had zero clue it would be a big deal just a year later. It is. There’s a Facebook group packed with supportive community members, a blog loaded for bear with advice, and lots more in the works.
Isn’t this a much better way to say, “How to use Facebook for business in 2016”? It blows “The top Facebook trends for the new year” clear outta the water. And between brain-eating bacteria and shark bites, out of the water is a pretty great place to be these days.
Lesson #13: Establish a link between your advice and mega-super-rock stars of any industry
“How to launch like Beyonce” – from Keep Chasing the Stars, a blog and online community for bosses with big dreams. Monique Malcolm is the speaker, coach, and doer who is behind it all, and she brings just as much pop and punch to the party as you’d expect from this headline.
Um. Don’t you want to launch like Beyonce? Hells, yeah. Just make sure your post lives up to the moniker. You don’t want to promise Beyonce and deliver…well…not Beyonce.
Lesson #14: Be contrary
“Why guest posting is not the right way to grow your blog and what you can do to grow instead” – from Hayli De Jong, an entrepreneur who helps other bosses uncover their passions and learn how to monetize them. As a full-timer who’s also building a knowledge center, Hayli emphasizes making your passions work for you with limited time and funds.
You know the rhyme: Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Quite fine, it turns out! Taking an accepted argument—here, we have “guest posting is a great way to grow your blog audience”—and countering it with both an explanation and another option is a head-turning way to score some honest clicks.
Lesson #15: Go just a little highbrow
“The art of being a goal-getter” – from Oh Joy, the eponymous brand founded by Joy Cho. You might have seen her books in Barnes and Noble, her keynotes at Alt Summit and Pinterest HQ, and her home goods at Target. She’s kind of a big deal (and her blog is still the delightfully sweet, humble, honest place it was way back when).
“The art of ___,” “the science of ___,” and “the anatomy of ___” posts get me every single time. It’s an old, elegant format that creates the expectation of a think piece combines with a bit of elevated tutorial. Done right, it’s the sort of thing that can gain you a reputation as an idea person in your niche.
And this one: post design” from Spruce Rd.
Lesson #16: Aim for epic status (without using the word “epic”)
“The ins, outs, and advantages of using Mailchimp” – from Elle and Company, Lauren Hooker’s graphic design and business strategy brand. Lauren grew from being a freelance designer creating brand identities for entrepreneurs to being a course-teaching, infoproduct-selling boss with serious know-how and major name recognition. Her live, weekly webinars are da bomb, y’all (and replays are available right here!).
Being epic is kinda like being a thought leader: The ones who truly aren’t don’t feel the need to call shout that designation from the rooftops. It’s obvious. The same is true with a Homeric blog post. Got one up your sleeve? Call attention to it the right way by avoiding the obvious, easy words.
Lesson #17: Go bare bones
“Blog business plan” – from White Oak Creative, a blog and brand design studio that specializes in WordPress. White Oak’s clients are lifestyle-oriented and their black-and-white minimalism absolutely delicious. Their shop features everything from blog templates to logos. Snap. Them. Up.
I know it’s simple. I know it’s not a full sentence. I know it doesn’t have personality or action verbs or personal pronouns or parenthetical phrases. It doesn’t even have an exclamation point! Guys, I know. And I love it because it’s so different from everything else on this list. There are only a handful of business blogs creating pin graphics like these and I’m crushing on them like whoa. The minimalism and clarity is so on-point and on-trend. Graphics like these prove that you don’t need clutter (or a bunch of words—gulp!) to make a statement, which is a primo choice for a design studio like White Oak.
Lesson #18: Aim for irreverence
“This is no place for apples and oranges: Maintaining brand consistency across social media platforms” – from Katy Wellhousen. Katy is the social media nut you want in your back pocket. She’s a social media and content marketer with a knack for turning a phrase, which makes sense, really; she has been doing this since she was 14.
Quirkiness is one of my favorite traits in just about anything, so I really did save my personal numero uno for last. A little eccentricity works perfectly on Pinterest graphics. Why? Because humans are clever and we get the humor. Search engines might be neatly programmed, but a clever title doesn’t do much for your SEO. Trust me, I’ve tried. Sigh.
more from Katy
“How to run a social media promotion (and not go to jail)” and “intangible benefits of social media”
My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.