Over the past few months, the most beloved social media site among the bloggers we know and trust, Pinterest, has made some notable changes that have us all scratching our heads. It started with Pinterest querying us on our interests last year, which was soon followed by lots of recommendations for “picked for you” pins that may or not have anything to do with stuff we like.
But recently we realized, sometimes we’re not seeing anything we like at all. In our own feeds.
How is that? Well, we started digging and there seem to be some really odd Pinterest feed changes, that are lessening our experience both as publishers and as searchers–and we’re not the only ones noticing.
So we’ve put together a few tips that can help you get the site somewhat back to the one you fell in love with the first place–along with some reasons why we think it’s never going to be exactly what you want it to be, either.
Are you suddenly following boards that you don’t remember following?
More often than not, I now open up my Pinterest homepage and to be frank, sometimes everything looks like crap. Just the world’s most awful stuff. That’s when I realized that suddenly we were “following” tons of group boards, some with more than 10,000 pinners, and not a whole lot of judicious curation, to put it kindly.
With all due respect to a pinner who created a board featuring 47,863 items carefully curated under the category Everything, it’s boards like these that start to make Pinterest a less valuable place for me to find the things I am looking for.
I know that Pinterest has recently pushed for the creation of more group boards–another mystery change, however “add pinner” is featured prominently at the top of all of your boards now. It’s not for us to say why these boards with literally thousands of pinners exist, because they may be of value to some people.
Also, this is not about me being snobby; you may love hand-crocheted dog slippers that look like cats while I don’t, and that’s really fine.
The real problem, is why is Pinterest auto-following boards for anyone? Or did we somehow opt-in by clicking some interest button without knowing it? Here’s how to fix it.
How to unfollow the stuff in your Pinterest feed that you don’t want to see
Either way, if this seems like it’s happening to you, go to your “following” tab which is to the right of all your stats. Click on “boards” and you may surprised to find boards that don’t bear any resemblance to boards you remember opting in to follow.
Just unfollow those boards and see how much that cleans up your feeds. It doesn’t fix everything with the Pinterest feed changes, but it does help a lot.
Chronological Pinterest feed changes: Weird.
Even if your feed is now showing you more of the kinds of things you want to see, it’s now going to all show up in some random order in your home feed. It’s clear that Pinterest has, for some reason, taken a page from the Facebook playbook (that is, the widely mocked Facebook playbook) and stopped displaying pins in your home feed chronologically.
Maybe this is to help spread out the pins you can see regardless of when you log on? Like maybe you miss your favorite British pinner’s content because she is on in the morning when you’re going to sleep? I’m being benevolent here.
As an example, right now this very second, the first pin on my home feed is a party idea I repinned myself several hours ago. (How cute is that milk and cookies bar!) But why is it first? Is it possible that not a single person we follow has pinned anything even several hours later?
While there are topics like closet organization tips or bedroom paint colors that are evergreen, and it doesn’t matter when I see them, one of the awesome functions of Pinterest is finding ideas for holidays or seasonal topics. So it’s definitely not helpful when they show up at the wrong time.
Right now, I am still seeing Valentine’s Day pins at the top of my feed a two full weeks after Valentine’s Day. Which could just be people really excited for next year. To find out, I click over to that pinner’s pins (try pinterest.com/coolmompicks/pins as an example of how to someone’s pins sorted chronologically) and I realize that the pins showing today in my feed were actually pinned weeks or even months ago–only some bizarre algorithm is feeding it to me now.
That doesn’t make Pinterest valuable for me as a visual search tool. It creates more obstacles to me finding what I need, now.
The only way to fix this is to click over to the pinners you love, with pinterest.com/NAMEOFUSER/pins and then you can see just what they’ve pinned, in order.
Here are the most recent pins from Design Mom, in order, as she intended them. Look! No Valentine’s Day!
Are you seeing fewer pins from the pinners you follow?
I started noticing that a pinner I like, say Liz Stanley, would pin maybe 10 pins in a row but only 2 would appear in my feed at all. To see everything she’s putting up on pinterest, I need to remember to go to her page directly.
It’s frustrating because I followed her for a reason. She’s an amazing curator. Just look!
Instead, what I’m seeing in my feed are lots of pins from the boards I don’t tend to frequent as much. Maybe that’s some way to get me around the site more? Or push different kinds of content in my feed? It can benefit smaller pinners, which I like, but I still want to see the things I actually signed up to see.
And I really hope that those of you who follow Cool Mom Picks feel like we’ve earned your trust too.
But here’s the thing, Traci is up to nearly 4 million followers. Whoa. With numbers like that, you’d think that everything she pins would automatically get a ton of repins. And they used to. Now I’m seeing 6, 25, 88 repins sometimes. The same goes for our own boards. Huge decrease in numbers.
Now that’s not your problem. What is your problem, is that the pins you opted in to see are not being shown to you.
Frankly, it’s frustrating. I want to see Traci’s pins. I chose to follow her. I want to see what Rachel from Handmade Charlotte is pinning. I want to see what Justin is pinning. Instead what I’m seeing are lots of pins “picked for me” though I’m not sure why I can’t just see both.
How to get rid of the pins “picked for you.”
Let’s talk about recommended pins.[edited to add: Ironically, in 2013, Ben Silbermann spoke to MIT Tech Review about how people are better than algorithms at knowing what people want to see.]
Like you, I’m seeing lots and lots of pins subtly labeled “picked for you” on the bottom left. Some of them are good recommendations, some of them make me wonder if someone back there in Pinterest land is just messing with me.
In fact, here’s a shot from today’s Cool Mom Tech pinterest feed. Aside from our own couple of pins, every single pin in our Pinterest feed with one exception, is “picked for you.”
Does Pinterest not think that we are capable of doing the picking?
(It is in our name, sheesh.)
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to the recos either. Like, yes, I am always looking for really cute baby clothes to share here. And I know cute is subjective, and that one person’s very adorable leopard print baby onesie, is another person’s “did it come with a gift receipt?”
However, right now, it kind of feels like Pinterest is just throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks.
Now sometimes I do get a “picked for you” that’s fantastic and I actually ended up following the board. Like this one here, so, nice job Pinterest. However if you don’t want to see a certain pin that’s recommended for you–and hopefully inform the algorithm of your preferences in the process–you can delete it, only they don’t make it that easy.
At first glance it looks like there’s no way to do it. But aha! Mouse over the pin, and a little X will appear at bottom right. That’s your ticket out.
Pinterest needs to recognize that a whole lot of off-base recommended pins at the top of our Pinterest feeds, automatically devalues Pinterest. I want to open my feed and be inspired.
So what’s going on? The conspiracy theory
Recently, the press has published info about the Pinterest valuation and how they’re about to start earning zillions of dollars and adding new ways to monetize. Which is awesome. We’ve supported the site from the early days, I’ve been impressed with their goals and missions, and I’ve met Ben Silbermann a few times and I’ve always got the impression he’s a really good, smart, authentic guy. I love how the platform has supported small businesses in tremendous ways, and still has the ability to do so.
I also understand that making money means changing a business model. And that doesn’t always benefit current users.
So here’s my theory.
I think that a lot of Pinterest’s changes are made to decentralize influence (so to speak) away from their “power pinners” — those curators with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers.
I think that Pinterest wants Pinterest to tell you what is relevant to you, and not any of the people you follow. It will give them way more control when it comes to feeding users more branded, paid-for content.
It also speaks to why they were willing to risk alienating their fashion power pinners when Pinterest eliminated affiliate links earlier this month and really hurt them financially. They’re instead currying favor with the brands, i.e. the folks with the money.
Retailers like Nordstrom and Anthropologie and J Crew, which reportedly get 23% of their referrals from Pinterest are now even more in play. It’s not hard to see how it’s beneficial for Pinterest to say, hey Anthropologie, you want to sell more stuff? Pay us, not the pinners, and we’ll be sure those pins get seen.
Pinterest is also experimenting with “buy” buttons in another smart business move which would mean that Pinterest gets that affiliate revenue or at least some of it.
This might be lucrative, but it all requires alienating the site’s heaviest individual users and core evangelists.
Just a thought: Pinterest only owns those billions of pages of pins insomuch as the top pinners don’t delete their accounts entirely.
People: People who need people.
Maybe what all these changes come down to is a quote from an article about Pinterest I read recently (ugh I need to find the source, sorry) which had a quote from Silbermann like, people don’t follow people, they follow interests.
I definitely haven’t done the market research they’ve done, but in my gut, that feels like a faulty premise.
People follow the interests they care about from the people they care about.
I can assure you that good curation is really, really hard work. A robot can’t do it, and an algorithm can’t do it.
We put a lot of effort into pinning things from our site and the rest of the web that we think you’ll love. We don’t farm it out to other people–Kristen and I do it ourselves. Sometimes we wake up early to do it. Sometimes we got to sleep late doing it.
I know that the pinners we’ve mentioned here are the same way. They spend their time putting together the best of the best.
In other words, I don’t want to see every single printable on Pinterest, I want to see what Mari of Small for Big is sharing. I don’t just want to see kids’ crafts – I want to see Alpha Mom‘s recommendations for kids’ crafts! And I want to know what Gabby Blair suggests is great design, because it’s going to be more aligned with my own sensibility, than what a group board with 8,462 pinners thinks is great design.
Similarly, we’ve also worked hard to curate the people and boards we follow. So if you click over to our “following” tab, it’s another source of discovery. However if you click over and see a board called Etsy Jewelry Made With Cheap Gold Plate — even and especially if we never followed that board to begin with – then that reflects on us.
So if you want to see more of the stuff from the people you love, you need to bookmark them and visit their boards directly; don’t count on them showing up in your feed when you want them to.
Discovering more of what you love.
I admit I can get annoyed when people complain about changes to social media networks–even though I do it too. The truth is, it’s not your site. It’s someone else’s business, and that’s the risk you take when you put your content on a site you don’t own. Eventually advertisers are going to come which helps support the site so you can keep using it for free.
However I’m wondering how it makes good business sense to feed users content that they have no interest in at all. Not just the sponsored pins, which I understand completely, but the not-at-all sponsored ones. The pins and the recommendations “picked for me” that make me second guess whether Pinterest will continue to be a valuable visual search tool for all of us. Or why they want to define me as a person as the sum of few select categories, and not a complex individual who finds different interests of value at different times or different phases of my life.
I also don’t know how it makes sense to keep my favorite content out of my feed.
In a Forbes article, Pinterest’s own head of operations, Don Faul, said “Pinterest is a place people come to discover things they love.” I’ve also heard Ben talk about how receptive he is to feedback.
So our feedback is this: Right now, we are not loving what we are discovering. We can tweak some settings and X out some pins and do what little we can to make our feeds look beautiful again. But the rest is really in your hands, Pinterest.
Pinterest is beloved. Please don’t break it.
Update, March 4: Pinterest folks have reached out to us about this article, and they are open, listening, and appreciative of the thoughtful, honest comments here. So keep them coming! They are continuing to make changes that will hopefully make the experience better for everyone, and incorporating feedback from users. We’ll keep you posted on any updates or news.