The Pinterest feed changes: How to see more of what you want to see. And why you’ll never see all of it.

Pinterest feed changes: How to see more of what you want to see (and why you can't see it all)

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.

 

Is Pinterest auto following boards for you? | CoolMomPicks.com

 

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.

 

Is Pinterest auto-following group boards for you?

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.

How to see who you are following on Pinterest : Do you recognize them all?
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?

Most recent pins on Pinterest: Not actually most recent

 

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.

Design Mom on Pinterest | Fantastic curation

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!

Liz Stanley on Pinterest | great board to follow

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.

There’s a reason I follow Handmade Charlotte and Jordan Ferney and Justin Hackworth and Martha Stewart Living and Traci French–they’ve earned my trust.

Handmade Charlotte on Pinterest | Great curation

Justin Hackworth | Great photography boards on Pinterest

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.

(Facebook deja vu all over again.)

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.”

Yikes!

Picked for you Pins on Pinterest: Slowly eating your feed?
Does Pinterest not think that we are capable of doing the picking?

(It is in our name, sheesh.)

 

How does Pinterest determine what is picked for you and why?

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.

How to delete a

 

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.

Anthropologie on Pinterest

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 in really in your hands, Pinterest.

Pinterest is beloved. Please don’t break it.

Liz

Liz Gumbinner is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech. This makes her very happy.

22 Comments

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    EriBreson

    so glad you wrote this. Its so annoying what they’re doing. But yes, likely because they’re making way for more promoted content (it’s all about monetizing). Hopefully they’ll start to realize that people are frustrated and starting to bail. I’ve already stopped using it as much (and many of my friends have too).

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Sarah

    So wait, do I have to actually visit pinners’ pages for their pins to show up on my feed? Isn’t that why I follow them in the first place? Drives me nuts – it’s like FB and having to visit the pages I’ve liked to get their posts. Liking them means I want to see their posts! And following a pinner means I want to see their pins. Thank you for this article! I was wondering what was going on with the “picked for you” stuff and had actually stopped going to Pinterest because I wasn’t seeing anything from the people I’ve followed. This was very useful!

    • Reply February 27, 2015

      Jacquie

      Thank you for this article. I was beginning to think it was just me! I was seeing so much “junk” and “clutter” in my feed that I have now stopped going to it and am just going to my own boards to further refine them or visiting my favorite pinners boards. It just feels so much more cumbersome. It’s disappointing to see only a few pins from my favorite pinners and also very maddening that what “was picked for you” I already had pinned! I get the money making thing but this way doesn’t seem to make much sense and takes the enjoyment (or should I say addiction) out of Pinterest.

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    RebekahSmith

    Half of the ‘recommended for you’ pins are things that I have already pinned! Like a year ago. ;-) So frustrating.

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Elizabeth

    Thanks for this info! I’ve pretty much stopped going to Pinterest, because I never see anything I like in my feed anymore. Such a shame, because it used to be my favorite website for new ideas and projects.

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Kathleen

    Thank you! My current favorite is pinterest’s insistence on picking pins with toilets, labeled “bathroom” for my kitchen board. Go home Pinterest, you’re drunk.

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Sue Kirchner

    Great article Liz! I have been a huge, huge fan of Pinterest for years and lately when I’ve logged in I’ve been so disappointed by the pins in my feed. I was wondering if something had changed or if the truly creative pins and pinners I love the most were abandoning Pinterest. I wasn’t sure where to find answers to what had changed. I only know that I’ve been spending less and less time on Pinterest because it doesn’t inspire, amuse, or intrigue me anymore.

    I wholeheartedly support their need to monetize the site and get the big return on their investment but they better make sure the service keeps people coming back for more.

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Lucia Vils

    I loved your post! When I first met Pinterest, I thought “This is sooo cool!”
    I found the concept was so personal, although our boards were open to the world, we pinned for us in first place.
    For a long time it had been the first thing I did in my Mac in the morning. I used to visit it many times a day to see new things that I loved, but now my interest is not that big, I see so many things that I don’t like…
    Thank you!
    (Sorry about my English!)

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    LLLL

    I agree. Im not impressed with the “picked for you” or “related” pins. I mainly use pinterest to pin stuff from blogs I follow! Sort of like a visual bookmark. Next I want to see the things that people I follow are pinning. If I want to see things from other random people I browse the categores Im interested in. Please Pinterest leave my feed alone! I like it the way it is! If you must add a “sponsored” pin do it like Ink36 does and just add an ad pin occasionally. Please do not give me pins from people I don’t know.

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Priya

    Thank you! Now I’ve deleted all the random picked-for-you pins…my board is so much cleaner :)

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Connie Z

    Thanks for being articulate and fair, as in not whiney. Did you send this to the ones who say they want feedback?

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    GreenistaGirls

    For a while now I was noticing so many awful pins that I hadn’t selected. What’s also weird is I would keep selecting not to follow certain boards and they would keep coming back. Thank you for writing this insightful article – I am so frustrated with Pinterest (my absolute favorite site) and FB, that I downloaded Instagram. Needed a place where I could actually curate my own content that I want to see – I wish Pinterest would stop ruining their site for all of us.

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Jeanette Nyberg

    I am loving this post- just LOLed a little at the “everything” board, and while I enjoy some of the pins that are picked for me, I wish there would be a separate tab or somewhere to go see those pins, and still get the feed I was getting before. I haven’t even noticed Pinterest auto-following people for me! That’s just plain evil. Thanks for the post and I’m just gonna go beat Pinterest up now for changing too much.

    • Liz
      Reply February 27, 2015

      Liz

      A separate sidebar for those pins – that’s a great idea Jeanette. I hope the Pinterest folks check out all of your honest, thoughtful, frustrated comments. It’s really helpful.

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    penni brown

    Everything you have written has indeed happened.
    About 40% of the “recommended pin”s are from my own boards, I have mysterious pins from pinners I have no clue who they are, the pins I *do* get are few and far between, the chronology of pins is driving me crazy, and yes, I’ve gone from about 1k repins every day down to 8, 23, maybe 40 on a good day.

    So I pinned this article, I wrote “PINNERS PLEASE READ” at the very beginning, followed by the heading your’ve already placed. I’m pinning this on all my group boards and boards that have high followers in hopes the word gets out.

    This is seriously frustrating, it feels like betrayal.

    • Liz
      Reply February 27, 2015

      Liz

      That’s so nice Penni, thank you. I hope it helps!

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    Hatsuho

    This explains why I haven’t felt like logging into Pinterest lately!

  • Reply February 27, 2015

    penni brown

    Ok, I’ve also spread the word on FB, Twitter, and via emails to everyone I know who uses Pinterest.
    Your article is spot on, thank you SO much!

  • I have been so frustrated with Pinterest lately and you’ve basically explained why, so thank you. I used to log in and see pins that inspired me and then led me to other inspirations–now when I log-in I have to slog through “picked for you” pins that I am completely disinterested in (or worse, actively dislike). I haven’t seen pins from some of my favorites in while, and I realize now it’s because I haven’t gone directly to their boards–but that’s why I followed them in the first place–so I would see their pins in my feed. I have really viewed Pinterest as one of my top sites for inspiration and ideas, but this feels like such a sell-out. And the worst part is that there isn’t a replacement for what Pinterest was (and still could be if they stopped giving me all those “picked for you” pins).

  • Reply February 28, 2015

    Chris @ One Weird Globe

    So I’m actually in the travel blogging niche, but there’s a lot of similarities (we both go to extreme lengths to find awesome stuff, for example)…

    While the changes are unwelcome, it’s a reminder that most *everything* done on a social networking site is part of the ‘digital sharecropping’ mindset. Pinterest isn’t seeing a backlash from Facebook’s algorithm changes (people haven’t stopped using Facebook or left the site), which might be emboldening it.

    Perhaps the response should simply be a reminder – Pinterest is one discovery tool – but your goal is probably to get people back to your site. Emphasize your website – the thing you control – as the place where people can find more.

  • Reply February 28, 2015

    Tracey

    Has any body noticed the rise of pornographic images in Pinterest? i had a serious one come up the other day, I found it upsetting. I LOVE Pinterest I’m such a visual learner , this made me feel like an old friend hid punched me in the face! And I let my children use it and now I cant. They need to introduce a report as inappropriate.

  • Reply February 28, 2015

    Corinnea

    I have a small slot of time that I devote to pinterest. It’s become smaller. It used to be a place I’d go, to quickly scroll for inspiration. Not that I may have actually been using any of the ideas but I loved my feed and loved looking at the beautiful things people I followed had done or pinned.
    It is too frustrating to use the little time I’ve allotted to un-pin and un-follow things I never asked for. It is easier to just not go at all. I understand changes must come but there are good changes and bad changes and these seem to be the latter.

    Thank you for making it clearer as to why it is happening.

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