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By: Brookelyn Riley
Among the dream wedding inspiration, bikini bod workouts, and mouthwatering dessert recipes, Pinterest is finding its niche in another realm – politics. As one of the fastest growing social networks, Pinterest has positioned itself to become the “next big thing” in political campaigns. The site, founded in March 2010 and still invitation-only, has captured an interactive audience that drives almost as much traffic as Google and Twitter and more than Google Plus, YouTube and LinkedIn combined. (Cohn 2012) Pinterest is not just another social media application to add to a politician’s bag of tricks, however. It targets a key population – women.
The combination of a boom in users, and the fact that more than two-thirds are women, is why the site has become politically hot. “I don’t think it’s about ‘vote for me,'” says Beth Becker, a digital media consultant, who nonetheless believes campaigns should jump into Pinterest. “It’s a good platform for talking about the stuff that women care about.”
Pinterest users create virtual bulletin boards and can “pin” pictures to them, while following other users and “re-pinning” the things they post to their own boards. Captions and comments are a feature, but like Tumblr, Pinterest’s main function is the pictures. Infographics, charts, and witty captions and quotes can be found among these photos. (Moore 2012) Paul Booth, assistant professor of new media and technology at DePaul Univeristy, said that Pinterest is unique in its ability to humanize politicians. “The more tech savvy campaigns are very good at finding people online,” said Booth. “A lot of people want to humanize their president. Pinterest can do that in a way that a blog can’t because it’s too professional, and Facebook can’t because it seems so corporate now.”
Naturally, the 2012 presidential election was the first to be able to use Pinterest. Since it was a relatively new venue of social media, those in charge of the social media campaigns sought unique ways to make these pin boards have a lasting impact on the women of Pinterest. The way the 2 candidates incorporated Pinterest in their campaigns were equally distinctive yet interesting.
After Republican presidential candidate Romney made a campaign stop in Rosemont, Illinois, Ann Romney logged onto Pinterest to upload event photos and share with fellow Pinterest users and locals. Ann was able to reveal a whole new side to her “husband candidate” that gave him a realistic appeal that was much needed to relate to the middle class, a segment he struggled to connect with throughout the election. (Cohn 2012) While Romney never fully caught on to the Pinterest trend, his wife’s use of Pinterest to include DIY (Do It Yourself), Recipe, and other craft-based boards, humanized her as a mother, a cook, and as an American – not just the wife of a presidential candidate. She even had a “Patriotic” themed board covered in stars and stripes, which gave her 10,000 followers a glimpse into her American role. (Susskind 2012)
Taking an alternative coarse of action, Obama’s campaign populated a general “Barack Obama” page and created regional Pinterest pages for New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina. Some of Obama’s primary features on the site were his board titled “Just the facts” fully equipped with infographics, store promotions, and his “The First Family” board that was second largest number of pins on his account. He even had a pin board dedicated to “Pet Lovers for Obama” featuring memes of pets and witty slogans such as “I bark for Barack.” (Susskind 2012)
The fact that the website is primarily pictures produces a visual narrative every day for the audience, especially in high profile races like the presidential candidacy. “They’ve got events, they’ve got photographers. It’s one more place they can push content that they produce already,” says Jonah Seiger of Connections Media, a political digital strategy firm. The site has also become an influential driver of Web traffic for this reason. Users typically follow the images (aka pins) to their original source, in this case the candidates main website, Facebook site, etcetera. (Moore 2012) The highly visual nature of the content on the site is ideal for not only presidential candidates but congressional leaders as well to showcase their infographics, videos, and marketing tools part of their messaging strategy. (Cohn 2012)
As of now, Pinterest does not have a real political niche carved – yet. The site has no politics category to browse. The site is far from inundated with political content. However, it is important to keep in mind that Facebook and Twitter did not start out political either. “I think the future of social media is visual, and I don’t think Pinterest is going to go away,” Ericka Andersen, a digital communications associate, said. “If you start talking to someone about a bill or a piece of legislation, their eyes are going to glaze over. But if you show them a picture of a struggling family in Alabama, they’re going to get that.” (Cohn 2012)
Since Pinterest is a fairly recent phenomenon in the scheme of social networking and has only lasted through the 2012 presidential election, the amount of research done is still minimal. However, I think the most influential finding is not that Pinterest played a pivotal role in the 2012 election, because it did not; however, it is important to note that it is building momentum at a rate that could make it an overwhelming factor in the future. Ultimately, Pinterest makes politics more personal, gives politicians another outlet to share and re-share their inforgraphics, pictures and memes, and targets a key population segment of women.
Cohn, Alicia M. “Pinning politics: Pinterest gains popularity as several public figures join in.” Hill 20 Mar. 2012: 34. Academic OneFile. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.
Moore, Martha T. USA, TODAY. “Targeting voters on Pinterest.” USA Today n.d.: Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.
Susskind, Jane. “Top 5 Politicians on Pinterest.” The Social Ballot. IVN Column. 16 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.