Pinterest for Government

Lately, there has been a site called Pinterest that has skyrocketed in popularity. The basic concept behind Pinterest is an online pinboard; a virtual space for sharing images from all over the web based on specific themes. It’s a way to discover new ideas and get inspired. People use it for home remodeling, wedding planning, arts and crafts, cooking recipes, and any other theme that allows creativity, innovation, and fun.

This is an example of sharing images about different types of architecture on Pinterest

Is this something that government can use to engage their citizens? I think there are some agencies that could benefit from sharing ideas for very specific themes. Too many times I come across government photosharing sites and see things like buildings, agency heads accepting awards, historical landmarks, or office parties. Unfortunately, most citizens don’t find that particularly interesting. But what if we had a site that allowed us to share content worth a thousand words to reach a specific target, such as…

Designing new buildings: wouldn’t it be great if citizens had a chance to suggest ideas for the design of new buildings? There are so many innovative architectural designs all over the web. Why not let the citizens share some of their favorites with you.

Being more green: There are so many ways to be more green at the office without having to spend a lot of money. Ways to create heat, enhance natural lighting, simple redesigns to increase space, creative ways to reuse waste, etc.

Redesigning websites: Many agencies are looking to refresh their official website. Get fresh ideas from the community on what they like to see. After all, they’re the ones that have to use it.

Decorating public spaces: Share ideas for decorating parks, making improvements, or finding new ways for celebrations like holidays and parades

Integrating art from schools: Kids make the most inspiration and endearing art. Why not find ways to creatively showcase them in our public buildings?

Designing new marketing materials: How often does government spend on pamphlets, posters, and flyers that look unattractive and boring? Get design ideas that would make a stronger impression on your audience

Granted, Pinterest has its limitations, since it wasn’t designed for organizations to solicit ideas from others as much as it is to show off what you find on your own. But there is a collaboration feature that government could turn on to invite others to create content. Or just instruct citizens to mention you when they come across something related to your pinboard.

Either way, it’s a great way to be inspired, discover new ideas, and build relationships.

Keep in mind that as government, we have to be extra careful with areas such as accessibility, record retention, terms of service, and others. Make sure your agency is covered in these areas before you get started.

Overall, I think there are many public agencies that can use Pinterest as a powerful business tool. Yes, there will be some that sigh at the notion of jumping on yet another social networking site (“last year you told us to get on this site; what a big waste of time that turned out to be”). Chances are, many agencies will try and get little to no response. But if you have a business reason to try it out, why not give it a shot?

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Scott Horvath

I’ve been wondering, granted not a lot, about how Pinterest could be used for government. However, I fall back to the age old concept of thinking about our goals vs trying to fit the new shiny toy into the mix and figure out how it can be used. In times of very tight budgets it seems that holding back and evaluating your existing products and tools, existing traditional websites, are more important to focus on first.

Jon Lee

Hi Scott, yes, I know what you mean about jumping into new shiny toys… I think Pinterest is a little different though. The growth is definitely worth noting and there is value with this tool. I don’t see it being as much a social networking tool as it is an idea generation tool, so the time and resource investment wouldn’t be as high.

Scott Horvath

I do get what you’re saying. But in my experience, it doesn’t really matter how simple the tool is to use or add content to. It can easily become one more tool that you’re having to manage in addition to your other tools. I’ve always been one to focus on using a few tools really well rather than many tools and just doing enough to get by.

For example, we all know the POTUS has a presence everywhere…the other day he even joined Instagram. However, his use of Instagram so far, IMHO, is not what the tool is really meant to be used for. Right now he’s got four photos which are clearly of someone else taking pictures of him. While I understand he probably couldn’t be the one snapping photos and posting to Instagram, his staff should at least try to put some more artistic feel behind the photos…use the filters…take unique shots at different angles, vantage points, etc. Take a picture of one of the hallways in the White House and tag it as #vanishingpoint #iphoneography, etc. Capturing those unique shots would make a much more compelling presence.

If someone is going to use a tool like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc then they should be putting in the extra effort and planning to use the tool well and for it’s built for rather than to just use it because it’s easy. That kind of tool management does take time and more resource investment. I’m not saying “don’t use Pinterest,” but rather “do use Pinterest well.”

Jon Lee

Definitely, quality always over quantity. I always advocate agencies to put together a strategy for how the tool will align with their business goals and objectives. So if there is a business case to pursue and the resouves are there to support it, why not give it a shot? If it doesn’t work out then cut your ties and move on.

Great discussion about the POTUS and Instagram. I completely agree with your assessment. I guess since he’s loading up for a reelection, his plan is to get out there as much as possible on any network with a pulse. And he probably has a whole command center to manage his social networking activities so he’ll have the time and resources to do it well.