Why the Government should take an interest in Pinterest

You may have heard people talking about the hottest thing in social media, Pinterest. For those not aware of what Pinterest is, it’s a “Pin-Board” styled social photo sharing website. The site allows you to create and manage theme-based image and video collections. Popular topics include recipes, fashion, celebrities, animals, design and nature.

The way it works is you create topics that are of interest to you and fill up your Pin-Boards with photos and descriptions of things you like pertaining to that topic. Then people who share your interest in that topic can comment on your Pins, re-Pin your images or share them by email, Facebook or Twitter.

Think of those photo collages you made back in junior high but way, way more fun, interesting and easy!

So what’s the big deal? There are tons of photo sharing sites out there. Why should government organizations care about Pinterest?

Excellent question. Allow me to offer up some suggestions of why Pinterest is important:

1) Pinterest is growing like crazy! Pinterest is currently the 17th most visited website in the US and 81st worldwide. Over the last 3 months, site traffic has grown by 226%! People are just flocking to Pinterest, and you should do your best to communicate with people where they already congregate.

2) Pinterest is very sticky! Since people are always adding new, visually appealing content, Pinterest makes people come back often and stay for a long time. This results in people spending large blocks of time looking at stuff on Pinterest. This is a captive audience and you can be in front of them with your content.

3) You have the content people love! The government has the amazing content people love on Pinterest. The National Parks Service could post pictures of Old Faithful, animals in Glacier National Park or the fall colors in the Boundary Waters National Canoe Area. State health departments could post photos of viruses that cause disease and then comment on the need for getting vaccinated. Elected officials could post pictures from press meetings or visits to local businesses. Cities and counties could post pictures from parks or summer rec. leagues or document the new bridge being built. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

4) Claim your URL! Since Pinterest is still new, all the good URLs are not taken up yet. When you sign up, you can get www.pinterest.com/minneapolis or www.pinterest.com/USDA. Claiming these URLs while you can is extremely important if you want to make it easy for people to find your content.

5) Pinterest is driving traffic! A recent study found that Pinterest is driving more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined! That’s a lot of people finding their way back to your website simply by posting some great looking photos online.

I know that some people are thinking after reading this list, “That’s all fine and well, but I don’t have time to do one more social media thing and I don’t really know what my city/county/agency would even post on there.” I recognize that everyone is super busy, especially these days when reduced budgets mean increased workload for everyone. I also realize that if you’ve never thought of what you might do on Pinterest, figuring out what sort of interesting content you have might be the furthest thing from your mind.

But I have a couple of responses to that thinking:

1) Give it a try if for no other reason than satisfying point #4 above. Starting your account takes less than 5 minutes and will ensure you get an easy-to-find URL. Then put a reminder on your calendar once a week to go in and spend 15 minutes uploading a couple of photos and re-pinning other people’s photos to your account. It won’t take long before you develop a very nice Pinterest account.

2) You have more content than you realize. Here are some ideas I’ve thought of that government organizations can implement easily:

  • Natural resources departments can post pictures of animals (birds and fish are always winners) or scenic nature shots.
  • Transportation departments can post pictures of bridges, construction trucks or aerial photos of highway interchanges.
  • Education departments or school boards can post whimsical photos of children at play (don’t forget media releases of course) or highlight teachers who are doing an excellent job.
  • Cities can post cool pictures of police cars, fire trucks, new civic buildings, historic homes, interesting artwork or architecture in the city hall.
  • County parks, nature preserves and fairs are great places for photos.
  • How about taking pictures of the inner-workings of municipal facilities such as water treatment plants to show the public how things work? There’s a whole TV show about how things work!
  • Transit and port authorities…Hello, buses, trains, cranes and ships! What’s not to love?
  • Elected officials post pictures of ribbon cutting ceremonies, important business developments, meetings with important people and much more.
  • Tourism boards have more amazing pictures than anyone I can think of. Post away.
  • The military could post pictures of tanks, planes, ships and places around the world.
  • History centers, museums and archives are sitting on a treasure trove of America’s past. People love images of the way things used to be.
  • Food safety agencies can post pictures of bacteria or what to look for when food spoils. This kind of stuff will definitely get people’s attention.
  • How about having a photo contest where you post a really focused picture of something your agency deals with and have people guess what it might be. Then announce the actual item after a week of guessing.
  • Do you create interesting graphics for reports you create? Post the graphics and link it back to the reports on your website.

I would love to hear additional ideas of how your organization could use Pinterest to post interesting content, increase citizen engagement and drive traffic back to your website. Let me know what you think.

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Mark K Smitham

This is a good signpost for Pinterest and has made it clear in my mind what it is and how it works. I feel that the point you make focusses too heavily on photos/pics when government has so much more, especially local government. I believe Pinterest could have great potential for digital notices (pins) on policy that effects people geographically or by their individual interest as well as engaging people in strategy consultation. The pins could refer people to more detail on the main government websites & resouces as appropriate.
Kind regards