The surging popularity of Pinterest could provide significant public relations and marketing benefits to political candidates and campaigns.
The idea behind Pinterest is straightforward, which add to its widespread appeal
. Essentially, it serves as an online scrapbook or photo album, allowing users to post images that convey their personal and professional interests
: photos from a family vacation, wedding plans, decorating ideas, favorite quotes, and on.
It’s easy to see how a platform like this could provide a humanizing touch for any public figure trying to connect with the public.
A handful of politicians are beginning to explore the possibilities of Pinterest, including President Obama, whose campaign launched
a pinboard last month. It provides a slew of images, including some of the president on the campaign trail. Some of the most compelling images
are the also the most intimate, such as those showing him with his children or capturing him at dinner with the first lady.
The presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has also experiment with the new platform—or at least his wife has. For months now, Ann Romney has posted all sorts of personal images on her Pinterest site, including family recipes and photos of Mr. Romney engaged
in various activities with his grandchildren, including sledding, dying Easter eggs, and reading stories.
It’s unclear whether Ann Romney’s page is part of a larger strategy by her husband’s presidential campaign. Whatever the case, it has the potential to soften Mr. Romney, who has been criticized as an aloof and wooden figure who is unable to connect
with the public. So far, Ann Romney’s online gallery has about 11,450 followers. But that figure is likely to grow as the campaign heats up.
Pinterest is also gaining popularity on the Hill. Just last month, several House Republicans
joined Pinterest. It probably won’t be long before other politicians follow suit, particularly since Pinterest has 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors
, and, by some estimates, 70 to 97 percent
of users are women—a crucial part of the electorate.
With the 2012 election cycle in full swing, here are seven benefits politicians and their staffs can derive from Pinterest.
Tracking issues and themes that are gaining popularity.
Pinterest enables political marketers to gauge the Zeitgeist of users by tracking the most popular images, videos, and other content that individuals are pinning to their boards at any given moment. With people browsing one another’s boards for ideas, the platform is fertile ground for new concepts and trends. The fact that women, a critically important political constituency, are major users only enhances the platform’s value to campaigns.
Identifying visual elements and themes for branding and positioning.
From a branding standpoint, Pinterest can serve as a place to showcase campaign-related swag and an assortment of other campaign-branded materials. Beyond that, Pinterest provides a window onto images, colors, and textures that are resonating with users at any particular moment.
This enables political marketers to gain inspiration and surface-level psychographic information from the thousands of pictures, videos, quotes, and other content pinned to the boards every day. This type of data can be useful for fine-tuning campaign branding, collateral, and other online marketing or promotional materials.
Emphasizing a candidate's personality.
In politics, making a personal connection with voters is crucial. Pinterest is a great platform to provide a more direct connection between a candidate and the public.
With several boards at their disposal, candidates can set up distinct theme-based collections that reflect everything from a candidate’s policy goals to his or her personal interests. For instance, one board can feature images from a graduation ceremony, reinforcing a candidate’s commitment to education. Another board can feature a favorite restaurant or profile a popular community landmark.
Enhancing social media presence.
Pinterest enables people to share posts through Twitter and Facebook. Using Pinterest, a savvy campaign can extend its reach by sharing its archive of videos, photos, and other images with the millions of people who are using these other social media platforms.
Driving website traffic.
With a “Pin It” button housed on a campaign website, users can link back to the site when they share, or repin, items on Pinterest. The more a candidate’s original pin is repinned, the more traffic for the candidate’s web page. This is a great way to increase encounters
with the candidate’s site content.
However, it is important not to overdo linking pins. As is the case with most social networking sites, too much self-promotion becomes a nuisance to your followers.
Engaging with constituents in lively (and unobtrusive) ways.
Pinterest creates a welcoming environment in which candidates can engage with constituents and constituents can engage with each other in lighthearted and direct ways. Simply pinning an item on your board and asking “What do you think?” can generate waves of feedback and start a conversation.
Showing your campaign in action.
With Pinterest, candidates can pin live from town-hall gatherings, parades, or anywhere else on the campaign trail. The images can generate brand awareness for the candidate and tell the life story of a campaign, day in and day out, in the way that words cannot.
Only time will tell how far politicians will go to incorporate Pinterest into their campaign strategies in this election cycle and beyond. But, as one of the most popular social media sites
today, Pinterest is hardly a platform that they can afford to ignore.
Shrita Sterlin is chief executive and brand officer of Penn Strategies. A version of this story first appeared on the website PR & Marketing Strategist.