Building New Audiences, Engaging the Community with Pinterest


When we think of the social media industry, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may come to mind, but what about Pinterest? You may be surprised to know how big of a social media contender they have turned out to be.

Pinterest, launched in 2010, remains a big player in the social media market. Experian Hitwise US, ranks the photo-sharing platform as fifth in terms of social media traffic as of August 2013 with over 35 million visits. Pinterest is no small contender. According to Business Insider, they now have 25 million members and they are currently valued at $2.5 billion.

Pinterest received much attention a year ago in the press for news organizations to join the Pinterest wagon. A year ago for INN, I wrote some tips about how news organizations and journalists could use this platform in their newsroom and newsgathering process.

In fact, a page was created to highlight all the news organizations with Pinterest boards: Since then, many news organizations have abandoned their Pinterest boards with no updates provided or few updates since a year ago.

So, is Pinterest still relevant for the news industry to use?

This week I highlight some of the news organizations that are using Pinterest for innovative purposes and shedding light on new ways that Pinterest can open the door for nonprofit news organizations to use the platform to build new audiences and engage with the community.

Who is using Pinterest?

According to a recent social media report by Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, “Pinterest, the online pinboard, has attracted 15% of internet users to its virtual scrapbooking. Whites, young people, the well-educated, those with higher income, and women are particularly likely to use the site. Pinterest is equally popular among those 18-29 and 30-49 (19%). Women are about five times as likely to be on the site as men, the largest difference in gender of any site featured in this report.”

These statistics may not be as eye opening as the kind of user statistics for Facebook and Twitter, but they show the potential for growth for this platform moving forward and the opportunity for nonprofit news organizations to gain new audiences.

The platform currently is attracting a younger demographic and nonprofit news organizations can see this as a potential outlet to attract younger readers to their content.

Second, as the media landscape becomes more focused on the visual (e.g. video, graphics, photos, etc.), photo-sharing social media websites like Pinterest will continue to gain in popularity.

Lastly, as nonprofit news organizations are continually seeking ways to reach audiences, using a multi-platform strategy can be helpful. This entails not only having a place to showcase your content on your website, on a Facebook page, or on Twitter but also on other platforms such as Pinterest.

Nonprofit news organizations can be steps ahead of the curve and innovate using the Pinterest platform as the number of users will continue to grow with the photo-sharing website.

Below are some innovative ways that news organizations, nonprofit and for-profit are using Pinterest to build audiences and engage with the community:

usa todayFeature People From the Community

USA Today’s Pinterest board features numerous profiles of people:

A nonprofit news organization could take a similar route with a Pinterest board and do a series of profiles of people in their community. For example, a Pinterest board featuring profiles of the emergency response team in town and a day-in-the-life experience. Another idea could be a Pinterest page about the small retailers in the downtown area that keep local business and the economy thriving in the town. The profiles you feature on your Pinterest page can be links to the stories on such individuals from your news website. These are just a few ideas to consider.

Highlight Multimedia Content: Data Visualizations, Podcasts, Videos and More

The Wall Street Journal’s Pinterest board features infographics.

wall street journal

As many nonprofit news organizations are doing data-driven journalism projects, it provides another place for the data visualizations and infographics to have an extended life and in turn, drive audiences to the news stories those infographics connect to.

texas tribuneThe Pinterest board of the Texas Tribune takes a different approach and uses it to hyperlink to their podcasts and videos. If your news organization is doing podcasts or videos, those can be pins on a board on your own Pinterest page. It’s another way to drive audiences to your content from a different platform.

Create a Dialog Around Important Community Issues

PBS Newshour uses its Pinterest boards in many different ways. One of their uses of the platform is making it a place for dialog with the community.

pbs newshour

For example, this Pinterest board asks why teens stay in school as part of a larger news project on the high school dropout crisis and the community shares images and comments in response to that question.

The potential for nonprofit news organizations to use the Pinterest platform for dialog can be wide-ranging. Your news organization may have a hot topic or issue in the community and you can use the Pinterest board to drive conversation around it and perhaps a story. For example, perhaps there are issues with the conditions of the local parks in your community. You could have a Pinterest board to allow the community to share their images and comments about the condition of local parks and the problems they see in the parks ranging from images of broken swings, cracked pavement, etc., and you could develop a story from that.

Showcase the History of the Community

The Chicago Tribune uses one of their Pinterest boards to show the history of the city:

chicago tribune

This can be a great way to show the richness of your community, its people and culture. If your news organization has a partnership with the local museum or historical society in town, it may be possible to do a virtual exhibit on Pinterest of local history through photos.

If getting access to old photos of the city is not as feasible, you could put out a call on Pinterest and other social media platforms asking your community to submit or send in their own photos of the city from decades past. The Pinterest board can serve not only as an educational experience about city history but a way of engaging with the community in a different way.

Own Your Brand On Pinterest, Curate a Community News Collage

While working on writing this piece, I did multiple searches on Pinterest to find news organizations’ Pinterest boards. While doing those searches, I found that several individuals had created their own Pinterest page of a news organization’s content. For example, see this Pinterest board about NPR’s Marketplace show curated by a realtor:

This example was just one of several I found where individuals were featuring the news content they liked from a news organization and pinned it on their board.

I think this poses a great opportunity for nonprofit news organizations to participate in this process and be a part of this community in Pinterest.

A way to do this is to bring those individuals’ boards of your news content into a curated Pinterest board created by your news organization. You own your brand on Pinterest but you also bring the community into that board. This can be done by creating a collage of all the Pinterest boards’ of people who are probably already curating your news content (and you don’t know it) and put them into your own news organizations’ Pinterest page. By creating this community collage, this can drive further traffic to your Pinterest board and news website while building a stronger news audience in the process.

Pinterest is a platform that has a specific purpose for the sharing and commenting of visual content. For news organizations, it’s more than just posting an image but it’s about creating and curating conversation around the visuals. Those visuals are the stories that make the community what it is and the news organization can and should be a part of that process.

For more tips on Pinterest, they have several tips for businesses (that can be applicable to news organizations) to maximize a Pinterest presence online (requires setting up a business account):