Pinterest for Politicos: A Caveat

Last week, I argued that politicians should expand their social media presence to Pinterest.  This week, we’ll explore how Pinterest can be a political disaster.

And it all boils down to one problem: Pinterest’s search engine

There’s no sugar coating it: Pinterest search is abysmal.  Like all search engines, Pinterest’s search engine cannot “see” photos, but  relies on alternative text to identify them.  Users must accurately describe pinned images on Pinterest in order for them to appear in searches.

It just so happens that we are very bad at describing photos even with a 500 character limit, so Pinterest search is a nightmare (here are some steps to improve Pinterest Search).

This is especially problematic for politicians because they often change positions.  Take Steny Hoyer.  Not too long ago, Hoyer was the Majority Leader.  Before that, just a Congressman, which is also called a Representative.  Now that 500 character limit seems like not a lot after all.

Moreover, Pinterest search requires exact matches to find specific profiles.  If you search for “Michelle Obama,” you’ll quickly find the First Lady’s Pinterest Board.  However, search for “First Lady” or “First Lady Obama” and nothing shows up.

Is this the end of the road for Michelle Obama’s Pinterest profile?  No.  But it could be for lesser known politicians.

Just look at Hoyer (and he’s one of the most visible members of the House).  Don’t even bother searching for his last name on Pinterest-he’s the 90th profile to pop up!  Add his official title to the search query and you’ll also find nothing.

And here’s another obstacle.  Approximately 80% of Pinterest Pins are repins (more data here).  This is Pinterest’s strongest selling point.  And while politicians can benefit from users repinning strategic images, it also creates a challenge to control unflattering content.  Mitt Romney is a perfect example.  During the 2012 campaign, liberal group “Think Progress” created a board highlighting the luxury hotels that Romney lodged at during the campaign.  Although Ann Romney had a strong Pinterest presence, the Romney campaign couldn’t do a thing to stop Think Progress’ Romney board from going viral.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has also fallen victim to Pinterest.  Several Pinterest posts have popped up making fun of the potential 2016 candidate’s weight.  Will Christie’s weight become an issue if he runs for President?  I don’t know, but Pinterest sure isn’t going to help.

Like I said last week, Pinterest is still in its early phases, and politicians must avoid making a fool of themselves online.  As social media goes, experimental learning is key.  And if politicians want to join the party they should learn the tricks of the trade before the party arrives.  I cannot emphasize this enough: not many people (relatively speaking) use Pinterest right now, but they’re gonna be there really soon.  Now is the time for politicians to experiment.  Go for it.