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.


How To Build A Revolutionary Political Social Network

Very interesting piece on Lucas Dailey’s failed attempt to create a online constituent communications site. For sake of limiting partisanship, ignore the parts on the anti-Scott Walker protest–the article is nevertheless worth reading.

Pinterest: Politicians’ Newest Frontier?

This week, I went where very few men have gone before: the world of Pinterest.  Still in its early growth stage, politicians have yet to fully tap Pinterest as a communications channel.  I think they should.

Pinterest is a photo-sharing website that allows users to “pin” images onto online bulletin boards.  Users create boards based upon their interests and can follow boards of other members.  The network has 25 million members, who are predominantly female (upwards of 80% according to Social Media Examiner), between the ages of 25 and 34, and have money to spend.  Pinterest also drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined (check out this graphic for more information).

For these reasons, businesses (especially retail) are adding Pinterest to their marketing strategies.  Their goal is simple—increase sales by pinning images of their products and encouraging Pinterest users to repin them.

For political communications, the strategy on Pinterest is the same.  Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which have larger networks, Pinterest’s female-based audience creates a unique opportunity for politicians to target women in a cost-efficient manner.

And the numbers don’t lie; women are more likely to vote than men, so it makes sense that Pinterest should be a major battlefield for winning their vote.

Also, if Pinterest continues to grow at this rate, politicians can test Pinterest now.  When the masses do arrive, politicos can welcome them with another well-oiled social media machine.

But most politicians are nevertheless nonexistent on Pinterest.  As a matter of fact, I searched for high-profile politicians on Pinterest.  Of the 60 politicos I chose based upon their leadership roles and notoriety, only 5 have an active Pinterest account.

Yet some politicos are thriving on Pinterest.  Case in point: Michelle Obama.  The First Lady has used Pinterest to advance her “Let’s Move!” campaign, highlight Obama’s family values, and capture memories from the campaign.  And she’s accomplished this in exciting and creative ways.  Who would have thought that the First Lady would publish healthy eating recipes, or that a photo of a Bo Obama would go viral?  And of course, it never hurts to have a video endorsement from Beyoncé.

If you’re wondering how Pinterest could directly win votes, just open the First Lady’s board entitled “Why We Vote.” The post I find to be most powerful is titled “We Can Do It.”  Pictured to the left, Michelle Obama labeled the post as the following: “To To protect my daughter’s rights to decisions about her healthcare #WhyIVote.”  Connecting women’s suffrage with a woman’s right to choose and Obamacare, the image subliminally highlights points of contrast between Obama and Romney.  Women’s suffrage and Obamacare are not explicitly linked, but the image encourages viewers to make that connection.  The post also received 6 comments, 244 repins, and 280 likes.  That’s effective political communications.


As Pinterest continues to grow, I hope politicians jump on board.  If women continue to dominate Pinterest and outvote men, it only makes sense for politicians to target them there.  And for those politicians preparing to take that step, I suggest they take a closer look at Michelle Obama’s page and learn a thing or two.

Top Tweets from this Week

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Here’s a little entertainment to get you through the rest of the week.  I’m experimenting with a second weekly segment where I aggregate interesting online posts from politicos and news organizations.  Some posts will encapsulate unique uses of new media, while others will just highlight most absurd and hilarious online posts.  For the first segment, I’ve chosen to focus on Twitter.  Please let me know how I can make improvements!


Top Humor Tweets:

The Most Absurd Tweets:

My Favorite Tweet from this Week:

This is a great Retweet by Romney to reinforce his image as a family man (an image he suffered to establish during the 2012 election).  But more importantly, this is Romney’s first tweet since he lost the election!  Is Romney’s vacation out of the spotlight over?  What’s he planning to do next?  Is his hair still silky smooth?  I don’t know but we should all be on the lookout for what he plans to do next.  We can start by following his appearance at CPAC.

Water Bottles Full of Political Opportunity

While no one can top Mitt Romney’s Binders Full of Women, Marco Rubio can proudly display (and sell) water bottles full of political opportunity!

 On Tuesday, February 12th, Obama delivered his first State of the Union speech for his second term, in which he reiterated many of his campaign proposals.  As he has done in the past, he framed the Democrats as champions of the middle class and portrayed Republicans as defenders of the rich.

 To deliver the rebuttal, the Republican Party selected Florida Senator and 2016 Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio. While Rubio performed better than Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal did in his 2009 State of the Union Response, Rubio nevertheless fumbled the opportunity.  Halfway through his speech, Rubio paused in order to grab a mini Poland Spring bottle, located outside of the camera frame, and take a sip of water.

Naturally, the Twitterverse and the Blogosphere jumped on the opportunity to take jabs at Rubio.  While the comments varied from one pundit to another, one theme was constant: almost all of them were negative.  To put it bluntly, this looked like a recipe for political disaster.

Five days later, however, Rubio’s response to his water bottle moment seems to have worked.

Perhaps, Rubio can recover because his gaffe was natural; lots of folks’ mouths get dry when they speak in public.  Jindal on the other hand was boring.  From start to finish, he could not excite the audience and prove that he was the GOP’s answer to defeat Obama.  Jindal couldn’t even excite his audience when he wished them a “Happy Mardi Gras!

Or, maybe Rubio had a stronger response than Jindal.  Unlike Jindal, Rubio relied upon self-deprecating humor, with emphasis through social media.  On the day after his speech, Rubio tweeted a picture of the water bottle he drank from during the speech.  A few hours later, he tweeted the following message:

The next day, Rubio began selling special water bottles with the slogan “Quench your thirst for conservative leadership.”  Meanwhile, he also reached out to traditional outlets to further joke about the gaffe.

How did Jindal respond?  Well, Jindal didn’t have a Twitter account at the time, making it much harder to use humor as a defense.  Also, without a strong social media presence, Jindal couldn’t reach a large enough audience quick enough to change the national conversation.  From that point, there was nothing Jindal could do except to take the damage from bloggers, pundits, comedians, and everyone else with a Facebook profile.

Marco Rubio and his communications team deserve congratulations for successfully using new media to turn a potential crisis into a moment of opportunity.  Now when they watch the SNL skit mocking Rubio, they can relax and laugh along.  They successfully stopped the political bleeding.

They also preserved the chance for Rubio to run for President in 2016.


My name is Michael M. Kimmelman and welcome to the New Media Experiment!  Through studying international relations, and riding the internship train through the Beltway, I learned that new media has taken over political communications.  I used to be a cable news fanatic.  That changed, however, because watching CNN requires that I (A) buy a cable account, (B) pay for that account, and (C) suffer through Comcast’s Reign of Terror.

Although I’ve succumbed to cable, I am nevertheless part of a large group that are guinea pigs in the New Media Political Experiment.  Politicians and political news organizations quickly embraced new media, but they have yet to refine it.  We are the test subjects.

But it’s time to flip the tables.  Can we trust news reports from Facebook?  Will social media continue to revolutionize political campaigns?  Who will maintain quality control?  From online articles to tweets, this blog will follow the use of new media by politicians and analyze what works and what doesn’t; what’s cutting-edge and what’s flat out hilarious.  Enjoy!