You’ve most likely heard about Pinterest, the latest major player at the social media table. What is the point of this popular new tool, you ask? Well, think back to your pre-teen days: If you were anything like me, you were sitting on your bedroom floor, covered in cut up pieces of magazine paper, picking out pictures of your favourite artists, fashion accessories and inspirational quotes, and strategically gluing them to a piece of bristol board, that would soon adorn your bedroom wall. Now fast-forward back to today and enter Pinterest: it’s basically the same concept. It’s your own virtual bulletin board. It’s iconographic self-expression of the digital age. Only now, your Bristol board extends much farther beyond the boundaries of your bedroom walls.
With over 13 million users (and counting), it’s no doubt that the particular appeal of this tool is its swift simplicity; the ability to easily pin images, add relevant descriptions and comments, as well as post links to draw traffic to different sites. Pinterest is the online scrapbook; documenting everything from current events and recipes to runway fashion. It engages people through the universal love of imagery. The question we are all asking ourselves now is: How can I conquer this new tool, and gain from it?
As a public involvement firm that regularly uses social media to engage people in decision-making processes, we’ve been following the uptake of the tool with avid interest. Thus far, we are cautiously optimistic that Pinterest could be used to engage the public.
As public sector blogger Michael Bernard points out; governments can use Pinterest to share visual content that people love to see. National Parks, for example, have the opportunity to post pictures featuring changes to nearby parks, whether it’s a new picnic shelter, trail or the budding of leaves in the spring. Cities, on the other hand, can keep their citizens updated visually on new buildings, summer recreational sport leagues, or the progress of a new bridge being built.
There is also an opportunity to engage citizens by asking them to share their ideas through visual content. Whether it’s designing new buildings, greening their city, decorating public spaces or integrating new school programs, cities can seek input from their citizens in a completely new form. It’s a new kind of dialogue: one that is based on images rather than words.
The City of Edmonton has picked up this idea in their “Designing New Neighborhoods” strategy, asking Edmontonions to share their ideas with the city and each other about what they thought characterized a sustainable neighborhood. Citizens were invited to pin pictures to the City of Edmonton Pinterest page of what they thought portrayed the fundamental building blocks of great communities.
Our team at Ascentum has also been conjuring up ways to put our tool to use. We decided it would be interesting to ask people what engagement meant to them; the quintessential image that defines this broad reaching concept. Something clearly not as easy as it sounds; but therein lays the challenge, the intrigue, and our desired outcome: better decisions by including a diversity of voices.
If you haven’t already created a Pinterest page, give it a try. See why it’s become so popular. In the meantime, we suggest you check out the Ascentum Pinterest Page, and use your pictorial imagination to tell us what engagement means to you.
Send your images, with a brief description (optional) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Blog: “Why The Government Should Take An Interest in Pinterest” by Michael Bernard, Marketing Manager, HousingLink
- Example: City of Salisbury (Australia) on Pinterest
- Blog: “Pinterest’s Potential to Inspire Public Engagement” by Steve Ressler
- LinkedIn Disccusion: From the “Online Community Engagement” Group