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Ann Romney's Pinterest account features pins on her family, recipes and patriotic flair.

Pinterest: The next frontier for politicians

by Gillian Roberts
May 31, 2012


Courtesy of Pinterest.

The Pinterest icon can now be found on pages throughout the Internet, prompting users to re-pin things they like back to their virtual boards.


Duckworth Pinterest account

One of the Pinterest boards on the site of Illinois Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth features some photos of her family in addition to her career.

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Pinterest might be to the 2012 election campaign what Facebook was to the 2008 campaign.

Put a pin in that, and come back to it later…

The saying has never been so true as with the dawn of Pinterest, the social networking site that allows users to organize and share interests via images on virtual bulletin boards.

The site, which according to ComScore boasted 17.8 million users in February, is now attracting a new type of user – the politician.

“I’m not surprised,” said Jacqueline Zenn, social media strategist at Socialogic, a social media marketing company based in Chicago. “It’s an interesting tactic that’s a pull-in, as opposed to pushing out information at people.”

The Congressional campaign for Iraqi war veteran Tammy Duckworth started an account on the site Wednesday morning. Duckworth is a Democrat running for U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois’ 8th District against Republican incumbent Joe Walsh.

Duckworth’s site has five boards that contain photos ranging from family photos with her husband to her piloting a Blackhawk helicopter.

“I think her site looks good,” Zenn said. “It’s a good way to make [candidates] three dimensional and show what they do outside of campaigning.”

Duckworth is one of just a few politicians taking a step into this social media realm so far. Of more than 40 other Democratic women running for federal elective office in November, it appears only one other candidate has a Pinterest account, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

“The more tech savvy campaigns are very good at finding people online,” said Paul Booth, assistant professor of new media and technology at DePaul University in Chicago. “A lot of people want to humanize their president. Pinterest can do that in a way that a blog can’t because it’s too professional, and Facebook can’t because it seems so corporate now.”

McCaskill has six boards on her site containing both work-life and personal pins. The images include her visit to Afghanistan and a photo from 1988 holding her son, where she chronicles that she was the first woman to give birth while serving in the Missouri state legislature.

Neither the Duckworth nor McCaskill campaigns returned calls for comment.

"Some are saying that women's votes are up for grabs in the presidential campaign, so this makes sense to reach that population," Booth said. “Pinterest is very heavily skewed female.”

The social media measurement company ComScore reported that 85 percent of the site is female while the social media news blog Mashable said that 68.2 percent is female.

Pinterest is also getting action from the presidential candidates.

President Barack Obama has an account, boasting almost 17,700 followers. It includes 10 boards, some containing family pictures and recipes, including one for the Obama family chili. One board contains Obama-Biden merchandise with links to purchase.

While Republican candidate Mitt Romney does not have an account, his wife Ann does. She has 7,210 followers and eight boards containing photos of her grandchildren with Mitt, crafts and books that she recommends.

“I think Ann’s account looks like she’s familiar with it, and real,” Zenn said. “Obama’s comes across like the campaign thought, ‘oh, we should probably make an account.’”

A Pinterest spokeswoman declined to comment on politicians’ use of the site. Neither the Obama nor Romney campaigns responded to requests for comment.
Earlier this month, investors were reported to have raised additional venture capital funds that put the company at a net worth of $1.5 billion.

“Four years ago, Facebook was very much what Pinterest is now,” Booth said. “It was individual and more personal. Now Pinterest has that homegrown appeal that Facebook doesn’t.”

“But it’s hard to say what will be the next big thing in 2016,” he continued. “In social media predictions always turn out to be false. The only prediction that’s right is that you can’t predict it.”