How Pinteresting!

Ma’ayan Plaut is the social media coordinator at Oberlin College.

oberlin pinterestSocial sharing site Pinterest is an interesting creature. There are a bunch of websites that allow you to publicly bookmark sites, either for future reference or to tell folks what you’re reading or seeing on a daily basis. Pinterest has a distinct advantage over these other services, though: it is entirely visually driven — that is, you can only bookmark if the site contains an image, and a big one at that.

Upon signing up for Pinterest (it’s still in an invite-only beta launch), you’re prompted to follow people based on your interests. From there, you can create a variety of boards — digital bulletin boards where you pin all the things you find great, interesting and beautiful in the world (wide web, that is). You’re encouraged to pin practically anything you find online to your themed boards and to follow other pinners with similar interests to you, comment on their pins and repin to your own boards.

When it comes to thinking about Pinterest for institutional brands, there’s one significant difference between it and other social networks: your pins and boards on Pinterest are NOT central to your content or content creation. In its etiquette section — which is, of course, created by the community that uses Pinterest—they encourage avoiding self-promotion. What? Why would we want to use a site like this in higher ed if we’re not promoting our own stuff?

The truth is that your story isn’t just what you have to say about it. Much like Storify—a curation site that allows you to tell a story about something through social media—Pinterest is based on what else is out there that can help you tell your story. I think of it the same way that I think about the role of stock art when it comes to self-promotion, but with Pinterest, it’s not stock. It’s linked from an original source and with credit. A community like this can be self-sustaining and build upon the boundless options the Internet gives us but with a distinct focus.

This shift in mindset from self-promotion to using other means to define your views in the context of the great world: that’s a challenge. And I think it’s a really great one for higher ed; it shifts the perspective of promotion from things we want/need to tell folks about ourselves and rather, highlight other creators and collaborators who support similar ideas, causes and creations to us.

As of now, I’m seeing Oberlin’s Pinterest as a way to better visually represent what we care about and connect with people who care about these things, too. We can aggregate alumni creations (music, art, jewelry and more), collaborate on boards with students to see how they’d design their future dorm room, source good locations to buy winterwear, collect co-op friendly recipes and, of course, keep folks up to date with creative gifts for the caring Obie—bike-themed clothing, white squirrel art, books, Oberswag and more.

Are you using Pinterest, either personally or professionally? What are you pinning?

Editor’s note: You can also visit this board featuring other higher ed institutions on Pinterest.

7 responses to “How Pinteresting!

  1. It’s really neat to see what Higher Ed is doing with Pinterest. Drake University and Oberlin College were the two main examples Duke looked at when we strategized our Pinterest presence. We definitely agree with your post that there needs to be a good mix of content that isn’t self promoting – this just isn’t the community for spinning PR. However, we really have tapped into the spirit and pride surrounding Duke with a board on sportsmanship. We created a board for “Duke Faces” in hopes that alumni can be featured here, but also other rockstars who may be faculty or current students. Finally, the Duke Lemur Center is a big hit so far, mostly because images of cute, friendly lemurs are just perfect for a tool like Pinterest.
    We’re really interested to stay tuned to what Drake University and others continue to learn in this space.
    Duke’s pinterest profile:

  2. Ma’ayan,
    Your post does an excellent job of describing both the opportunity and the challenge of using Pinterest in an institutional environment. I’m pleased to see that Pinterest is slowly gaining momentum in the academic world. It definitely requires some creativity on the part of colleges & universities … but it has great potential. Cheers!

  3. Thanks for sharing these thoughts about higher education use for Pinterest. I’ve had an account for a few days, but still trying to understand potential. So the thanks for these ideas.

  4. Ma’ayan,
    Thank you for this informative and clear post. I think you’ve done a super job making the case for Pinterest. Well done.
    I recently combined a personal and professional interest in colleges and universities and created a board for campuses I’ve visited. I realized I’ve had a lifelong love story with higher education: I went to college, supported my husband during grad school, moved with him to start his career as a professor, spent 22 years working at William & Mary, planned trips with my two children as they were applying to colleges, and now travel to campuses around the country in my job with mStoner.
    It only made sense to start tracking these visits!
    Thanks again. Leaving now to tweet about this post.

  5. It’s great to see other schools on Pinterest. Drake University’s marketing office has been playing around with Pinterest since the fall, and it’s proved a great success with current students and alumni alike. Your point about walking that line to avoid self-promotion and, instead, to err on the side of creatively providing content we think our audience might like is spot on.
    Just today, we had a conversation about whether we wanted to create a board featuring prominent alumni and, ultimately, I’m not sure what we’ll do—but it doesn’t align with the rest of the university’s boards, and we wondered whether it has repin value. A “brag board” of sorts can be found on other social media, I think it feels reminiscent of non-higher ed debates about whether magazines should be pinning their own content for promotion. Another conversation, of course. But it prompts looking at other schools boards, for sure.
    Great post!

  6. I signed University Liggett School up for Pinterest a short time ago and it’s giving me the opportunity to really look at what is going on in the community and how it relates to our school. It’s a great tool for sharing a message. I completely agree with this post.

  7. Love Pinterest. I much prefer it to other bookmarks. To your point, I think that curation is much more about context than content – at least the context of your institution in the web as well as the context of media consumption.

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