Becca Ramspott is a writer and social media specialist at Frostburg State University.
I have to admit that when Pinterest became all the rage, at first I dug in my heels. Sure, it seemed awesome. (What shoe fanatic doesn’t want her own, online visual smorgasbord of fashionable footwear, speaking of heels?) But I knew Pinterest’s popularity meant Frostburg State University might have to get on there eventually, and I wasn’t sure what our point of entry would be.
So I did what I always do whenever Frostburg faces a new social media adventure: I brought it to the attention of FSU’s social media group, a campus-wide team of faculty and staff who spearheads our university’s social media initiatives. We came up with key questions to research (What copyright concerns do we
need to consider? Can more than one person pin to a board? Is Pinterest mainly something for soccer moms who are bored?) and divided them among team members. We contacted experts at other institutions. (A HUGE thank you goes to Oberlin’s endlessly creative Ma’ayan Plaut and Drake University’s Aaron
Jaco, higher education trailblazers on the Pinterest front who gave us some great resources and feedback). We also read articles about Pinterest, and thought about how to do it right.
It was spring 2012 and the news was dominated by economic doomsday stories about poor job prospects for college graduates. In the spirit of positive celebration and resourcefulness, Frostburg’s social media group decided to launch a Pinterest account as a graduation gift for the Class of 2012. We set to work building boards that related to life after college, including:
- “Tassle is Worth the Hassle,” where we promoted all things commencement.
- “On a Shoestring,” where we pinned articles about paying off student debt and that highlighted creative ways to live large on a budget.
- “Now What?” where we provided helpful articles about acing interviews, pursuing careers with passion and going to graduate school.
- “What’s Lydia Up To?” Lydia Valenta, one of our student Commencement speakers visually blogs about life after college through pins.
Having a specific target audience in mind gave us a great marketing strategy and allowed us to … well… pin our hopes for FSU’s Pinterest on a high-profile event like commencement. As with all of FSU’s social media efforts, we kept our new community fresh, conversational and authentic. We weren’t interested in re-creating our viewbook or some other sort of brochure. We wanted a mix-and-match grab bag of fun and useful resources for our graduates that would let them know we are proud of them and want them to succeed. We curated cool content from all over the interwebs, some of it directly connected to our institution, some of it not.
Today, Frostburg State is continuing to creatively grow its Pinterest presence. We just launched our latest round of boards for new students, which include Getting Our ‘Burg On, where we showcase great events on campus, and A Healthy Student Body, where we encourage a focus on health, wellness and stress management. We even have a School Me board to help students excel in their classes, which upholds FSU’s strategic planning efforts on improving graduation rates.
I love coming up with different ways to promote our Pinterest community. Right after our launch, I started highlighting a “Pin of the Week,” a link from one of our boards that I tweet out and post on Facebook. Sometimes, I’ll link to a pin rather than a press release on our university website when I’m promoting something on social media to experiment with ways to get people’s attention. We’re now experimenting with weekly Instagram hashtags to crowdsource imagery. I recently set up a Pinterest board where we showcase the best #instaFrostburg pictures people take.
Visual content is driving social media’s development. Curating that content takes on new dimensions when you have boards to play with, adjust and move around. I’m very glad Frostburg has set its sights on Pinterest.
Is your institution on Pinterest? Do you have plans to jump on board? Concerns about joining? I’d love to learn and hear from you in the comments below.