Pinterest: A Powerful Tool For Nonprofits

1 year, 3 months ago Comments Off
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pinterestforcausePinterest, you win.

I am writing about you.

As soon as I figure you out, I’ll pin it.

Pinterest is a digital platform on which users can upload and “pin” images and other content to “pinboards” where content can be saved, sorted and managed.

I know this because my lovely wife Maureen sits across the room from me each night pinning her world with mucho gusto. It started this summer with our daughter’s wedding and has exploded into a barrage of recipes – hashtags gluten-free and from the garden…and it never seems to end while the cork boards in the kitchen run out of available space.

The most convincing of my behaviorial research came when this woman who does not tweet, never checks in and rarely looks at Facebook pronounced, gleefully:

“I have 25 followers.”

You’d think she had just won a Words With Friends match. That’s how happy she was.

So I’m looking exploring Pinterest –  and its motto “A few (million) of your favorite things.”  I am particularly interested in how nonprofits and common causes  are using the platform.

If you are a pinner, your guidance would be welcome and appreciated.

But here goes:

For a couple years now, I have resisted the Pinterest bandwagon. Oblivious might be a better word. In my previous life, with Cincinnati.com ,I was involved in setting up a network of “nodes of influence” in the blogosphere whom audiences, not editors, determined to be authorities on sports, politics, food and fashion.

That meant, or at least our digital team told me, that I needed to join the fray and get into Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and whatever else was emerging. It was a good thing for an office-bound editor to do. I was able to sit in my office or check in with my phone while sitting in meetings out of my office with what was going on in the world out there. I was a self-described “social media cultural anthropologist” who saw trending topics emerging in social media long before legacy media woke up to discover.

When I retired a couple years ago, I taught a social media seminar at the University of Cincinnati. The students taught me. The storm of social media tools and technologies kept coming – Four Square, Yelp, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, Plurk and Pinterest.  I quit teaching and left my news business life behind. I still use Facebook, but it seems to have become noise. Linked In seems to get more quality interaction, but it’s so serious. And Twitter? I chime in with a wisecrack once in a while, but I doubt my 4,654 followers are paying much attention to what I think about #Reds chances for the playoffs.

I continue to use automated feeds to curate content for a daily e-paper, The Charitable Words #Nonprofit Wire. I do like checking it each morning to see whatever the robots curate from topics I am interested in – Twitter tribes of common interests, I call them.

These days, I am mostly writing this blog about one of those interests – success stories, best practices and trends in the nonprofit world. I’m not a consultant, certainly not an expert. But I try to keep up with trends and social media tools those in the nonprofit space should be aware of.

If this Pinterest thing that I thought wouldn’t last has grown in just three years to as many as 50-70 million users worldwide, I’d better pay attention.

My research didn’t have to go far when I found this, the top story on the RSS-feed e-paper I publish each day but don’t always read.  It’s from Julia Campbell, founder of J Campbell Social Marketing, a boutique digital media firm that works with nonprofits and small businesses to find solutions to their marketing problems.

Pinterest is the 13th most visited website in the United States and 38th globally, Campbell says. “There are many ways that nonprofits can use Pinterest to raise awareness, spread information and solicit funds. But in order to be effective on Pinterest and use it to accomplish your nonprofit’s goals, you first need followers.”

Here are her top 17 tips to get more followers on Pinterest for your nonprofit.

1. Grab the low hanging fruit first!

Let the people who love you know that you are on Pinterest. Put a call out on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and via other social networking channels.

2. Send a special email newsletter featuring three of your best Pinterest pins.

You can also write a short blog post about using Pinterest and how your nonprofit uses it and why. Make sure to embed the pins in the email newsletter and blog post and include a link to your Pinterest page.

3. Feature a “Pinterest Pin of the Month/Week” in your email newsletter to draw more visitors.

You can feature the Pin that got the most repins or comments. As John Haydon says, always “promote awesome” and not mediocre pins that didn’t do as well as you had hoped.

4. Invite your friends to follow you.

Through Pinterest, you can send an email or connect with your Facebook, Gmail and Yahoo connections to invite them to follow you on Pinterest. (Be wary of spamming people – just do this once.)

5. Follow others.

Similar to Twitter, the more people you follow, the more followers you will have. I suggest being strategic in who you follow – use the Pinterest search bar. For example, type in your location (“Beverly, MA”) to find pinners in your area and search keywords in your industry (“nonprofit”, “environment”, “animals”) to find pinners with similar interests.

6. Interact and engage.

Repin, comment and like pins frequently. Build good Pinterest karma!

7. Link to pins on other online channels.

Link to specific pins in Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets, blog posts and your email newsletter.

8. Push pins out to Facebook.

You cannot push pins out to Facebook brand pages yet, but you can certainly put a pin or two on your personal Facebook profile to help spread the word about your work. Encourage staff, volunteers and your Online Brand Ambassadors to do this as well.

9. Add a Pinterest tab to your website.

Go to woobox.com to get a free Pinterest tab for your nonprofit’s Facebook brand page. See what this looks like on my Facebook page.

10. Push pins out to Twitter.

Click the Twitter box when posting a pin, or copy and past the pin URL and add it to your Buffer.

11. Optimize your website for Pinterest.

Make sure people are able to pin the images on your site and your blog! Add Pin It buttons to very page and a Follow Us On Pinterest! image or Pinterest logo on your main home page.

12. Include hashtags in every caption.

I prefer fewer hashtags in captions – one or two is sufficient. Hashtags have the added benefit of showing your content to anyone who searches on the particular hashtag, such as #socialmedia, #infographic, #nonprofit, #animalrights, etc. Hashtags are a great way to get your pins in front of new people.

13. Post popular pins!

You want to mix up your own content (pins that link back to your website or blog) with popular pinsthat are likely to get repinned. Stay true to your brand and your message, but do a bit of research on what makes popular pins. Then repin away!

14. Have a variety of Boards.

Do not just post promotional content for your own nonprofit. Nothing is more boring! Mix it up and include boards about your location, the city and town you are based in, funnies, words of inspiration/quotes, beautiful sunsets. The key is always thinking about your audience first and what they want to repin and like – not what you want to promote to them.

15. Make sure to add descriptions to your Boards.

When creating Boards on Pinterest, include a short description of the Board and what kinds of pins you will be sharing there.

16. Pin consistently and at peak times.

According to this infographic, peak times seem to be around 2:00 and 4:00 PM EST, and then in the evening between 8:00 PM – 1:00 AM. Think about the Pinterest demographic – predominantly women, many of them mothers. When are they pinning? In the evening when the kids go to bed!

17. Add your nonprofit’s Pinterest URL everywhere you promote your Facebook page.

If no one know you are on the site, they won’t be able to follow you. Add the red P to your email signature, all blog posts, promote it everywhere you promote your website and Facebook page. An effective Pinterest strategy demands an investment of time and involves a lot of trial and error, but the results for your nonprofit can be astounding.

Good guidance, thank you Julia Campbell.

Please let Charitable Words know if you have seen any success stories from using Pinterest.  Feel free to share this post with your  friends. If it gets pinned anywhere, please let me know.

I’d love to show that off to Maureen.

Charitable Words,

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