Pinterest is a virtual pinboard and social photo-sharing site that allows folks to organize and curate theme-based collections (boards) of pictures and images (pins). The site’s mission statement says it all: “to connect everyone in the world through things they find interesting.” Though the site launched in March of 2010, this social platform has experienced incredible growth throughout the last few months. And one thing’s for sure: it’s worth paying some attention – especially if you are a zoo, aquarium, museum (ZAM), or cultural center with high potential for visual engagement.
Nonprofits will benefit by getting on Pinterest right now. It’s late enough in the platform’s development for us to have indication that it’s worth these organizations’ often-limited resources, but it’s soon enough that ZAMs have not “missed the boat” in getting on Pinterest. Also, this platform may have some tremendous word of mouth benefits. While the boom of folks and organizations getting on Pinterest may indicate that the “early adopter” phase is coming to an end in the next few months (if it hasn’t happened already), it’s important for ZAMs – in particular – to be there. Why? Here are five reasons why your organization should consider developing a presence on Pinterest – and doing it soon.
1) Pinterest is big and it’s getting bigger very quickly.
With 2.2 million active daily users and 12 million active monthly users, Pinterest is now the third most-used social media platform in the United States. It ranks in after Facebook and Twitter, and before LinkedIn (by over 18 million views in the month of February 2012 alone). The platform experienced an increase in total unique visitors of 2,702.2% since May 2011, and its usership continues to grow. With 91% of all adults who are online using social media regularly, social media platforms – especially the most popular ones that communicate directly with museums audiences – are a smart place for museums to be.
Social media platforms are one of the primary and most powerful methods used by potential visitors to gather information and make visitation decisions. As the third most-used social media site, ignoring Pinterest means missing an opportunity to be present with a steadily growing online audience. There are 12 million active monthly users on Pinterest (so far). A part of your audience is already here… and might be looking for you.
2) Pinterest serves multiple functions that have a positive impact on your museum’s bottom lines.
Cultural nonprofits generally have two, key goals: to spread their message in order to educate, inspire, or ignite some form of positive change, and to meet a financial bottom line (i.e. to attract visitors, members, and donors to remain economically sustainable). Pinterest can help do both of these things by effectively and creatively reaching people online.
For instance, Pinterest allows for organization’s to build personal relevance with audiences. This kind of personal sharing done by Pinterest users can have high word of mouth marketing value – and this can drive qualified traffic to conversion sites. Pinterest allows users to express themselves with pictures and images that are relevant to their lives. Content produced and pinned by ZAMs has the capability of being repinned and integrated into user’s boards – which are often personal with high word of mouth value. In fact, Pinterest creates more referral traffic than double that of Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined, and a new study shows that Pinterest creates more referral traffic than Twitter. Simply put: Pinterest will get you more clicks to your website (if that’s where your pins link), than Twitter will bring to your website. Moreover, Pinterest is engaging and retaining users 2-3 times more efficiently than Twitter did at a similar time in its history. This is important, because conversion sites (ticket buying and membership purchasing pages) are often accessed through an organization’s homepage… and Pinterest can help get you those qualified clicks by referring Pinterest users to your webpage or social media hub.
…and they ARE often generally qualified clicks. Pinterest – simple as the concept may seem – functions as a tool to allow potential visitors to self-identify with the organization. In other words, individuals who pin photos from your venue or repin your pins are actively identifying themselves as fans of your organization or your organization’s offerings. Pinterest also can appeal to audiences that are at different stages of engagement with the museum. Here’s how (adapted from Mashable):
- Potential advocates and influencers repin and share your organization’s links and images on Pinterest. This serves as a form of online product recommendation or a review.
- Near-future visitors may be using your content as a bookmarking or online wishlist function, allowing them to share and remember things that they’d like to do in the future.
- Immediate visitors, or those interested in visiting in very short order, may conduct a targeted online search for your museum on Pinterest in order to do a bit of research and assess the organization before scooping up the family – or grabbing their partner’s hand – and heading out the door.
- Long term/future visitors who take their time making visitation decisions may be using Pinterest much like window-shoppers; they’re scoping out the photos and visual offerings of museums in order to make a decision to visit (or not to visit) in the future.
In sum, Pinterest functions as a widely used tool that allows ZAMs to spread your museum’s message, remain top of mind, and increase your organization’s relevance on a steadily growing, online platform among real and potential visitors.
3) Pinterest’s (current) frequent users represent a powerful social demographic that many ZAMs are trying to target: The potential (now and future) moms of America.
There are a lot of great reasons why museums often aim to target moms in addition to other demographics. To name a few, moms in the US spend 2.1 trillion dollars each year and they control 85% of household income. A staggeringly high 79% of moms identify themselves as being active on social media on a daily basis. Also, individuals in this demographic trust one another and frequently look to other active “mommy bloggers” or mommy social media users to make purchasing decisions or recommendations. In other words, turning moms into museum/cultural center evangelists has the potential to not only “drive the gate,” but to inspire entire families of ocean advocates, scientists-in-training, little (and big) anthropologists, creative thinkers, art lovers and musicians-in-the-making. We already know that who folks visit a museum with is more important than what they see. Targeting moms has terrific real and emotional potential for long-term engagement and becoming part of a family tradition and perhaps making museum-going a way-of-life.
This audience is on Pinterest: As of the end of February of this year, 68.2% of Pinterest users were women- and half of all Pinterest users have children. Women between age 25 and 44 make up 49.5% of all Pinterest users. These are America’s moms and future moms- and engaging these ladies may have significant payoff for museums and cultural nonprofits.
And this audience is “into” museum sweet-spots: ZAMs may be in a better position to integrate this platform than giant corporations because museums – by their very nature of existing to educate, inspire, and tell stories – produce some innately “pin-able” content. Here are some of the most popular board themes according to a recent study by JRMetrics:
- Arts & Crafts, as a theme, takes the lead as the most popular theme on Pinterest – making up 12.4% of all boards. An art museum may pin pointillism crafts. Science centers, zoos and aquariums may feature “green” crafts or projects that can help families save energy. The possibilities are perhaps as endless as staff creativity.
- Food is one of the most popular pin board themes on Pinterest, comprising 10.5% of all boards across the platform. It is also the fastest growing theme and predicted to trump fashion-themed boards on Pinterest in the near future in terms of frequency of pinning and board creation. This is good news for aquariums pushing sustainable seafood, science centers hoping to share information about nutritional science, and even location-based historic sites that may have some recipes that represent a taste of the times.
- Inspiration/Education makes up 9% of all Pinterest boards. This category may be a no-brainer for creative ZAMs with a social message.
- Travel, as a theme, makes up 1.9% of all pin boards. In fact, “Favorite Places & Spaces” is the sixth most-popular pin board name. If your museums or cultural center looking to also function as a travel destination (or, a destinations that folks visit when they travel for other reasons), this theme also plays to an area of potential strength.
4) Pinterest makes people curators – and that concept has a museum association.
ZAMs often have plenty of stunning visual content attendant to the positive social message they share. Moreover, these kinds of informal learning environments allow for visitors to take their own pictures and tell the story of your museum as it relates to their own lives – so the stories are coming from both the organization and from visitors alike.
The word “curation” may be a loaded one in our field and its definition (or rather, who does it and what that means) seems to be in a critical stage of evolution. As social technology puts the power of information in online users’ hands, we’re seeing more and more experiments around crowd curation in museums. Pinterest allows people to be curators of collections and its popularity may be a sign for museums who are reluctant to let go of the traditional “curation control” and experiment with radical trust. Forbes has featured stories about The Rise and Rise of Pinterest and Our Love of Digital Curation.
Pinterest also encourages sharing and accessibility – areas where ZAMs could perhaps use some reputational TLC. Attendant to this “pro,” however, are discussions related to the online accessibility of collections in regard to copyright issues and putting collections online. It should be noted that Pinterest just changed their policies –including their copyright policy and pin etiquette - so that they were more fitting for the uses of this growing platform. They are worth checking out.
5) Now is the time to get on Pinterest. (Read: Don’t wait)
To put it simply, as more and more folks get involved on Pinterest, the likelihood that you will be organically searched increases. If you’re not there, you’ve missed a powerful engagement opportunity. It’s worth noting again that individuals utilize social media platforms to gather information in order to make visitation decisions. Several large corporations and important entities are thriving on Pinterest. Nonprofits are on Pinterest. President Obama is on Pinterest. SeaWorld just created a Pinterest account. For a fitting platform in a world that’s all about relevance and remaining top-of-mind among the “noise,” this is not a time to be (visually) silent.
While Pinterest is still evolving as a platform and we are not certain what the future will hold in terms of audience engagement in the long run, this platform may very well be worth the time and energy to set up and maintain. At least, signs are pointing that way. It’s true that Pinterest may not be for every organization (This infographic may help you decide, though it lacks information on the relevance/efficacy of the platform within the industry.) But the outlook is good for the visually engaging world of zoos, aquariums, and museums …So collect your favorite photos, set up some Pinterest share tabs on your pages, and start listening, measuring, and providing content for real and potential visitors, members, and donors to pin. Show the world that museums are not places of the past, but instead indicators of the future. In short, now is the time to be ahead of (or at least on) the curve.
I’m also keeping tabs on museums and libraries on Pinterest, as well as zoos and aquariums on Pinterest. Have ZAMs to add? Tweet at me (@cdilly) or leave a comment below. Better yet, post it on my brand new Facebook wall and let other folks know! I’ll be sure to update accordingly.
About the author
MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore