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Pinterest's Potential to Inspire Public Engagement

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When you think of Pinterest, your initial perception might be people planning their future weddings, posting their perfect wardrobes and pinning up their dream homes.

But is there a place on this social network for government? The answer is yes, according to many GovLoop community members.

Digital Marketing Coordinator Mike Bernard makes several points as to why government should take an interest in Pinterest: it is growing rapidly, it drives a significant amount of traffic and it is new enough that organizations can still claim a solid URL.

But what could government agencies post that would appeal to the Pinterest audience? Bernard shares a few ideas:

The government has the amazing content people love on Pinterest. The National Parks Service could post pictures of Old Faithful, animals in Glacier National Park or the fall colors in the Boundary Waters National Canoe Area. State health departments could post photos of viruses that cause disease and then comment on the need for getting vaccinated. Elected officials could post pictures from press meetings or visits to local businesses. Cities and counties could post pictures from parks or summer rec. leagues or document the new bridge being built. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

While pictures offer opportunities to post appealing content, a government presence on Pinterest can extend to other types of information sharing. For example, a Senior Project Manager believes

Pinterest could have great potential for digital notices (pins) on policy that affects people geographically or by their individual interest as well as engaging people in strategy consultation. The pins could refer people to more detail on the main government websites and resources as appropriate.

e-Government Business Analyst Jon Lee's vision of government on Pinterest is to allow citizens to share content that achieves a specific outcome, such as designing new buildings, being more green, redesigning websites, decorating public spaces, integrating art from schools and designing new marketing materials (pamphlets, posters, etc.).

On the other hand, Mark Drapeau, Director of Innovative Social Engagement for Microsoft Public Sector, questions whether Pinterest can really add much value for agencies. While he thinks the answer to that question is still unclear, he outlines six ways in which Pinterest can be useful for political candidates who are in full campaign mode: engaging with more real-time and mobile information, creating issue-specific boards, posting exclusive behind the scenes content, reaching female voters, fund-raising and managing their identity.

Despite all of Pinterest's potential, Communications Specialist Stephanie Johnson points out some roadblocks that government agencies should consider before creating accounts.

The biggest concern among governments using Pinterest is the challenge of copyright infringement. Government agencies have to be very careful about their social networks and what can be posted to the account. Pinterest is based on sharing other people's content and weaving in your own. A best practice would be to have a disclaimer or have a set of rules in place about what can and cannot be pinned.

In the end, the reason why government should want to be on Pinterest is the same reason why future brides should be on Pinterest. As Lee puts it, "It's a great way to be inspired, discover new ideas and build relationships."