Politics has found Pinterest.
A boom in users on the social media site -- and the fact that more than two-thirds are women -- is attracting political messages to the site best known for recipes, crafts and I-want-that images.
In political persuasion, as in marketing, "it's always the next big hot thing," says Zac Moffatt, digital director for Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. "And it's kind of hot right now."
Beth Becker, a digital media consultant, says there was little or no political content on Pinterest when she started using the site in January. Now, advocacy groups such as ThinkProgress, a website run by the liberal Center for American Progress; the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank; the AFL-CIO; the Democratic National Committee; and a gaggle of Republican members of Congress are on the site.
"It's really new, so organizations are cautiously putting toes in the water," says Jonah Seiger of Connections Media, a political digital strategy firm.
They're attracted because Pinterest has a lot of users -- it jumped from 11.7 million unique users in January to 18.7 million in March -- and most of those users are women, whose votes are considered to be critical in the presidential contest.
Pinterest users create virtual bulletin boards of their interests and "pin" pictures to them. Users can follow one another's boards and also "re-pin" images to their own. There are captions and comments but, like the social media site Tumblr, Pinterest is mostly about the pictures -- although that can include pithy captions, charts and infographics.
"The demographics definitely make it attractive, " says Patrick Bell, director of new media for the House Republican Conference. "People are spending a lot of time there. Wherever the fish are, that's where we're going to fish."
The Obama campaign has boards including recipes, "Pet Lovers for Obama" and "Joe Biden on the Road." The Romney campaign currently is represented by Ann Romney, whose boards include recipes, "Campaign," "Patriotic," "Things I Love" and other topics.
More from the Romney campaign will follow, Moffatt says. "There's no doubt that we will be on Pinterest," he says. The benefit of the site may not be to convince new voters as much as keep in touch with supporters, he said. "I don't believe it's persuasion as much as it is another touchpoint for people to engage."
Maintaining a campaign presence on multiple social media platforms is challenging even for a presidential campaign with plenty of money and staff. "We don't want to open up platforms that we don't have great conversations (on)," Moffatt says.
"I don't think it's about 'vote for me,'" says Becker, who nonetheless believes campaigns should jump into Pinterest. "It's a good platform for talking about the stuff that women care about."
Pinterest works for campaigns because it is made up largely of photos, and the campaigns churn out images daily.
Obama and Romney "are producing a visual narrative every day. They've got events, they've got photographers," Seiger says. "It's one more place they can push content that they produce already."
Pinterest drives traffic to a candidate's Facebook page or website, instead of linking within Pinterest itself. That makes it easy to get Pinterest users to the site where a campaign's "donate" and "volunteer" buttons are.
The political community on Pinterest is far smaller than on other social media sites: the Obama campaign has 18,778 followers (although there are also state-specific boards) compared with, for instance, 16.5 million followers for @BarackObama on Twitter. Ann Romney has 7,420 followers on Pinterest, compared with 228,323 "likes" on Facebook. The most popular Pinterest board, Jane Wang, mother of co-founder Ben Silbermann, which sticks to food, crafts and decorating, has more than 3million followers.
"Its core is not political," says Alan Rosenblatt of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, "but on the other hand, its audience is a group of people who need to be reached with this message because they're not being reached otherwise."
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