screenshot of Drake University Pinterest boardThe only thing growing as fast as Pinterst these days are blog posts about Pinterest and why and how various constituents should be using this (relatively) new and fastest-growing social media website.  In the short time that I have been on it (and admittedly addicted) I have wondered why there aren’t more schools getting on the Pinterest bandwagon.  I have run across a number of bulletin boards and pins by individuals paying homage to their alma maters but schools, not so much.

Admittedly, the search function for Pinterest leaves a lot to be desired at this point in time so it could be that there are more schools on it than I realize but I ran a rather random Google search and found of the US News and World Report top 10 colleges, only two had an official presence (Yale and Amherst) and each had only one board and a smattering of followers at best.  Of the top 10 high schools, none had a presence.  My college (Denison University) had no presence and the only presence for the grad school I attended (Northwestern University) was established by the Career Services department.  Back to the search function issue, it may take students and alums a while to find schools that are on there, but that doesn’t deter me from thinking it’s a good idea.

Why Pinterest, Why Now
Why add Pinterest to your social media strategy?  Because as a social content curation venue, it offers a different approach to connecting than Twitter or Facebook.  A recent Huffington Post article suggested that part of Pinterest’s appeal is that the focus is on “look at this” rather than “look at me.”  (Amen to that!)  Another reason for schools to add Pinterest to their social media strategy is about timing and momentum.  Once you get beyond the big three (Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin) there is a virtually inexhaustible list of social media sites with relatively small, growing followings.  Pinterest usage is comparatively speaking, skyrocketing, and there are rewards for getting in early; it’s typically easier to grow your user base when there’s less competition.  (Conversely, growing one’s user base on Facebook has become more challenging for small pages because they actually get less exposure than prior to the timeline/newsfeed format change.)

How Schools use Pinterest
It is easy for me to envision a school using it as sort of more creative “virtual yearbook” telling their story and building their social community visually via what folks in that community find fun, interesting, useful and important.  One nice feature is that you can even set up collaborative boards, where people you approve can contribute to specific boards.

Northwestern University and Others
Northwestern University Career Services is doing a good job with their boards that cover everything from “Internship Resources,” “Companies where NU Students Intern,” “Dress for Success” (separate boards for men and women), and “Office Spaces,” “Volunteerism” (National and International) and various Library Boards with reading suggestions for Career Resources, Majors/Degrees, Internships and more.  They take a lighter turn with “Wise Words” and “Movies and TV That Work.”  Other schools from my random sample that appear to be off to a modestly decent start are Bowdoin College, University of Texas McCombs School of Business and Miami University (did I mention my sample was random?).

Drake University
But a truly imaginative and better example of the potential for a school, however, is Drake University.  They have managed to fall squarely within the fun and visual user experience that is Pinterest.   Their boards cover everything from “Rad Room Décor,” (loved this!) and “School Colors” (fashion) to “Adorable Bulldogs” (the school mascot – VERY endearing and fun), “Study Inspiration” and “Alumni at the Office” (office décor that incorporates either the school colors or their mascot).  I didn’t go to Drake but I sure enjoyed perusing their boards – which is exactly what Pinterest is all about.  They have done a great job of making their boards bring the Drake student experience to life in such a way that ANYONE can enjoy it.

A common (and I’m guessing widespread) reaction to all the hooha over Pinterest may be similar to my own – “Oh no, not ANOTHER social media site I need to keep up with.” – All I can say is, yes, it is BUT this one may be the one you end up enjoying the most – and possibly reaping the most benefits from.

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7 Responses to "Why Schools Should be Jumping on the Pinterest Bandwagon"

  1. Jill Oviatt

    February 22, 2012 Reply

    I found the endorsement for Pinterest a thoughtful one, however, as an organization, I’m concerned about some of the terms which seem to make using it a copyright infringement for most. Here’s an article that suggests businesses could be sued for using it. I like the tool, but don’t want my organization to get into any legal trouble:
    http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/2012/02/how-your-business-could-get-sued-for.html?ana=twt

  2. admin

    February 22, 2012 Reply

    Jill, You bring up a good point and excellent concern (and thanks for the article link). I will start by saying I am not an attorney, but have been reading others who have weighed in on this subject as well. From a recent Quora discussion: “Under DMCA, the user generated content is the sole responsibility of the user. But when the copyright owner complains (written), the hoster (Pinterest) is required to remove the content. Simple as that. This is exactly why Youtube lets music videos in and only after the record label complains, gets them removed…I think Pinterest is at least an accessory to the violation – their software not the pinner makes the copy of the pinned picture.” I think anyone who uploads images not already on the Internet and pins them without permission is probably more exposed than someone who is pinning images that are on the Internet. What happens on Pinterest is already happening on many other social media sites. For many, the exposure is provides a huge upside so they aren’t likely to complain. And as you know, images do link back to whatever source they are taken from. Currently, schools post photos on their websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. I would assume they get permission to do so. I don’t see this as different when dealing with original content. For Internet content, I think it boils down to whether the source sees it as an advantage (which many do) or an infringement. The Quora discussion: http://www.quora.com/Are-users-of-social-cataloging-sites-like-Pinterest-violating-copyright

  3. claire axelrad

    February 24, 2012 Reply

    great idea, especially about schools using collaborative boards. it’s a great way to provide a service for alumni, and not have them think all you care about is their wallets.

  4. Kevin Coates

    February 24, 2012 Reply

    Just found this article interest, how other non profits are using pinterest.
    http://mashable.com/2012/02/24/pinterest-non-profits/#5003310-Operation-Smile

  5. David Ray

    February 25, 2012 Reply

    I tried to look at it and try it out but apparently you have to get on a wait list. I am not sure how long you have to wait. The idea of yearbook sounds like a great one. I will look forward to someday getting in it and seeing how it works

    • admin

      February 25, 2012 Reply

      David – You are correct that currently you need to go to the Pinterest site and request an invitation. The typical wait period right now for an invitation appears to be three or four days. My guess is that they are doing this so that their servers don’t get overloaded as they are growing quickly – this allows them to control that growth rate somewhat.

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