Oct. 5, 2012 at 11:01 AM ET
Pinterest. It’s not just about your girlfriend’s home décor anymore.
Like everything else this presidential campaign season, Pinterest has gone political.
Type the word “Democrat” or “Republican” into the site’s search box and all sorts of partisan boards pop up. Type in “politics” or “political humor” and the list of resulting pins and boards runs on endlessly. Caricatures of President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney mix with sketches of elephants and donkeys, editorial cartoons, colorful charts outlining government program spending, and photos of political figures with dogmatic headlines or captions.
Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board onto which users can “pin” items they found on the Internet — usually photos, charts or other graphic images — into various categories. The most popular pins feature clothing and design ideas. Food and recipe posts also are common items that get “re-pinned” on the site, which has an estimated 20 million users.
Pinterest has become a favorite social media forum for women, so reaching out to female voters may have been a factor when Ann Romney joined Pinterest in February. First lady Michelle Obama followed suit several months later.
But Pinterest has increasingly become a popular site for political expression for both genders during this presidential season. The forum also is gaining favor among political organizations across the partisan spectrum. Conservative think tank Heritage Foundation has a Pinterest board, as does the American Future Fund, which features a board showing “Obama’s Empty Chairs” and highlighting the 20 “stunning and exclusive” golf courses Obama has played during his presidency. On the other side, the AFL-CIO also has a Pinterest site, as does Think Progress, which features boards highlighting the luxury hotels and private jets the Romney campaign has listed on his campaign finance reports.
Pinterest offers 33 categories, ranging from animals to humor to quotes to videos. Geek and tattoos also are listed. Politics, however, is not.
That irks Ericka Andersen, who handles social media for Heritage Foundation. She has repeatedly reached out to Pinterest to ask the company about starting up political outreach efforts, especially during the election season. She has yet to get a response.
Andersen said Pinterest can be a great forum for politics. She noted that the most popular Facebook posts lately are easily shareable images, such as a photo, drawing or screen grab that feature a pithy political quote or headline.
“Images are what’s happening right now. Images are much more powerful than headlines and articles in spreading ideas,” she said.
Heritage has more than 870 pins and 27 boards, including “On the Taxpayer’s Dime,” and “When liberals are wrong,” but Andersen said the “charts and graphs” board also helps get the organization’s message out to a larger audience.
“It’s not driving us a lot of traffic, but traffic isn’t our only goal,” she said. “The goal is the message, and we’re reaching another demographic that might not come visit our website or know that much about us otherwise.”
Pinterest declined to comment for this article through its public relations firm.
A poll released in September found that more than a third of social networking site users say those sites are important to the way they engage with political activities and issues.
The survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reported 36 percent of social networking site users found those sites “very” or “somewhat” important in keeping up with political news; about 25 percent said they found the sites just as important in both debating those issues with others, and connecting them with like-minded individuals.
The survey, however, was conducted earlier this year in January and February, before the Republican party had nominated its presidential candidate.