7 ways to get your union into Pinterest

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

by Maya Russell

Pinterest, the visual bookmarking and pinboard tool, is the latest social media darling. “Not another thing I have to do?” you cry! Bear with us. We think it’s worth it for unions to jump on Pinterest, and here’s a few reasons why:

Traffic. Pinterest has joined the social media biggies in driving traffic to websites, even beating out Twitter in some cases. And Mashable lists it as the #1 web traffic source for many retailers. So if you’d like to get more eyeballs on your union’s website, take a look at Pinterest.

Women. Pinterest is where women 25-44 are spending a lot of time, posting images onto virtual pinboards. And women are a more sympathetic audience for almost all of our clients.

It’s low-maintenance. Think up some boards, add some pins, and you’re set. You don’t need to feed the beast every day like some other social media tools. We know this is good news for busy communication staffers.

It’s a familiar medium for the union movement. It used to be, when the union wanted to tackle a problem, someone designed a poster. Or a bumper sticker. Or a bookmark. Pinterest and Facebook are creating a place for that kind of design again. People are creating and sharing graphics that use a picture and text to express themselves. It’s a new take on the old tradition of the movement poster.

Where are unions on Pinterest?

There are only a few unions on Pinterest so far. But union members are there: a search on education brings up lots of teachers. Hint to the SEIU: there are 30 pins from members already... And apparently nurses have to laugh or they’d cry: a popular nursing Pin is Top 10 ways to spot a student nurse.

The United Steelworkers are one of the first out, and they’re sharing impactful images from their campaign confronting Tesoro’s shareholder meeting.

Firefighters have a great Pinterest presence telling their story with news photography, quotes and images of their charity work.

So there’s lots of room to grow on this low-investment, addictive, visual bookmarking platform. Here are 7 ways to get started.

1. First, make your website Pin-able

If you do nothing else, make sure that the best content on your union’s site is Pin-able. You can test this by loading the Pin It tool in your browser and surfing your site. When you click Pin It, do your images come up? Note: image carousels and slideshows are often not loaded directly, in order to make the page load faster. Talk to your web supplier about changing this for Pinterest traffic.

Look at your home page and other important content areas. Where can you add a strong graphic that conveys what the union is all about? Use the maximum size for images to make an impact (554 pixels wide, no limit on height).

Think about important content you want shared and create Pin-able graphics for the content to drive traffic to that page. The union logo. An organizing appeal for prospective members. Your most important advocacy campaigns. Your political action message. Your union swag. What your members do for the public at work.

2. Next, get your union started on Pinterest

Set up your union with an account on Pinterest. Use the union name as the Username to give you a unique ID.

3. Now, think about your audience

Before you post, spend some time thinking about who you’re trying to reach. What is their life like? What are they interested in? What will catch their eye?

Looking at what they’re posting on Pinterest is a great way to do audience research.

4. Figure out your story and your Pinterest ‘voice’

Pinterest is about telling your story with pictures. So, with your audience in mind, what is the story you have to tell with pictures? How might you organize that into boards? It doesn’t all have to be your own images. Think up boards that speak to your audience and fill a need. (For the low-down on copyright, check out Mashable’s post.)

Like all social media, the key is the social part. So it’s not just the union promoting itself. You’ll be more interesting if you create boards that capture the values and essence of your organization and help members and supporters express themselves.

5. It’s all about the images

It’s all about eye-catching images on Pinterest, so you may want to hire a professional photographer to provide higher-quality images.

Images that are beautiful or that strike an emotional chord are more likely to be shared. So beware relying solely on the infographic – it can be a powerful tool to distill information but it lacks emotional clout.

Adding a few words to an image is a great way to tell the story. Graphics with image and text, magazine-style, do very well.

6. Get found with good descriptions

The description field is where you use words that people might search for. So teachers, use “teaching” “education” and “school”. When someone Repins a Pin, they often don’t bother to change the description so it’s worth a bit of thought. Add the source website address in each description.

7. Get the word out and monitor your traffic

Once you’ve created Pin-able content on your site, add a Follow us on Pinterest button to your site with this tool: http://pinterest.com/about/goodies/.

Configure your settings to connect through the union’s Facebook Page and Twitter profile so that your Pins are shared on your Facebook page automatically. You can include twitter #hashtags in a Pin’s description and post to your twitter stream to get your Pin into a twitter conversation.

Track your stats: http://pinterest.com/source/yoursite.com

A few ideas to tell your union’s story

Here are a few easy ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Don’t get stuck on being too literal – you can and should get creative.

  • health and safety: a board with photos of dangers at work
  • special days: create a sharable graphic to promote special days, like this Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job
  • your union’s leaders: post photos of them with the quotes that inspire them. (with the correct source, of course)
  • a board on Leaders We Love could be a way into your political action work
  • organizing drive: create a graphic that sums up the problem at a workplace with a slogan and a picture
  • public service unions: share inspirational photos of members in action, and pictures from the past. (The Firefighters do this awfully well)
  • union swag: (hats, shirts) can be promoted as Pins. The Democrats do a nice job of this. A price with $sign in the description field adds a price banner to the Pin, so people see
  • it’s for sale. The Pin is also added to a Gifts sidebar.
  • contests are very popular on Pinterest. If you’re running one, promote it on Pinterest using keywords “contest” “promotion” and “giveaway”. If you are posting union swag, run a “Repin to Win” contest.
  • work escapes: invite members to share the dream destination that gets them through the work week
  • create a ‘tools of the trade’ board sharing popular office equipment or workplace tools such as safety needles
  • dig out those great posters, buttons and bumper stickers and give them a new treatment
  • your union’s community project: if you pitch in on community projects like Habitat for Humanity, put together a board with pictures from the project
  • actions and events: share great photos from the action, member picnic, BBQ or rally
  • latch on to a news story with a Pin-able image to share support - a photo or an original design. The BC Teachers’ Federation did that with their free speech efforts using the Dr. Seuss Yertle the Turtle quote that was considered ‘too political’ for schools. 

Some other great resources:


Then, let us know what you think! What interesting boards and pins are you seeing from unions on Pinterest? We’d love to hear back.