using pinterest as a comms channel

Pinterest is a platform that is sweeping all before it. Stats are amazing. In fact, in March 2012 the site served up 2.3 billion page impressions to over 4 million unique visitors a day. Can comms teams use them? Of course they can.

by Ross Wigham

Watching the Euro2012 football over the past few weeks I’ve found a really useful innovation on the BBC that enables you to switch between a range of different commentary options.

If you press the red button you can even select the option to have no commentary at all, immersing yourself in just the background noise of the stadium. I’ve nothing against Martin Keown but for me football is generally a more visual experience.

I don’t really want or need people telling me what’s happening during the game because I can already see it with my own eyes - I just want to watch the action unfold.

The ‘visual’ importance of communicating online and particularly the idea of visual search is something that lots of people seem to be talking about at the moment. A few people who I really respect are convinced that pictures and visual search will be the future of what we do online.

In the meantime sites that trade heavily in pictures like instagram and Pinterest are growing exponentially.

Pinterest is one site that caught my eye because of the sheer weight of numbers and speed of growth. The social photo sharing website was the fastest ever to break 10 million users and it seemed like everyone was talking about it.

I was really interested in the way people were using and sharing images, but how could a remote, traditional council in the North of England use it?

One thing we have in abundance in Northumberland is fantastic, iconic images and people right across the world regularly share their photos of things like Hadrian’s Wall or Alnwick Castle. Our fantastic comms team (@jimbolland @kristinaowen @Valjohno50) set up Pinterest pages for all the key towns and attractions across the county.

Working closely with our uber-social tourism officer @angietait we set up 60 pin boards that highlighted the very best images from each area and gave people the chance to share/pin their own favourite pictures.

This has now given us a great social space for each community to share images, a fantastic ‘visual search’ facility to promote the very best of Northumberland and a free destination marketing tool online.

You can check it out here if you like: www.pinterest.com/northumberlandc/

Even as a static searchable picture gallery it stands up pretty well, but as we found out in the recent Olympic torch relay - it’s when you use social that it can really catch on. We got around 600 pictures pinned and attracted more than 1,700 followers in the 3 days that the torch was on our patch.

In the future it’s also a great way of sharing infographics which we’re now trailing internally as a key way of communicating complex issues.

If searching the web is going to be even more visual in the future then for us sites like this could be invaluable in attracting that vital tourist pound.

Ross Wigham is head of communications at Northumberland County Council. He blogs here.

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