On Tuesday, the Romney campaign announced that Ann Romney started a Pinterest account. "Ann's way ahead of me on this one," Mitt Romney tweeted. And with that, the wife of the Republican presidential frontrunner (at least for the moment) cemented the social media sharing site as the internet sensation of the moment.
Pinterest is a visual link saving and sharing service. It's currently invitation-only, and has made waves for its exponential growth in both users and traffic referrals. The site has enjoyed wide adoption among women, who have populated the site by sharing everything from organizational tips to stylish frocks. Meanwhile, many social media experts and organizations have been left puzzling over how to employ it--and with good reason. If you aren't trying to share a compelling image, Pinterest doesn't offer much. There's also been a nasty undercurrent to criticism of Pinterest, discrediting it as a channel because its current user base--and their pins of kitchen mixers and artfully arranged food--are not "serious."
So what is Pinterest useful for? This reporter will admit to being largely stumped, although I have started a board to collect images of the candidates holding babies on the trail. Courtney Lowery Cowgill at MediaShift says part of the appeal is that it is not about sharing a status update: "There's no announcement of someone's kids winning a soccer game, no photos of someone's amazing vacation, no promotion of someone's projects. In short, no bragging--and that seems to be what sets it apart in some ways from other sites."
Ann Romney uses the service to share both the personal (recipes, and "Books Worth Reading") and the political (a selection of campaign photos, and a set of images labeled "Patriotic.")
Still, the service's lack of overt editorializing space doesn't diminish a user's ability to pontificate. In early February, the Romney campaign shut down a satirist who was saving images and commentary under the name MittRomneyGOP--lampooning Romney's image as wealthy and out-of-touch with regular Americans. On Monday, ThinkProgress unveiled a Pinterest set comprised of high-end hotels taken from the Romney campaign's January campaign finance report.
Ann Romney's Pinterest board, the fake Romney account, and the collection of hotels do tell us one thing--during a campaign, someone, somewhere will figure out how to harness just about any platform in the service of politics.
There's just one catch to Ann Romney's early adopter status. Social networks of any stripe rely on, well, socializing. Mrs. Romney boasts 2,718 followers as of this writing, but she follows exactly zero other people.
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