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The Politics of Pinterest

BY Nick Judd and Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, February 22 2012

On Pinterest, the hot new social network, all politics is visual.

The social media darling of the month has been taking off particularly among users with an interest in food or fashion. But with an audience that's reportedly 68 percent female, it's also prime ground for political messaging targeted specifically to female swing voters.

Sure, Ann Romney has an account, where Romney family photos and campaign "candids" now hang — but the Romney campaign is also a target there. Gawker reported that the campaign asked Pinterest to rename a user — whose Romney-themed pinboards include one touting the merits of a Pellegrino bath and hiring a harpist in lieu of an alarm clock— to FakeMittRomney in lieu of the more ambiguous MittRomneyGOP.

We also noted this morning that ThinkProgress is using Pinterest to collect images of luxury hotels named in Romney campaign finance reports.

But this platform is not solely for coordinated campaigns. The 2008 election was dominated by homegrown YouTube videos. But the story of this campaign will be told in easily shareable images, meandering through the Internet on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and, now, Pinterest, which is awash in the stuff, ranging from the Democratic to the Republican, from the sober to the downright absurd, and lifted from all corners of the Internet. Here are a few examples:

Sober: A Shepard Fairey-esque, Ron Paul-themed "Hope"-style poster; a photo of Obama superimposed with the issues he's dealt with over the course of his presidency.



Silly: Ron Paul, Jedi of the Constitution; Hipster Ron Paul ("hated the Federal Reserve before it was mainstream").



So odd as to defy categorization: What appears to be a watercolor of a naked Barack Obama and a unicorn.

The medium seems custom-fit to the need of an organization — or a satirist — to create a visual representation of a brand: Take, for example, the many fake accounts for Barack Obama, Rick Santorum and a (potentially fake) Newt Gingrich.

When Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced a rules change that would suspend funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings, online organizer and "The Networked Nonprofit" co-author Beth Kanter started up a pinboard called Komen Can Kiss My Mammagram.

She used a collaborative board and had a team of perhaps 20 volunteers pinning items to it in order to keep the board's material resurfacing for Pinterest users to come across, she told techPresident at the time.

"It's mostly women on that [site] so it spread like wildfire over there," Kanter said, telling us the board gained 600 followers in 15 minutes. (It now has 1,739.)

"The way Pinterest works, it seems like you have to constantly pin stuff," she added later in that conversation. "The way it's built, it doesn't leverage networks as well as Facebook or Twitter."

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