Working Smarter

Put a Pin on It

The social network Pinterest has gone beyond critical mass to simply massive. Here’s how planners and CVBs are using it to promote meetings - and their organizations.

Pinterest was launched two years ago, but only recently has it become a social network on steroids.  In March, according to Experian, Pinterest’s more than 12 million users made it the third most popular social network in the United States, behind Facebook and Twitter.

Pinterest is disarmingly simple to use.  Members “pin” images, usually web-based, to an online “pinboard,” creating a set of visual bookmarks they then can share.  The result is “like a digital version of a high-school-locker door,” giving users a platform to display the things they care about, said Evan Strange, marketing and communications coordinator for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association (Visit Indy).

While most of the content on the site is related to lifestyle topics such as food and DIY projects, Pinterest users, including Strange, increasingly are finding ways in which the image-based network can serve other purposes.  “From a business perspective, it’s a great way to tell the story of Indianapolis,” said Strange, who has created more than a dozen pinboards on Visit Indy’s Pinterest profile, with images illustrating everything from the city’s breweries to its cultural districts.  Pinterest is a visual way “to show how to explore the city – what there is to do and how to find great restaurants and event venues.”

Visit Indy’s Pinterest content was a logical addition to a meeting pinboard created by Sam Gonzales, social media director for the American Occupational Therapy Association Inc.  (AOTA), which held its 2012 Annual Conference & Expo in Indianapolis on April 26–29.  AOTA began to use the platform earlier this year, Gonzales said.  “It’s our demographic,” he added, pointing out that the majority of both the social network’s U.S.  users and AOTA’s membership are women.

The “Conference in Indy” pinboard has been one of AOTA’s most popular, with more than 1,800 followers – well more than a third of the number of conference attendees.  In addition to pins about the headquarters hotel, restaurants, and coupons for discounted admission to Indianapolis attractions, all provided by Visit Indy, Gonzales added the conference schedule, a link to Trip Advisor, and other resources.  AOTA also supplied a conference “badge,” for attendees to pin on their own boards and social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.  “There’s a viral effect,” Gonzales said.  Members “share the content that they care about with their friends.”

Members can follow an entire Pinterest profile, or select specific pinboards.  Some of AOTA’s topical pinboards have more than twice as many followers as the main account, which means members are choosing pinboards that match their own interests.  “It’s all about curating content” to match members’ needs, Gonzales said.

And although using Pinterest is almost as easy to use as taping photos on a locker door, Gonzales recommends a thoughtful approach to sharing content.  “It’s a visual organization tool,” he said.  “It needs to be well organized.”

Sticking It

Everyone seems to be jumping onto Pinterest.  In March, the Kansas City Police Department created a Pinterest profile, devoted to topics ranging from police horses and dogs (“Fuzzy Friends”) to seized drug money.

“Ask yourself, ‘What content is going to benefit my audience?’” said Visit Indy’s Evan Strange.  “When you find that out, it is your responsibility to share it.  And you have to be social – it’s not all about your content, but also about the need to engage and share other content.”

A complete primer to using Pinterest can be found on the American Occupational Therapy Association Inc.’s website, at

A list of CVBs on Pinterest can be found at cvb-pinterest.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.