To pin or not to pin? Can a non-profit benefit from being on Pinterest?

When my friend and I were creating our foundation (for media literacy and freedom of speech), one of the few things that were obvious for us was that the foundation should have its accounts and profiles on all major social media sites available in Poland (including twitter, which at that time had only marginal meaning down here). If we were doing it again today, we would be much more picky, but would we decide to be on Pinterest?

Let’s start off with some basic presumptions:

  1. Your time (both at work and on this planet) is limited.
  2. Your organization’s resources should be spent wisely and effectively (aka. you shall not waste your time on useless web-based activities).
  3. Your organization already uses various communication channels.
  4. You comply with my golden rule of communication — “it’s better not to do something at all than to do it poorly.”

Ever since its launch a couple of years ago, Pinterest has been analysed and referred to by almost every single media outlet dealing (even remotely) with marketing and communication. There is now a ton of infographics answering all kinds of questions, from “Why is Pinterest so addictive?” through ” Should Your Business Be On Pinterest?” and “How Pinterest Can Turn Your Brand Red-Hot” to “13 Fun Facts About Pinterest Users.” Some are crazy about the magic of pinning, some are more than skeptical. All in all, Pinterest caught our attention effectively. More and more companies are joining the platform encouraged by a growing referral trafic and the annual household income of Pinterest users (28.1% earning more than $100 000 per year). But is the case for using the Pinterest by companies valid also for non-profits? I would argue it is not.

Reason 1. Unless you’re from the US…

Pinterest (contrary to Facebook, for example) is a regional phenomena. It’s users are basically from North America – the rest are most probably marketing and communication people from all over the world. Thus unless you want to reach the American audience, your efforts on Pinterest might not be time- and cost-efficient.

Pinterest Global Data Usage

Reason 2. It may cost more than you think.

Pinterest is in great part about eye-pleasing. You need high quality visual content (photos, infographics, videos, etc.). If you don’t have it – you’re gonna need to produce it and that costs.

If, however, your organization constantly produces valuable visual content (taking professional photos of your actions, expalining issues and processes through infographics, producing promotional and educational videos), Pinterest seems like a great place to share it (it won’t cost you neither much time nor money)!

Reason 3. Most probably you’ve already found who you’re looking for.

Does your organization have a Facebook profile? 97% of people you find on Pinterest are Facecebook users. Remember Amnesty International USA? On pinterest they have 3.5k followers; on Facebook it’s 413k… Now, don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying that using  multiple channels to reach your audience is a mistake; I’m saying that with Pinterest it makes little sense.

There is no “one size fits all” answer whether a non-profit would benefit from being on Pinterest. There are some organizations that tried it, most successful being Amnesty International USA and UNICEF Global (if you go to any local UNICEF profile, “success” will not be the word to describe their performance). Still though, these examples seem more like exceptions rathen than rule.  One thing seems is pretty clear: if there are no strong arguments “for” and you don’t have solid knowledge of how to do it right, don’t go on Pinterest just because it cool… It might not hurt your organization’s image much (again, is your audience really there?), but it will most surely be a waste of time and money.



3 thoughts on “To pin or not to pin? Can a non-profit benefit from being on Pinterest?

  1. What about Instagram, any thoughts on that? Especially with the recent plans on ‘monetizing’ IG, which has became so popular, individual IGers turn away from it.

    1. The clue here seems to be the difference between Pinterest and IG: Pinterest is a closed platform, where u collect visuals, while IG is an application, through which u can share photos wherever u want, so it makes it more interactive and flexible, and as such gives more options to the user. That’s a plus.

      The issue of monetizing, on the other hand, may be a killer. Many discussions have been going on in the Internet about “closing” twitter (aka. commercializing it). At this point, codes are open, so people can design and develop new clients to manage your twitter account and through these clients they can earn money. And so far twitter has had no problem with it. But the investors are getting impatient. They want their returns and so they’re pushing for twitter to close codes and start selling adds… And that would be a killer, similar to IG’s monetizing.


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