COLLEGE PARK – On Pinterest, users can find images of tattooed babies, recipes for buffalo chicken cupcakes, bacon roses — and Gov. Martin O’Malley’s reading list.
Maryland lawmakers, government agencies and small businesses are increasingly turning to Pinterest, the fastest growing social network, to attract attention to their brands.
The site, organized as a virtual pinboard, was launched in 2010 and has quickly become one of the top 10 social networking websites, according Experian Hitwise, a company that tracks online trends.
Video tutorial by Brooke Auxier/Capital News Service
Charm City Yoga, which has several locations throughout Maryland, already has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. With the popularity of Pinterest surging, the company launched an account on the site about a month ago.
“Pinterest is so visual. It’s a nice way to establish us as a brand and a place to go for yoga information in general,” said Amanda DiGiondomencio, Charm City Yoga’s social media manager. The company runs yoga studios in Baltimore, Pikesville, Towson and Severna Park.
Pinterest’s user base is dominated by women aged 25-44. Though Pinterest has gotten a lot of attention for driving traffic to business websites, marketing experts said it has not yet established itself as a major marketing tool.
“I personally don’t see anything revolutionary about [Pinterest]. I think it’s a beautiful site. I really like it. But I see its impact on marketing as much more incremental,” said David Godes, associate professor of marketing at the University of Maryland College Park.
“Would I guess that firms that have interesting boards that they put up on Pinterest are driving people to their site? I’m sure,” Godes said.
In January 2011, Pinterest drove more referral traffic to websites than YouTube, Reddit, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, according to a study by Shareaholic, a content sharing software company. Facebook, StumbleUpon and Twitter drove more traffic to websites than Pinterest.
On Pinterest, users can pin images and videos from external websites to their virtual pinboards. Other Pinterest users can like or comment on that content and ‘repin’ it to their own pinboard.
For visually interesting companies and brands, Godes said Pinterest’s image-centric design offers them a better way to promote content than other social media platforms. And it’s not only businesses that are taking to the site.
Maryland’s Office of Tourism launched a Pinterest account to increase awareness of their brand — the state of Maryland.
“Our research on the network yielded a general lack of Maryland-related images…on the Pinterest ecosystem,” said Bryan Barnes, the agency’s interactive services coordinator, adding that the office wanted to, “inject some Maryland flavor.”
Barnes said traffic to the agency’s site increased after they joined Pinterest.
The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks recently launched a Pinterest account and has created boards about gardening and green space in the city.
“I’m a personal user of Pinterest and I was curious about whether or not it could be a beneficial vehicle for our agency,” the department’s public information officer Gwendolyn Chambers said.
The department may soon create new boards to highlight individual parks, an urban gardening program and photos from park visitors.
The account has only been running for a few weeks and Chambers said it’s too early to tell whether or not Pinterest will be a major driver of traffic.
“We’re excited about the prospect of this maybe being another avenue to maybe engage with our customers,” she said.
Even O’Malley — or, at least, his staff — is getting involved with the site.
The governor’s office launched a Pinterest account last week. They started a pinboard with images of O’Malley’s favorite books, including Bill Clinton’s “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy,” Srimati Kamala’s “Mahatma Gandhi: An American Profile,” and Jeffrey D. Sachs’ “The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity.”
“It’s another way to connect with people and have a conversation about the things they care about most,” said Takirra Winfield, spokesperson for the governor.
The office also created a pinboard called “Goals to Move Maryland Forward,” detailing O’Malley’s 15 strategic goals for his administration.