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Pinterest has been around for just over a year and a half, but it is already a social media force to be reckoned with. Every day over 2 million users share visuals on Pinterest and promote their Pinterest activity on other social media platforms. Pinterest is now driving more referral traffic to websites than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, and more referral traffic than Twitter itself. Schools are becoming increasingly interested in tapping into this referral potential. From a social media activity standpoint, it is only normal that higher education institutions try to determine whether Pinterest is right for them or not.

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before making the Pinterest leap:

1. Are current and/or prospective students on Pinterest?

As of January 2012, 80% of Pinterest users were females aged 22 to 44 with already some college education. Because of its reputation as a female-only platform, many schools are reluctant to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon, worried that they may be less exposed to their target audience. This is why you are unlikely to miss your target:

  • Beyond the common trio (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), all schools are struggling to find a relevant platform in the middle of dozens of options. As pointed out by Lee Neel, unless you are certain that a significant portion of your students are on other platforms, there are huge benefits to being active on such fast-growing platform as Pinterest and be among its first users to get ahead.
  • Facebook and Pinterest are becoming increasingly integrated. Each day, 10 million Pinterest users are connecting through Facebook. Their pins appear on Facebook, which your students are already highly exposed to.
  • The Pinterest format forces users to create highly attractive and relevant content which will belong to your school and which can be used on other platforms.

Infographics: Source: Mashable

2. What is my Pinterest strategy?

Pinterest is a great way to reach out to students and to let them get to know you and your values in a fun and casual way. But your Pinterest strategy depends entirely on your overall objectives. What goals you are hoping to achieve through Pinterest? Do you hope to increase visibility? Strengthen your brand? Bond with your students? How does your Pinterest strategy fit into your social media marketing strategy? Only once you have answered this question will you be able to determine what type of content needs to be posted on your account.

3. What type of content should I share on Pinterest?

Content will be directly correlated to your Pinterest strategy. If you wish to focus on promoting specific programs, then your posts should reflect that. Or, if you want to increase hype on non-academic initiatives, like volunteer programs or campus-wide sustainability practices, then you can create theme-specific boards to increase exposure. Take a look at what Drake University is doing on Pinterest to showcase a variety of different topics. While everyone knows that Pinterest is a picture-based platform,  the fact that it is now possible to also share videos is still under the radar.  Given that very few people are doing it, curating short videos on Pinterest can give you a valuable edge on your competition. Here are 10 video tips for your school to use videos on Pinterest. 

4. Do I have the resources to create relevant content?

Creating good photography and condensed, relevant content can be time-consuming. You will need to determine whether you have the resources to do this internally or if you will need to outsource the work to a freelancer or external professional. But keep in mind that there are great tools out there to help you create picture-based content. Here is a great photo editing service to add text that allows you to add your own overlays and create great attractive content.  

5. Is it worth my time?

As on every other social media platform, the best results are reached when you post on a regular basis and when you share content from other accounts. Although using Pinterest can increase your exposure, perhaps your school’s marketing initiatives may be better served through other, more traditional tactics. But, seeing as how we have yet to see the full potential of Pinterest, shouldn’t you at least give it a try? What has been keeping you from joining Pinterest?

Further reading: A must-read article about what some schools have done so far. Another example of a school that does Pinterest well: