Note from Beth: A few weeks ago, I asked folks on Facebook “What Nonprofits Are Crushing It on Pinterest?” and got a terrific list of examples. There’s been a lot written about pinterest and lots of nonprofits experimenting, but how do you do it strategically? Kate Kilbourne is the Web & Social Media Manager at Camfed USA shares her experience.
Winning at Pinning – Guest Post by Kate Kilbourne
I am a Pinterest convert. After some initial doubt, this little-social-network-that-could has become one of my favorite new tools, and I now firmly believe that for our non-profit (and for any organization with decent images to share), it is an exceptional platform not only for storytelling, but also for improving your online presence and tapping into a new potential supporter base.
As the Web & Social Media Manager for Camfed USA (The Campaign for Female Education) I am charged with expanding our online presence in new and innovative ways. We began researching Pinterest in its early stages, when it looked like little more than an online wedding planner. The majority of the boards we saw were very much about lifestyle: pictures of pretty stuff, hot style, and cool design. If Pinterest were a person, it would be a young, upwardly mobile female – an ideal potential Camfed supporter, or so I thought. I decided it would be worth the effort to create a compelling Camfed collection of images on Pinterest, and I wanted to do it strategically, leveraging the viral nature of the platform.
As Pinterest is a sharing platform, using the most attractive images in our arsenal was essential to my strategy. Camfed has over 13,000 images on Flickr. While they are not the slick, product-placement-type images prevalent on Pinterest’s lifestyle boards, they are unique and compelling shots from the field, images that allow viewers to meet the real people Camfed supports and partners with, and see where they live, work and learn. Additionally, we took care to organize our images in a way that would communicate Camfed’s mission and hopefully pique the interest of the typical Pinterest user. For example, in the villages of rural Africa where Camfed works, local community members play an essential role in helping girls succeed in school. In many communities, Camfed students are supported by Mother Support Groups comprised of women who raise funds to support and empower their villages’ neediest girls. By titling one of our boards Moms & Daughters, we were able to tell Camfed’s story of community involvement, honor our local heroes, and display some of our most moving photographs, telling a compelling visual story to an audience much wider than the international development community.
Instead of expecting our Pinterest page to serve as a major traffic referrer back to our website (and stats showed in the first month it was not), we are optimizing our captions and image filenames using choice Google Ad keywords with the intent to boost our search engine ranking. The more content we have on the internet with consistent messaging and relevant links (in other words, content that is optimized for search engines), the higher the chances are that we’ll come up in a web search on a relevant topic. The generous 500 character caption limit in Pinterest allows us to describe images using long-tail search phrases from our Google AdWords campaigns, which also helps to unify our messaging and be consistent with the content we have on other platforms.
While a boost in our search engine ranking would be terrific, I was also interested in seeing whether or not Pinterest could become a conversion platform for Camfed, turning followers into supporters. To experiment, this Mother’s Day we promoted eCards as a way for individuals to make a donation to Camfed in honor of their mothers. We pinned images of the eCards on our Mother’s Day eCards board, and if Pinners clicked on the image, they would be taken to a donation form on our site that allowed them to purchase an eCard for their mom. Given the platform’s mostly female audience, and given Pinterest’s viral nature (pin that Mother’s Day eCard to your own board and watch your followers pin it to theirs, and so on and so on and so on!) we hoped to see at least some activity – and we did. But the activity was primarily from people following and sharing our eCards, proving that the platform, at least at this stage, is a better tool for raising awareness than funds.
Do you think that Pinterest could become an important platform for non-profit fundraising? What successes or failures have you had in trying to convert followers to donors on social media platforms? Is there a culture of not wanting to be solicited on Pinterest, like there seems to be on Twitter? Please share your thoughts!
Kate Kilbourne is the Web & Social Media Manager at Camfed USA. Camfed fights poverty and AIDS in rural Africa by educating girls and providing them with economic and leadership opportunities when they leave school.