Repin that Account

Take a step back from the current social media circus and let us reacquaint you with an old and comfortable marketing friend.

4 minutes
By: Andrew Cassel
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Hello, my higher education social admin friend; here, have a seat right here. Here’s a little something to take the edge off. 

It has been a rough couple of months, and right when it felt like things were getting normalized. But then all this stuff with …

That facial expression speaks volumes, right, better not to mention any of that.

Let’s talk about something else. Something comforting and friendly. A platform and community that’s full of positivity and helpful tips.

Wow, woah, hold on, before any discussion of banned apps and misused data, how about a quick toast—cheers—and then we’ll settle in.

Ah. Okay. 

Pinterest.

Wait, don’t go!

Higher ed social feels like it’s caught in the middle of a massive change quake. Embrace the chance to change by leaning into the marketing potential of an old social media friend.

Pinterest has the comfort of an algorithm to feed brand content to users. The platform also has a very straightforward posting workflow and allows edits of posted content, as well as an API that talks with third-party scheduling and monitoring tools.

It’s also growing in popularity with target demographics. “It’s seen an especially strong influx of users from Gen Z,” The Motley Fool reported at the end of December 2022, with growth “faster than peers like Meta Platforms, Snap, and even Alphabet in the third quarter.” That’s faster growth than Instagram as 2023 begins.

Ah, a raised eyebrow of interest. Relax for a few, and let’s review some quick ways to launch (relaunch) a higher education Pinterest presence.

Being skeptical is good. Don’t close the door too soon. Pinterest has a lot to offer.

Find that password. 

This may be the greatest obstacle to a renewed approach to Pinterest. Some schools haven’t touched their Pinterest accounts in half a decade. Whole departments may have come and gone in that time. Finding the Pinterest account access information will be a great check to see if those who need them have access to all the social accounts. 

With the password and access email in hand, log in and see the changes. If you haven’t been on Pinterest in 5 years, there are many new features, strongly developed features, and a whole new feel to the platform.

It’s social listening time.

Search for schools and programs and see what people are already saying about the brand on the platform. It’s important to prepare for a messy onslaught at this phase. There’s no doubt there are a lot of off-brand, off-voice, off-putting pieces of content out there. That’s the same on any platform. After a long period of dormancy, Pinterest is going to take some time and effort to get up to speed.

Tactics, strategies, goals, measurements—you know, the basics.

Measurements are no problem; Pinterest has a robust analytics component, including age demographics of audiences. Charting the growth of the all-important 18-24 audience members will be easily accomplished. 

Goals for Pinterest could align with any image-focused social media platform, with strategies that could feel like a throwback after the ease and comfort of the pre-short video content focus of other platforms. 

Here’s the best part. It’s old-school social media: pictures with links, calls to action, and audiences that are there because they are shopping for something. They are searching for ideas, inspiration or the next step in their lives. Higher education content will find a happy home on Pinterest. Even those event fliers have a place on a Pinterest board.

Pinterest is made for higher ed marketing.

The fourth and final thought: the mechanics and features of Pinterest itself feel like they’re made for higher ed marketing. Because they are! Pinterest has always put marketing, personalized, machine-learning-driven marketing first.

A couple of highlights about the platform. The Sections feature allows the creation of a kind of umbrella board, with sections underneath it. This is a great chance to showcase all the parts of a campus or a learning experience. An academic example first: there’s an engineering department, and inside that department are mechanical engineering, civil engineering and computer engineering—any variety of engineering styles. The department has an overarching board, with Sections for each of the individual focus areas.

Same for theater, physics and athletics, the opportunities are endless.

Along these same lines, Pinterest wants links and strong calls to action. What users find on Pinterest is supposed to lead them somewhere else: to a news site, to a departmental web page, to an events calendar or to the admissions page. Users go to Pinterest to discover other places.

There’s more to talk about, but it’s best to explore Pinterest and find what could work for a specific school in specific ways. The beauty of Pinterest is that it can support almost any idea.

University of Michigan has Pinterest boards for every aspect of the college experience.

Use Pinterest as a differentiator. 

Revise that, this fifth thought will be the final part. Work with an admissions team to showcase residence halls, have students build boards of how they decorate, include dining hall recipes on a Dining board and showcase student profiles in a Section on a Student Life board. Then, share these links in the emails to prospective students, admitted students during yield or enrolled students as the time comes to begin their higher education careers.

Adding the “see more on Pinterest” will stand out from all the other communications those students are getting that may point them to more traditional social media platforms. The moment of delight seeing Pinterest could make all the difference between a person clicking on the link in the email, or just scrolling and trashing the message without paying attention.

If higher ed wants to thrive as the enrollment cliff approaches and social media giants tumble, it will require changing the places content lives.

Ah, yes, that’s a message notification for an incoming email. There’s a lot to do. Stories to tell. Students to engage. Reports to write.

Listen, no one is certain what’s going to happen next in the social media and social networking world. What is known is that things are changing. If higher ed wants to thrive as the enrollment cliff approaches and social media giants tumble, it will require changing the places content lives. Time to open up those boarded wings of the social media estate, pull apart the thick drapes, dust off the Boards and embrace the joy and fun of Pinterest.

Andrew Cassel

Andrew Cassel

Contributor

Andrew Cassel has been creating and curating social media content for higher ed since 2011. Cassel speaks regularly about social media content at conferences and symposiums. Cassel was awarded a best in track Red Stapler and is a five-time winner of Aurora Awards of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America – Alaska. In 2019, he was a host for Higher Ed Live – Marketing Live. His paper “Twitch for higher education and marketing,” based on his HEWeb 2019 session, was published in the spring 2021 peer reviewed Journal of Education Advancement & Marketing. Cassel is currently the Senior Social Strategist and Content Producer at Middlebury College.


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