Higher education’s social networking advocates have urged colleges and universities to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon before it’s too late and their schools appear out of touch with tech-savvy, internet-obsessed teenagers and 20-somethings.

But Aaron Jaco, digital media specialist at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, wrote in a blog post that pushing a school’s brand on Pinterest could rub against the grain of avid Pinterest users, who spend an average of 98 minutes on the site every day.

“Right now, Pinterest is a quiet refuge from more brand and corporate-saturated social platforms,” Jaco wrote on Higher Ed Live. “You may scare your followers off with excessive promotion — and if we’re not careful, all of us in the brand world may collectively kill the goose. … It’s not out of line to mention an upcoming event or even drop an occasional marketing line — but, as always, try to be a friend much more than a salesperson.”

Melissa Beecher, social media manager at Boston College (BC), which established its Pinterest page in February, said Pinterest followers have responded positively to college postings centered around school pride, campus alumni, and eye-catching photos of BC’s must-see spots.

Paying attention to what Pinterest members want to see, instead of what a college would want to push on its audience, will separate schools that become popular on Pinterest and those that drive away potential fans.

“I have been very surprised by the rate of growth on the site and the speed at which a hot item is repined,” she said. “I don’t know if Pinterest is inevitable at higher education institutions, but I do believe in its current form it is a far-reaching and engaging tool for those savvy enough to get on board.”

Jaco pointed to Butler University’s Pinterest page as a good example of engaging student and alumni followers without pushing the school’s brand name.

On Butler’s “Famous People I’ve Met” Pinterest pinboard page, the school has photos ranging from late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon to college basketball announcer Dick Vitale to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The Butler Pinterest page lets the school “flaunt a brand’s celebrity cred in a fun and non-invasive way,” Jaco wrote.


Add your opinion to the discussion.