Pinterest: A leadership tool?

My assigned tool (and first choice) is Pinterest ( Ben SIlberman, Paul Sciarra and Evan Sharp founded PInterest in 2009 and the closed beta started in March of 2010.  A closed beta is an approach many software application companies use to invite a small number of people to test the concept and work out any pre-launch bugs.  The open beta, also usually invite only, occurred in around the fall of 2010 ( In January of 2012 the site had over 11 million unique users and is the fastest product to break the 10 million-use mark.

Pinterest is a web site that works like an electronic pin board. Imagine a message board in your home where you attaché recipes, quotes, pictures of the kids etc. Now imagine that message board is available for all your friends who don’t live in your house to see. You can share recipes, quotes, favorite products, your kids pictures and just favorite knitting ideas.  Some also have used the analogy of Pinterest as a scrapbook. You create pages on your Pinterest site, known as “boards” that you name. For example, a young women getting ready for her wedding might create a board entitled “My Wedding” in which she “bookmarks” pages on the internet of her favorite dresses, flower arrangements etc. This process is called pinning. When you click on one of the items on a board, it takes you directly to the website source where the product resides.  The process of attaching something to your self -titled board is called pinning.  The process of taking someone else’s “pin” and putting it on your board is “repining”. Marketers can tell their products are doing well if there is repining activity.

It’s easy to see how this might be a very fun way to connect with people, share ideas and create an electronic word of mouth (WOM) buzz. WOM is the most successful sales tool. However, how might this help leaders and how should leaders use Pinterest.  I will use a few examples and provide some links to explain. I will first look at how marketing leaders would use Pinterest.

Marketing Leaders

Today, good marketing starts with story telling. PInterest is a great place to tell ones story. Companies such as Proctor and Gamble and General Electric are using Pinterest to help archive stories, pictures, articles about their companies. Companies not as large as these are also using Pinterest for internal marketing of such things as office parties, staff meetings and places to put company pictures and customer satisfaction surveys.  Some companies are using the site to help introduce new employees to members of the team, learning the stories that have happened before. So, companies are using this to both market their products, their story and name externally, but helping facilitate internal marketing as well. Company’s like Lowes and Home Depot are using the sites to help with DYI videos and ideas.  Other companies such as design studios are developing board where clients and designers can post ideas and projects. These are known as shared boards.



Leaders in General

A leadership blog by Kevin Eickenberry does a nice job of explaining how leaders can use Pinterest.  To summarize the blog, Eickenberry suggests using Pinterest as a workforce efficiency tool and/or a relationship building opportunity. In the blog he encourages leaders to create a few boards that suggest books to read, places you like to go and visit, hobbies, quotes etc. Eickenberry is encouraging leaders to help employees and customers get to know them on a personal level. The board for leaders should not be public but invite only, allowing for more control.  He explains that leaders are not using this yet, but it is his hope this can become a good tool to help create a more human leadership style.


Problems with this Tool

Like any social media tool, you have to manage and monitor. When you pin, you create a link to the page.  You have to make sure your links are accurate and have not been high jacked or broken.  You do not want people repining items that could lead to bad links or even a competitor’s links.

Shared board specifically, need to be monitored to make sure your brand is not being misrepresented or a competitor has high jacked one of the boards.

To be relevant, social media needs to be updated. My own personal experience is if you do not have the time to keep data updated, creating boards or a Pinterest account would not be a great idea.  Information can become obsolete very rapidly.

Below are a links that also provide approaches, ideas and opportunities for PInterest. It is a new leadership tool, and as such, will require some experimentation to understand how it best fits in the toolbox.


6 thoughts on “Pinterest: A leadership tool?

  1. This seems like a time intensive effort if your Board is complex.

    I looked at your board, thanks for sharing, as I have never been to a Pinterest site before. It was quite interesting to see how you had things arranged and your interests. By the way, some delicious looking recipes. As a way to share your favorite things and interests with your friends and family this seems like a fast and simple tool. I have heard my wife and some of our friends talk about Pinterest and their opinions vary from this is a neat tool to way too much time to maintain which are the same range of comments I have heard them say about Facebook. Can there be too much social media?

    As a leader, this might be a great way to bring other leaders or subordinates an awareness of your style, useful tools, and hints to your success but once that it is out in the open, how useful is it in the future? Continual updating and maintenance seems to take you away from being a leader, which is what you want to do.

    As an educator, it could be useful for specific classes that can help students get a better understanding of the course and help them open doors to information and sites that they may never have found before and if possible (not sure this is a feature of Pinterest) share other sites they have found with their classmates.

    Given further exploration, I can see where there can be some benefits as a leader or educator.

  2. Never really thought of Pinterest as a leadership tool or site, but clearly others are way ahead of me. I have an account, but did it selfishly in search of ideas for building an outdoor kitchen!

    Now that my eyes are open, thanks to you and the links provided, I can see the potential. For example, we have just launched an initiative to promote resilience and personal health/growth in my organization that is experiencing really promising momentum. One of the ideas we’re grappling with is how to get the information proliferated more effectively without resorting to just email or even SharePoint and the immediate thought was social media with the obvious choice of Facebook. Based on the ideas you presented, maybe Pinterest would be a better choice. As you point out, all require some management, but Pinterest gives you a better networking capability to make web links more quickly. Thanks for the information and the idea!

  3. Neat post, Prof! Pinterest really took off…and for some, it is quite addictive. The Washington Post labelled it “crack cocaine for housewives”…though I would not go quite that far!

    Interestingly, last summer in another class, I have groups of graduate students creating online artifacts as a project. One team of three women created a Prezi on their topic, but the first frame was a “Meet your Presenters”…which linked all of us to a Pinterest Board where each of the three women had created a space to describe themselves. Very creative and very well received!

    We will talk more as the term unfolds, but one of the leadership challenges is what many call – curation – pulling out and having ready at hand critical information on the web. Pinterest and other sites appear to facilitate this need to curate.

  4. Profonamission

    Thanks for sharing your insights into Pintrest. Honestly, I have always viewed it has something that my wife spent too much time on but can definitely see some potential leadership attributes. First, my organization is constantly discussing how to improve climate and culture. Team building and getting to know you type games and activities are important, however, they are often met with a resistance. Using Pintrest at a school site and having individual teachers create boards with their professional and personal interests would be a relevant way to get to know other staff members.

    Maintaining any social media tool is a chore. I appreciate your honesty in stating that if you do not have time to maintain Pintrest it is not the tool for you. Also, being that is social media is there a purpose for a non-public site? What are the reasons other than “control” for not having a public site? As leaders, we have an obligation to make a difference and share our insights and lesson learned. If we keep tight control on our social media tools are we able to reach and teach all?

  5. Kevin Eickenberry did a good job of identifying common goals and objectives of leaders and connecting those directly to the capabilities of Pintrest. I have always veiwed Pintrest as a social activity like virtual scrap booking, but your summary and links opened my eyes to the potential for achieving business goals and objectives.

    Did you find any information on how companies maintain their boards and measure effectiveness? Are views and/or hits/clicks the measurement of success? Just like all advertising, it may be difficult to accurately measure the ROI. However, as social media continues to grow and become more and more a part of daily life, sites like Pintrest will be vital for keeping customers connected and engaged with products and services.

    • The most interesting thing about Pinterest in my eyes is the pace at which sales have been occurring. Its automated word of mouth advertising and this is the fastest tool/app to increase sales on the market today. That came from one of the links in the post. So ROI is measured directly because you can follow the links back to the interest ad. Pretty interesting.

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