Pinterest is a social media network that has broken the social network mold in so many different ways that many businesses, ministries, and individuals are not sure how to best use it. For some, they see a network that is only a place for women to pin recipes, clothing, and DIY projects; others want to use images well but do not know where to begin with the network.

What professional social media and Pinterest users see is a viral social media network where pinning, repining, commenting, and favoriting is the way to double or triple their total social media traffic to their website or blog. Others see a place to find people with common interests within niche markets or interests. Finally, many people find this network to be a place to not only inspire them, but push them to make their website and blogging a richer experience for users and viewers.

The Network’s Persona

Pinterest, within in our social media town, is the downtown mall where people can go window-shopping, and if they like what they see, they can go inside. Some see this place as a girl’s only haven for ideas, but businesses have the opportunity to sell their products if it fits in this setting, and many are missing out because they are not giving it a chance.

In this social media town, Pinterest is more than the public perception and you will always find something new and amazing. Yet, it is truly a network focused on consumption in many ways with the goal being to consume ideas or provide a way for people to invest in your brand. How does this fit into the realm of a church? Can this be a good medium for churches to engage with their congregation or are we limiting our scope of social networks too much?

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The Network’s Lingo

• Pin – Posting an image onto your board with a description
• Repin – Sharing someone else’s pin onto your own board
• Boards – A set of pins that are categorized by topics.
• Followers – People that subscribe to your individual boards
• Follow All – Subscribe to all of your boards
• Comments – Leaving a quick message on an individual pin
• Like – Marking a pin that you enjoyed

Pinterest LogoThe Network’s Downside

The downside of Pinterest is more on the potential users and their inability to engage with the social network. There is a stereotype within Pinterest that it is not for brands, men, or bloggers. Yet, if you find your niche and are able to capitalize on this unique medium with creativity and visual inspiration, this network can be a traffic and networking goldmine. But it takes a complete reorientation of your social networking strategy to think in a creative, visual medium rather than text conversations.

Because of the emphasis on visuals, unless you are a visually creative wizard, best utilizing this network might mean copious amounts of time to find the right image or photograph, then using Photoshop to edit these images, or come up with great graphics that visually communicate your intended goal. This is not a simple “iPhone photo taken last minute” kind of social network. Pinterest users are looking for stunning photographs, inspiring graphics, and pins that convey an amazing story.

Pinterest, a Visually Oriented Network

Pinterest is a great social network for a church that wants to go to the next level. Yet everything that is introduced in Pinterest is not unique. Because visuals are the main focus with this social network, it requires that users use this network appropriately to maximize impact on any given users’ network.

On Facebook, images are vital; however, they go hand-in-hand with text updates and links. Twitter always has more engagements with photos but most users spend more time on hashtags and verbage. Google+ is now geared to graphics and photography, but uses do not yet engage via visuals as much as they could. Pinterest is the social network that will judge by how well images are uses to connect with others and stepping it up here will improve any organization’s social media usage everywhere else.

Whether you are posting a blog article about the latest sermon podcast, uploading photos from the youth ministry service project from the weekend, or creating an event for the Easter or Christmas service, shift your thinking from what you will write to how you will tell the story. This change will make it easier to use images as part of the story telling process that can speak volumes to your followers and fans.

One way to get off to the right start is to begin with the image as the kick-off point. Have an amazing image of a child serving a hot meal to a homeless person? Tell the story beginning with the image in mind. Have a graphic to use as an announcement? Build off the image, tell the story, include a great quote, and let the image do the hard work for you.

How to Use the Network Effectively

Using the network effectively begins before you even log into Pinterest. Be intentional with your images in order to push your ministry further than it has gone. When you take a picture of your church congregation, get faces and smiles, but don’t be afraid to capture the hard moments as well. Nothing says Christ’s love more than authentic joy in the middle of serving others and learning more about Him. Be sure the images are authentic and be intentional about how you tell the story of your ministry and the impact you currently make or hope to make in your community.

Make sure that the environment is conducive to great images. That means more images, better content with great visuals in the picture, and a less distracting background (whether you blur it out with a manual focus or clear it out so that it simply is not there).

This may require that you find key congregation members that have photography backgrounds, graphic artistic abilities, or invest in the current volunteers and staff that would be willing to grow in these areas. Approaching your ministry in this way needs to be holistic – not just for Pinterest – but inclusive of your ministry brand strategy.

Even more so, develop a network of people that are pinning and repining like-minded content on your follow list. This will require that you properly describe your pins, using well-crafted boards. Overall, be consistent in posting your pins.

Pinterest is not a second-class social network; it has the potential to be the most traffic that will go to your website and blog if done right. Make sure your images are not cluttered with text and let each image speak for itself. Go outside the box by using infographics that are related to your Sunday sermon, and be directive with your images as they call the view to action with worshipping God more authentically, serving others more fully, or diving into Scripture further and deeper.

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