Skip to main content

Cupcakes, the dog, attack ads: Obama does Pinterest

I wrote about Obama’s campaigning before. In his first presidential campaign in 2008, he relied heavily on e-mail list building and systematic A/B testing of his conversion tools. Obama ended up with a 500 million dollar war chest, most of that collected through small, individual donors that he contacted via e-mail or social media.

Obama is looking for a strategic edge online

Obama is clearly what Moore calls a visionary in ‘Crossing the Chasm’, the Silicon Valley marketing classic of the nineties: visionaries are always looking for an opportunity to gain a significant strategic advantage through some (largely) untested New Thing. They don't expect things to work right away, but they are willing to see the potential in new ways of doing things. They are also willing to invest or even lose (time, resources and, in some cases, a bit of face) in getting things to work. On the other side of the chasm are the pragmatists and conservatives, who prefer things that work out of the box, and companies with a decently sized customer support. 

Obama is a "visionary", always looking for the next New Thing

This year, Obama seems intent on trying every social network under the sun. Of course he’s on Twitter (rife with influencers) and Facebook (rife with 1 billion users). Obama also started using Tumblr and Instagram. But recently, his team also discovered Pinterest. Of course it did: Pinterest is the fastest growing social network out there, with 10 million active users per month spending on average a 100 minutes a month pinning and repinning pictures of Ryan Gosling with his shirt open, pretty dresses and chicken recipes. Most of the pinners are young, professional women who have jobs and a decent shopping budget.

Untested waters: negativity on Pinterest

The Obama Pinterest boards consist of cupcakes, Michelle Obama & kids, the dog. This connects very nicely with the Pinterest universe: words like “love”, “home”, “style”, “recipe” and “chicken” dominate Pinterest, according to Dan Zarella’s research. Pinterest is all warm and cozy.

Obama Pinterest: cupcakes, the dog, attack ads

Except for the attack ads in the Obama Pinterest account, that is (they call it “Truth Team” because “Attack Ads” wouldn’t sound nice, I guess). And this shows his aggressive campaigning again - much like when he strongarmed his Democrat colleagues into handing over these huge e-mail lists last time. Obama is pushing the limits of Pinterest - and he’s in uncharted waters doing it. Here's one of the video's the Pinterest account links to:

A “pragmatist” or “conservative” (to refer to Moore’s classification) would never do this. There are just too many questions. Can you do this on a social network? Is it safe? Will it backfire? I’m pretty sure that given Obama’s love for rigourous testing, the campaign team is constantly monitoring this feed, checking the vibe, seeing how far they can go without offending too many followers.

But it beats Mitt Romney's spelling

I also think it shows that he’s not underestimating the Pinterest crowd: there’s no reason to assume that these (overwhelmingly) young, well educated women would mind a minute or two of hard politics in between the repinning of fancy dresses and Louboutin shoes. On the whole, I'd say it's better campaigning than misspelling the name of your country wrong... (yes, Obama's opponent Mitt Romney actually did that in his app). 

Mitt Romney Amercia