And this part, for all intents and purposes, will analyze some issues related to whether a museum should get on Pinterest. Spoiler: The answer is it depends, and we don’t know yet, but read on for some analysis that can hopefully guide you to the right answer for your institution.
First: It doesn’t matter that Pinterest is currently blowing up. Lots of things on the internet have gotten big, only to get small again once people tried them out and realized that the sites didn’t do much for them. (Second Life, I’m looking in your general vicinity.)
Second: There will be a backlash against Pinterest, because it’s a thing on the internet that’s getting big. That also doesn’t matter. Facebook gets backlashes about once a week and people still use it. A lot.
Third: Predicting the future, particularly for something like this, is naturally a fool’s task. I don’t think anyone outside of the creators know how Pinterest intends to evolve, and no one knows how the site’s users will ultimately use the site. But those are what will ultimately determine if Pinterest remains a Big Thing or fades away.
With those provisos out of the way, here’s what I would be asking if I were responsible for evaluating whether my institution should use Pinterest.
- Can I use it for something worthwhile?In many instances, this is a clear yes. Sharing artifacts and ideas related to the museum’s mission online should, I think, be a part of most museums’ missions. Promoting the museum as an event location and promoting the items the museum sells in its store are perhaps not directly part of the mission, but they do provide funding for the mission in a way that certainly does not impede it.
- Will the site use my time effectively? A qualified yes here as well. The site is really pretty simple to use; creating an online exhibit or a gallery of products is probably a sub-1-hour task. One would, of course, need to consider whether this would become a living initiative of the museum, and therefore require an ongoing time commitment. Also there’s the simple fact that even one hour is too much time to spend if the answer to:
- Can it attract an audience?is “No.” And this is the sticky question. While I’ve been using the site, I can’t say that I’ve incorporated it into my daily routine, nor do I think I will. Will Pinterest become something as widespread and as integral to online lives as Facebook? My hunch is no. But it probably doesn’t have to.Browsing Pinterest feels to me a lot like browsing a book of stock photography. (Possibly more universal examples include browsing a stack of wedding magazines or upholstery sample book.) None of those activities are among my hobbies, but I can understand the situations where each would be valuable.
Pinterest’s target seems to be people who are seeking practical ideas, rather than facts. So I think that museum usages that align with that goal–boards that showcase museum wedding possibilities, children’s craft projects, and the like–have the strongest chance of success.
It will (hopefully) be interesting to watch.