Making your research accessible

What’s all the interest in Pinterest? How can it be used for research communication?

By 24/07/2012

Here on R2A we have often shouted about the benefits of using social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to further academic profiles online and build a following for development research. In recent months, a new site, the image-sharing platform Pinterest, has exploded onto the social media scene.  It is a tricky task keeping abreast of changes to web 2.0 tools and when a site like this emerges, surrounded by noisy hype, it is easy to either sign up and jump on the bandwagon without really understanding how it works (only to lose interest shortly down the line) or dismiss it entirely as the next new fad.

But just what is all the interest in Pinterest? And, more importantly, how can it be effectively used for academic research communication?

Pinterest, a ‘pin-board style’ social image sharing website, was launched in 2010, gaining 10,000 users after the first nine months. In March this year, TechCrunch estimated that the number of users visiting the site daily had gone up 145 percent since the beginning of 2012 bringing the total across the UK and USA to nearly 12 million. Users share images with their followers by curating them in scrap-book style “boards” or collections.

Many, as Lauren Everitt writes for the BBC, perceive the site as being “largely dominated by pictures of cute kittens and elaborately conceived cupcakes.” However, the potential this site creates for research-sharing opportunities should not be ignored. Pinterest is very much social bookmarking with a visual twist, providing a multitude of options for researchers to share their work and engage with others:

  • You can add explanations and commentary with the images you save, along with links back to the source you have saved them from.
  • Sharing through ‘repinning’ and commenting is very fast and straightforward (allowing space for debate and discussion on a topic).
  • Pinning and ‘liking’ is quick and easy.
  • You can follow boards and check out the content without having to contribute if you do not feel inclined to do so.
  • You can store, sort and categorize items of interest to come back to at a later date.
  • You can collaborate on boards with other ‘pinners’, creating a research resource together.
  • You can share your boards and pins across other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, making them travel further across the social web.

Betty Allen on Pinterest: Social Media for Development

Last month, Deborah Lupton wrote an insightful blog, published on Impact of Social Sciences about how sociologists and social scientists can use Pinterest to share and display images related to the topics they are researching. She noted that the site is increasingly being used by brands and organisations to share information, campaigns and resources. Libraries and academic institutions are also beginning to utilize Pinterest to share work with students.

There is also a perceptive blog and podcast by Joe Murphy for the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) called Pinterest and Academia, in which he asserts that:

“Pinterest is important for academic and research libraries because of its implications for information usage, content sharing, service enhancements, and opportunities for collaboration and PR.”

I have begun to dabble in Pinterest myself, creating a board of infographics relating to social media in development. I try to capture any interesting graphics I come across that explain how to use social media platforms and web 2.0 tools or visually communicate development research outcomes.

I am also following a number of institutions and researchers who are pinning images related to academic journals, social science, journalism and academic libraries. I’ve recommended some of the best below:

Boards and Pinners to follow:

You can also find my boards here:

Although it still early days for this new social media platform, it could yet prove to be an invaluable tool for researchers in their online communication arsenal. This is particularly true when using this site in conjunction with both Facebook and Twitter and so sharing your research and profile further across the social web.

Has anyone else been using Pinterest for development research? I would love to hear what others think of this platform…Join in and get pinning!