DIY Politics on the Social Network for Conservative Voters
Surprised by the Brexit vote?
Conservative strongholds on social media are often invisible to the typical social media user. If you’re a Millenial, your Facebook newsfeed may have suggested that a Remain majority was certain — or that a Trump presidency is unlikely. Social networks popular with young people can seem to confirm that older, more conservative voters aren’t on social, but that conclusion isn’t based in fact: the echo-chamber of closed social networks like Facebook, where your audience is friends who agree with you, can just make it seem that way.
Where are right wing social media users, and how can they be reached?
Millenial overtures about the perils of isolationism on Twitter and Facebook are not being heard, because supporters of Leave and Trump are not on Twitter. They’re not among your friends on Facebook. Conservative social media users have their own echo chambers, where they can post without fear of harsh criticism from their audiences of friends and family. For Brexit and Trump supporters, that echo chamber is Pinterest.
The Heartland of Social Media
Disenfranchised working-class social media users feel heard on Pinterest, a network largely bypassed by the “elite” that so many pins (user-generated posts posts) vilify. According to a 2015 Pew study, there are three times more women on Pinterest than men—the demographics are surprising, given the network’s conservative, pro-Trump and pro-Brexit lean. 23% of black Internet users and 32% of Hispanic Internet users are on Pinterest—it’s less diverse than Instagram, but almost equal portions of black, Hispanic, and white Internet users have an account. Pinterest has a decidedly diverse and female user base.
The network that celebrates DIY home hacks has a decidedly libertarian streak in its most popular content—plus a healthy dose of nationalism.
Pro-Leave and pro-Trump boards often overlap. They’re pinned by the same Pinterest users: the working class who seem to feel, judging by their pins, disenfranchised. The wealthiest Internet users are on other social platforms: 72% of Internet users who make more than $75,000 per year are on Facebook, while only 34% of that same wealthy demographic are on Pinterest, according to Pew’s 2014 social media update. Similarly, 74% of Internet users with a college degree are on Facebook, while just 32% of the same demographic are on Pinterest.
Searching “brexit” on the social network returns both anti-Hillary and anti-EU pins. Strong sentiment about benefits being given to new immigrants (rather than, presumably, poor citizens) are linked to both Brexit and Trump pins. Xenophobia, and content about stricter boarders, are common on both Trump and Brexit boards.
Finding content positive about voting Hillary is almost as hard as finding content positive about voting Remain on Pinterest. Search queries that should return liberal-leaning pins return the opposite.
The same occurs when searching remain, the British position to stay in the EU. Most “remain” pins are actually anti-remain pins, showing how few remain supporters there are on the social network.
The relationship between anti-TTIP sentiment — a trade deal criticized for its potential to increase income inequality and hurt the non-urban working class — and Leave sentiment on Pinterest is also strong. Globalization, conservative Pinterest users appear to feel, has not trickled down to them.
Pinterest users are less urban than the general population: 31% of Internet users who live in the suburbs and 31% who live in rural areas have a Pinterest account. On Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, those proportions are inverted: a higher percentage of urban Internet users are on the networks than the other demographic. Anger at elitism in government (and big cities) is common on Pinterest boards, as shown in the Brexit pins below.
Pinterest is a decidedly opinion-based platform when it comes to politics. Very few users visit Pinterest for news, according to Pew Research Centre: just 3%, compared to 70% for Reddit and 66% for Facebook, eclipsing Twitter as the second most popular news source on social media. Pinterest users create boards to curate their opinions, not find opposite arguments . The network’s Picked for You functionality underlines its echo chamber quality; much like the Facebook, the more you like a type of content, the more the network will show it to you in your home feed.
Even with an official Pinterest account, Hillary is the clear underdog candidate on the platform. She has just 8,900 Pinterest followers, compared to 7.28 million on Twitter and 1.4 million on Instagram. Pinterest users are not Hillary’s demographic. Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign do not have official accounts on Pinterest: they don’t need them. Pinterest users create and collect enough right-leaning content themselves, and they prefer it that way. How can she, and other left-leaning causes and brands, reach Pinterest users?
The most popular (repinned) pins have a homemade aesthetic, which lends them authenticity. Unlike Hillary’s and Remain’s slick agency-produced content, Brexit and Trump pins are clearly homemade: Comic Sans, pixelation, and other underproduced choices are frequent visual motifs.
Pinterest users are older; this might explain their disinterest in contemporary design trends. According to Pew, 37% of Pinterest users are 18 to 29, and 40% are over 50. Young people congregate on other networks. 53% of Internet users between 18 and 29 are on Instagram, and 87% are on Facebook.
The homemade feel doesn’t undermine the pins, but rather legitimizes them to their older, suburban audiences. Brexit and Trump content on Pinterest is made by a a huge audience of supporters, while Hillary and Remain’s pins were slickly produced by hired ad firms — by the much-despised elite often aligned with both. Brett and Trump’s pins, in contrast, look like they were made by the people. The overproduced quality of Hillary and Remain’s content on the network might seem to be an asset: shouldn’t social media content look good?
But in looking good, content also looks fake—at least on Pinterest, where DIY = authentic.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but what Hillary needs to prevent Brexit-like upheaval is thousands of pins that look like garbage, but were made by real supporters. Homemade pro-Hillary memes do well on Pinterest, and have thousands of repins. On Pinterest, liberal causes and brands can succeed by throwing out their visual playbooks and embracing Comic Sans.
Mason Jars, Babies, and Halloween Costumes
Clinton, and other left-leaning brands, do best when they rely on grassroots content—or create their own content in Pinterest’s most popular categories. A pro-Hillary onesie, for example, is one of the candidate’s most repinned pins: babies are a very popular content theme on Pinterest.
Pinterest boards and pins are divided into categories, which pinners can use to browse content. Hillary’s board dedicated to her new granddaughter Charlotte is one of her best performing, tied with her Women Who Inspire board, with 7,200 followers. Nostalgia is another important content theme on Pinterest — consequently, Hillary’s Memorable Moments board has the highest number of followers (7,400), even though it has only 6 pins.
DIY, recipes, and holidays are heavily trafficked categories on Pinterest: the domestic side of life dominates the social network.
Clinton succeeded on the conservative network when she took on a DIY Pinterest trend that might have been used against her: Hillary for Halloween.
Months in advance, Hillary is ready for one of Pinterest’s most popular content themes: Halloween. Despite their professional, anti-DIY appearance, the pins already have dozens of repins each. They dominate search results for “Hillary Clinton halloween costume”, which could have been unflattering to the candidate.
Donald Trump, who does not have an official Pinterest account, has not taken control of this content theme. As a result, his search results on the topic are far less flattering.
By using Pinterest’s Halloween trend to her advantage, Clinton has shown how to control the conversation on Pinterest — even when you’re the network’s underdog. If Trump, or other conservative causes, wanted to extend reach on the platform, creating an official account and publishing content in Pinterest’s most popular themes would be a good first step.
Marketing in the Mason Jar Belt
Right-leaning Pinterest users create boards filled with their grievances, from feeling unheard by governments to being left behind by austerity measures. But the user-base seems antithetical to the stereotypical image of the white, male Trump or Brexit supporter. Assumptions about what Pinterest’s diverse and female user base wants undermine marketing efforts on the platform.
Social media marketers who want to drum up support for left-leaning brands or causes can learn from Hillary’s strategy on Pinterest, and the mistakes of Remain’s. Grassroots content and careful excursions into Pinterest’s most popular content themes can extend reach on Pinterest, while visuals that succeed with urban social media users on other platforms fail. In the heartland of social media, Comic Sans and Donald Trump are popular because of their lack of popularity on “more liberal” platforms; the DIY politics of outsider candidates, causes, and brands dominate.
This post is part of a series on social media and the 2016 Presidential Election. Pinterest analytics are coming soon to Crowdbabble.