By Matt Palmer
If Mount St. Mary’s University’s newest social network page winds up being a game-changer, its success can be pinned on senior Caitlyn Ahern.
Ahern, who is interning in the Emmitsburg school’s communications office, approached her superiors several months ago with the idea of starting a Pinterest page because she had become “obsessed” with the site.
She doesn’t remember how she found it, but she remembers spending hours on Pinterest while she was supposed to be studying during exam week.
“I started thinking about how the Mount could use it, because what I found was most popular on my own Pinterest page and what I was most interested in re-pinning were destinations that I had been to nationally and internationally,” Ahern said. “I thought about the (National Shrine) Grotto of (Our Lady) of Lourdes, which we have on our campus and people in the religious community who were interested in looking at religious landmarks.”
She started looking at the growing number of colleges and university Pinterest pages to support her cause.
Pinterest, which launched in 2010, is a rapidly growing social network that serves as an online pin board that allows users to share and see theme-based image collections. During the last month, the amount of users reportedly grew 52 percent to 17.8 million.
Some reports say Pinterest is driving more traffic to sites than Twitter and YouTube. In addition, people such as Ahern are spending long amounts of time on the site.
Mount officials needed to know Pinterest was here to stay before they agreed.
“So many social media things tend to come and go really quickly,” said the Mount’s director of marketing, Hilary Douwes said. “We did wait for a little while after Caitlyn approached us just to see if it would keep building or it was just something that was going to be the hot thing for the week and then disappear. It keeps going and going and building and building.”
Douwes and Christian Kendzierski, director of the Mount’s media relations, agreed to start the page after hearing Ahern was on the site the entire previous weekend.
The Mount has active followers on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, which have led to constant dialogue with former, current and future students.
“You know what your audience is interested in and what story you want to tell and if it works,” said Kendzierski, who administers the Facebook and Twitter accounts. “It’s genuine contact.”
“It’s word-of-mouth marketing,” Douwes added.
Pinterest was the next natural step.
“This is the place where Caitlyn’s age group is, where our perspective students may start looking and where are parents are,” Kendzierski said. “It’s great for branding to be there.”
Ahern asked if she could be responsible for the posting on the Mount’s Pinterest page, which launched in March.
“This is the first time we’ve had a student create and manage an account,” Kendzierski said. “We love her perspective, she has a good eye and has proven to be a great asset to our office.”
During the first two weeks, the school attracted 46 followers, but many pins illustrating campus life from the page’s 13 boards have been re-pinned. As Ahern predicted would happen, people have been re-pinning photos from the Grotto. Fall photos are also proving popular.
“I work on it in my off time,” she said. “It’s the perfect little gig. I’m just really grateful they trust me this much because social media has such an immediate impact.”
Ahern said there is something that sets Pinterest apart from Facebook, social media’s current king.
“The big difference is that it is so visual,” she said. “With Facebook and Twitter, you post statuses and links to stories. With Pinterest, it’s not so much about the words.”
The Mount, which is the second oldest Catholic college in the U.S., is nestled in the Catoctin Mountains.
“The great thing about the Mount is that it really is beautiful and this is the perfect forum to tell our story,” Douwes said. “The pictures really sell the campus itself and what we’re doing.”
Douwes said recent graduates are gravitating to the Mount page and they’re willing to share some photos to walk down memory lane.
While the Mount is unsure how many students have Pinterest accounts, Ahern said that many of her friends on campus are signing up each day.
Young people aren’t the only group logging Pinterest time. Ahern’s mother is redecorating her bathroom thanks to pictures she’s seen on Pinterest.
“It has what everyone is looking for,” Ahern said.