Whether you’re crazy about pinning or think that it’s just a fad, there’s no denying that Pinterest is a new player on the social media scene. In January it beat YouTube, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace for percentage of total referral traffic in January, according to a Shareaholic study. One church is pioneering this new territory and has some insights to share on how churches can use Pinterest.
Jake Johnson is the publishing and content manager for Mars Hills Church, Resurgence and PastorMark.tv. He oversees content strategy for all of Mars Hill’s online platforms, social, media and various marketing efforts, including their new residence on Pinterest. I had the chance to ask Jake a few questions about what inspired their move onto Pinterest and ideas they would have to offer other churches.
What sparked the idea for Mars Hill to begin using Pinterest?
Jake Johnson: We were impressed with the growth of the platform and intrigued by its visual focus, as Mars Hill has always excelled at visual mediums like design and video. Additionally, we knew the users of Pinterest were overwhelmingly female and wanted to use that opportunity to speak well to the women of Mars Hill and to women who engage with our content.
There have been a number of social media platforms we’ve wanted to explore and expand into but due to lack of resources it was put on the back burner. With the recent addition of our new social media manager, we were free to move forward with some of those plans and Pinterest was our first choice. We love that it makes sharing content interesting and the potential it creates for content to reach far.
Mars Hill traditionally seems to be more masculine in its design and communication. Was this a way of softening your image and appeal to women?
Jake: Yes, in a way. In general, we’ve made a concerted effort to soften the design to be still masculine but more approachable for women. The redesigned marshill.com is a great example of that, as is pastormark.tv. Jesse Bryan, our creative director, has done an incredible job of spearheading the vision for much of our new look, which included adding in some new palette colors, a reworked logo, and a more classic design approach that relies on simplicity and grids.
Our content efforts are following the lead of the new branding direction. Pinterest is an example of that but so is featuring a lot more content on theresurgence.com from the awesome women who are leading ministries at Mars Hill as deacons. We plan on also featuring more content by our female leaders on the Mars Hill blog.
At the end of the day, we’re simply trying to reflect the reality of life at Mars Hill.
What type of content are you pinning? And why?
Jake: Our first priority, as always, is to talk about Jesus. We view all our online efforts as evangelical ones and want to steward well the significant platform God has blessed us with to preach the gospel. As such, our first and most prominent boards are the Jesus board—which is fun because when people follow it, a message says so and so is “following Jesus”—and the Gospel board.
Additionally, we’re highlighting events, design, sermon series, music, books, and dovetailing in support of our current sermon series, Real Marriage, with content applicable for men, women, couples, singles and parents.
It’s new territory, so we’re testing stuff out to see what has traction and what doesn’t. One board we’re looking forward to launching is a typography board that will have well designed type treatments of quotes from the Bible and from sermons.
What has the response been?
Jake: It’s been good so far. Many of the boards have over 700 followers and we’re starting to see some stuff re-pinned. Some folks who are especially passionate about the platform have thanked us for jumping on.
How do you think churches could effectively use Pinterest?
Jake: Pinterest will force churches to up their game on design, as it’s such a visual platform. In order to get noticed, you have to have great photography and art. Churches that want to gain traction should start making design a significant part of their content strategy so that when there is good content to share there is a good image to pin associated with it.
Any other thoughts or comments on this… advice from what you’ve learned so far?
Things can take off fast on the platform, so it’s a great way to get the word out about posts, sermon videos and events. One lesson we’ve learned is set up your boards before launching. Otherwise you’ll overflow people’s dashboards. The first day we launched, my dashboard was awash in a sea of Mars Hill posts.
Also, though it’s a fast-growing platform, the jury is still out on how welcome brands are and you need to think about it differently than Facebook and Twitter. As I’ve mentioned, thinking visually is key.
There’s definitely space for churches to engage in this new space and it’s great to take some notes from Mars Hill’s experience and think about how your church could leverage Pinterest.