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Los Angeles Times, Published June 13 2012

First lady expands her ‘Pinterest’ to tap latest online trend

LOS ANGELES — Michelle Obama’s got three boards and 15 pins and if you don’t know what that means, you clearly aren’t following one of the latest trends exploding online: Pinterest.

Wednesday morning, the first lady popped up as a participant on the fast-growing social media site, which allows users to post, or “pin,” images they like to various themed “boards” they create. Pinterest users who follow them may post comments under the pins, or “repin” photos they like to their own Pinterest pages. Naturally, there is optional Twitter and Facebook linkage.

So far, Obama’s boards are “Around the White House,” “Great Memories” and “Father’s Day.”

Obama, it appears, is collaborating with the president’s re-election team. “This account is run by the Obama 2012 campaign staff,” her page says. “Pins from the First Lady are signed –mo.” Hours after launching her page, Obama had 4,957 followers.

Pinterest was launched in 2009 in the very state that has spawned many a presidential campaign: Iowa. (Founder Ben Silbermann was in West Des Moines, to be precise). In January, ComScore reported Pinterest had 11.7 million users, making it one of the fastest-growing social network sites ever.

One might have expected the social-media savvy White House to beat the opposition to a website like this, but Ann Romney has been on Pinterest for three months. The wife of President Obama’s presumptive challenger Mitt Romney uses Pinterest to share recipes, favorite books and moments with her family.

Romney has eight boards with 66 pins and 7,519 followers. Her boards include “Patriotic,” “Things I love” and “Inspiration.” She offers a recipe for “healthy” peanut butter chocolate eggs, and recommends as a favorite book Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” whose love-tormented heroine comes to a self-induced and untimely end.

For many users, most of whom are women, Pinterest functions as a kind of aspirational wish-book for fashion looks, home design and food.

For the Obamas and Romneys, it has become another form of outreach on the virtual campaign trail, joining Facebook and Twitter as modes of communication for the candidates and their spouses.

With its focus on photographs, Pinterest helps them impart a homey, folksy vibe at a moment when the campaigns have been engaging in a war of words about which candidate is less sympathetic to the problems of everyday Americans.

Michelle Obama has posted family portraits and photos of herself crouched at work with children in her White House garden and of a tender moment in a service elevator with her husband on inauguration night. There is also a photograph of the first lady in a tug of war with the comedian Jimmy Fallon, underneath a White House portrait of George Washington.

“Jimmy was a gracious loser,” she wrote.

Under the photo, a commenter wrote, perhaps sarcastically, “I’m pretty sure President Washington would be very proud to see what is happening just below his photo!”


©2012 Los Angeles Times

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