Because of my newfound obsession with the show Political Animals, I’ve been thinking a lot about women, politics, and the upcoming election. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney undoubtedly need to stay active on social media sites throughout the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election. But, so do their wives. Obama and Romney are public figures, so, for better or worse, their wives are too.
Michelle Obama and Ann Romney can effectively and quickly reach a large audience through social media sites. Case in point: Michelle Obama made headlines in June when she established an account on Pinterest. Within a mere 48 hours, she gathered over 22,000 followers.
Pinterest Isn’t Just About Pinning Pictures—It’s About Promoting an Image
Both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have Pinterest accounts. This site is useful for reaching a large number of women between the ages of 25-54 (some of the women who will eventually vote for or against their husbands), but it’s also great for marketing. Just like retailers use Pinterest to market and sell their products, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney use this site to market and sell their public images. Of course, they’re promoting their spouses as qualified candidates worthy of votes in the upcoming presidential election, but Pinterest is not inherently political, so Michelle and Ann’s focuses can’t be either. They’re using these sites to show people that they are devoted wives and mothers; down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth people; women with family values; and women who are just like everyday Americans.
How well do Michelle and Ann use Pinterest to promote these public images?
Michelle Obama: Prominent Pinner Number One
Michelle Obama premiered on Pinterest a little over a month ago, so her account is a little light on its number of pins and boards. She currently has five boards and thirty-six pins.
Her biography reads, “This account is run by the Obama 2012 campaign staff. Pins from the First Lady are signed –mo.” This is similar to her Twitter account, also run by campaign staff with tweets from the First Lady herself marked with “mo.” However, unlike on Twitter (where Michelle tweets sporadically at best), many of the pins have commentary written by Michelle herself.
The three boards on her account are: “Around the White House,” “Great memories,” and “Father’s Day.” “Around the White House” features photos of the much-talked-about White House vegetable garden, a few starstruck White House visitors receiving hugs from Michelle, and Michelle and Jimmy Fallon engaged in a tug-of-war. “Great memories” has a picture of Michelle on the Ellen show battling Ellen in a push-up competition. These pins do an excellent job of portraying the First Lady as unpretentious, personable, fun, and friendly: a woman who hugs teen girls visiting the White House and is willing to face off against Ellen DeGeneres in a push-up contest on national television. Judging from the overwhelmingly positive comments on the pins, I think many other people agree with me. This is one of many similar comments in response to the photo of Michelle giving out hugs at the White House:
The “Family” board does a great job of promoting a positive public image as well. This board has nine pins, and six are from the First Lady herself. All are personal and feature up-close, behind-the-scenes looks into the Obama family. They present Barack Obama as a devoted dad who prioritizes his daughters, and they depict a close-knit, supportive, connected family. Many of the photos are candids; the fact that they capture natural, spontaneous rather than posed or staged moments shows the human side to the family.
Michelle Obama’s Pinterest does two things exceptionally well:
- Boosts her image as an easygoing, humble, First Lady of the U.S.
- Gives Pinterest users the kinds of photos they want to see: photos like those in Star magazine that show, “Michelle Obama—She’s Just Like Us!”
Ann Romney: Prominent Pinner Number Two
Ann Romney has been on Pinterest for a longer period of time, so her account is much more developed. She has 9 boards, 140 pins, and 9,744 followers. Her account has more of a “Pinterest” feel because she has many boards that are Pinterest mainstays, like “Crafts/DIY,” “Recipes,” and “Books Worth Reading.” Ann appears to run her own account (whether she does in reality or not, I’m unsure). The comments use first person statements, such as “Mitt and I had a lot of fun dyeing Easter eggs…” or “I love this picture…” I think this is a nice personal touch.
Ann has a “Patriotic” board filled with photos of flag-themed food and decorations, which presents her as passionate about and committed to the country. She also has a “Campaign” board that features pictures of rallies and Romney supporters, as well as a “Family” board with many photos of her grandkids. I think these two boards reflect the two roles Ann balances: a wife devoted to her husband’s political campaign and a mom and grandmother devoted to her family. Much like Michelle Obama, she’s depicting a close-knit, loving family. She’s presenting herself as a woman who is just like every other woman in America: family-oriented.
Another thing Ann does that makes her seem like an everyday American woman: she pins from other websites. Michelle Obama’s account features original pins that her staff has uploaded, while Ann Romney’s has pins from websites such as Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, and Country Living. These brands are not only quintessentially American, but they’re also referenced by women of all generations. The fact that Ann Romney visits these websites makes her relatable. It shows a side of her that we don’t see when she is at campaign rallies or giving interviews. In those situations, she’s a public figure spending time in the limelight because of her husband’s campaign; on her Pinterest boards, she seems not so different from the mothers and grandmothers who watch her on television. Her Pinterest account is smart marketing, just like Michelle Obama’s.
Like Husbands, Like Wives?
There has been a flood of news stories recently on the social media efforts of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Obama seems to be leading the race as of late: on Facebook, he recently gained more fans, had more people talking about him, and reached more people. He’s faring better on Facebook than Romney. But, how are these politicians’ wives faring when it comes to social media? Is Michelle Obama perfecting Pinterest more so than Ann Romney?
I think this is a difficult question to answer, mainly because there is no definitive way to measure the success of Michelle Obama and Ann Romney’s Pinterest campaigns. Number of followers and repins seems to be the most obvious way to measure Pinterest reach and clout, but Michelle Obama will always have more followers and repins, because she is the First Lady of the United States; she’s much more of a public figure than Ann Romney. So, does she have more followers because her Pinterest boards are “better,” or because she is more of a media-centric figure and therefore generates more buzz?
I think that Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are equally adept at using Pinterest as a marketing tool. Yes, Michelle Obama has a few pins that reveal she has more “star power” (read: a pic of her and Nelson Mandela), but I think that both women want the same thing from Pinterest: to allow people to see their personable, relatable, human side. They both do an excellent job of marketing themselves.
The U.S.A.: A Nation of Patriotic Pinners
Though from this (presumably sarcastic) tweet, it looks like some Americans aren’t too keen on the combination of politics and Pinterest:
A sarcastic reply to a sarcastic tweet: if this person thinks that Pinterest can’t be a sign of political pride, he clearly needs to take a look at Ann Romney’s Patriotic pin-board or Michelle Obama’s Recipe Ideas board. Patriotic-dipped strawberries and a pie featuring the Obama logo crafted from strawberries and blueberries practically scream patriotism.
And if this tweeter still doesn’t delight in his American citizenship after perusing Pinterest, he can take a look at the Fake Michelle Obama account, which features a board titled, “Twinsies with Jill!!” Who wouldn’t be proud to live in a country where the FLOTUS and the Veep’s wife coordinate fashion ensembles? (Even if sometimes it doesn’t work out.)