Greenbelt finds Pinterest-ing way to help residents -- Gazette.Net


Greenbelt residents with a desire to swap craft and eco-friendly ideas with city officials need look no further than their computer screens.

In November, Greenbelt launched an official Pinterest page, making it one of the first municipalities in the state to do so, according to city officials.

Pinterest, which was founded in 2010, is a collection of online bulletin boards where users can save and share information and ideas. It is commonly used by people to share crafts or do-it-yourself projects, recipes and health tips.

Beverly Palau, Greenbelt’s public information officer, designed and manages the city’s new social media page. She said she created it to engage the community and promote the city’s push for green living and healthy lifestyle choices.

Palau also manages the city’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, she said, using suggestions and input from various departments and officials.

“I thought it was neat for us to have [Pinterest] boards that showed healthy foods or healthy activities,” she said.

Palau said the idea started with the city’s art department, which regularly uses recycled materials to create projects. Some of Greenbelt’s online bulletin boards include “Repurposed Art,” “Energy Efficient Home” and “Recyclable Christmas.”

Palau said the page, which currently displays nearly 100 items, is starting to gain followers.

“I think it will grow. With all our sites, it starts slow and then builds up,” she said.

Susan Harris of Greenbelt, a blogger and garden writer, said she visits the city’s Pinterest site, but has not yet formally “followed” it.

“I am glad that they’re venturing into social media; I think a Pinterest account for the city of Greenbelt is a great idea,” she said. “I want to see Greenbelt have a livelier online presence as a whole.”

Greenbelt has been active on social media for several years, Palau said, and last year won a $75,000 grant in a social media contest sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The grant was used to make repairs to the lobby of the historic Old Greenbelt Theatre.

Jim Peck, director of research at the Maryland Municipal League, said more municipalities are using new technologies to communicate with the public, but it is unusual for them to be heavily involved with social media.

“Greenbelt is known as being progressive in the issues it addresses. I’m not surprised to hear that they’re taking a leadership role in that,” he said.

Some of Maryland’s larger cities, such as Annapolis, Bowie, Rockville and Gaithersburg, aren’t using Pinterest to reach residents, although some are considering it. Laurel is one, according to its public information officer, Pete Piringer.

Craig Terrill, Takoma Park’s media specialist, said he created a Pinterest page for the city about a year ago, but it didn’t generate a lot of activity.

“I thought it might be a great collaborative tool, but it just turned out to be too time intensive,” he said.

Palau said she has high hopes for the Greenbelt Pinterest page based on the success of the city’s other social media activity.

“Even our animal shelter has a Facebook page,” she said. “I think the city of Greenbelt has jumped on that wagon quickly and has been successful.”