Anyone looking for proof of Pinterest’s viability as a social media platform for government need look no further than Maryland. Gov. Martin O’Malley recently announced winners of a first-of-its-kind contest that challenged entrepreneurs to make a case for their existing business or idea via the visually oriented, bulletin board-style site.
While public-sector social media gurus are inundated with options as to where to focus their efforts at citizen engagement, recent reports rank Pinterest right behind Facebook and Twitter as the platform of choice. And government agencies are taking notice.
O’Malley is active on Pinterest, with six boards featuring pins on books he recommends, policy goals for the state and photos he took at various public events. His latest pins are the winners of the business pitch contest.
Part of a broader effort to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the state, the contest invited business-minded Marylanders to submit 10 images to sell their idea for a business. Existing small businesses were also eligible to compete.
In all, 43 entries were received in two categories: student entrepreneurs and “boot strappers.” While most entries were highly visual, most competitors included written captions with their pinned images that told the story of their business or idea, offered compelling statistics and market information, and other details to round out their pitch.
Entries ran the gamut — from existing brick-and-mortar stores seeking a boost, like the Sweet Hearts Patisserie in Annapolis, Md., to an online tool rental site offering a price break over the same service offered by major home improvement stores. The Pinterest package from “Route Rider” tells the story of an Android app promoting public transportation, while “Husky Power” uses dogsleds with wheels to promote and educate the public about the sport of mushing.
Winners were named at an event on May 31. Student entrepreneur Grady Booth took home top honors in his category. The 13-year-old offered a well developed pitch for his business featuring custom-made duct tape wallets. Discreet Secrete Solutions was the runner-up, offering a concealable breast pump intended for initial sale via Amazon.
First place in the boot strapper category went to the local developer of the BeerGivr app, which partners with local watering holes to allow friends who have to miss the party an easy way to buy a drink for the guest of honor. The runner-up boot strapper was Mission: Launch, offering post-incarceration mentoring and retraining services for transition back into society.
In addition to promotion on the governor’s Pinterest page, first-place winners received a MacBook Air notebook computer, while runners up got an iPad. Prizes were provided by contest partner Baltimore Angels, a local tech investment group. Other business pitch contest partners are the University of Maryland College Park, the Future of Information Alliance and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.
O’Malley described the Pinterest business pitch contest as an extension of the state’s culture of fostering entrepreneurship.
“From our many incubators to our diverse centers and institutions of higher learning to our strategic tax credits, we encourage entrepreneurship at every level,” said O’Malley in an announcement. “Whether you’ve been in business for years or are just getting started, Maryland is the ideal place to do business.”