Pinterest is the new trend in social media circles, and it's risen rapidly to the ranks of the top-10 social networking sites in the United States.

Case in point, a recent study found it now even drives more online traffic than Twitter. Campaigns are beginning to wonder what use the new image-driven platform can have for their candidates and issues.

Pinterest, which is essentially a virtual bulletin board for images, gives campaigns the ability to exploit the power of visuals in a new way. It can drive traffic back to your own site by pinning persuasive images to your content links. It can hammer down on a campaign narrative by reinforcing a political story with real images. Or, it can bring your supporters to life by adding their picture to your own campaign’s image. 

The use of Pinterest in the political world is still evolving, but here are a few early examples to draw inspiration for your own campaign strategy:

Luxury Hotels of the Romney Campaign. Liberal organizations will attack Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for being out-of-touch, and what better way to do it than displaying images of the lavish hotels that the candidate stays in. Think Progress took the Romney campaign’s January 2012 expense report, selected the most expensive hotels that appeared and pinned images of the posh resorts to its pin board. The effect? Think Progress has drilled its message into the viewer’s head without typing a word. Instead of creating a message from scratch, they’ve taken a pre-existing narrative – that Romney is out-of-touch – and brought it to life with pictures.

The Heritage Foundation. The right has taken advantage of Pinterest, too, and perhaps no organization has been more aggressive in adapting the site into its strategy than the Heritage Foundation. Creating boards for each policy arena the organization engages in -- education, family and religion, healthcare, et cetera -- they then pin links to content from their own site with a compelling visual. The “charts and graphs” display is particularly useful as it presents a summary of key Heritage talking points backed by data. Heritage has recognized early the potential for Pinterest to drive traffic back to their own website, and has taken full advantage.

AARP’s Social Security. The AARP has taken the fight over entitlement reform to Pinterest in a way that combines television ads, mailers and the power of the Internet. Scroll through the “Social Security” board, and you’ll see friendly, passionate faces of older Americans who rely on the program, with short quotes detailing why Social Security is important to them. This sort of visual, emotion-driven strategy has been a common tactic for decades, and Pinterest has created the opportunity for groups like AARP to successfully incorporate it online. And AARP can pin up as many faces as it wants – it won’t be squished for space like you would in an expensive mailer or television advertisement.

Andrew Clark is an account director for Hynes Communications, where he works with political campaigns, corporations and advocacy groups on new media messaging. He previously worked on the McCain 2008 presidential campaign.