The medical industry has developed a certain comfort level with the first generation of social media sites: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. A second wave – including Pinterest, Google+ and StumbleUpon – offers hospitals, medical device and pharmaceutical companies a new set of tools for building a social media strategy.
The picture-driven Pinterest made Internet history recently by rocketing to 10 million subscribers in just under two years, and has already surpassed all of the original four except for Twitter for referral traffic. The majority of users are early adopters of social media, women in their 20s and 30s who are sharing pictures in categories ranging from beauty and fitness to science and nature.
“[Pinterest] is fascinating,” said Brendan Gallagher of Digitas Health. “It’s social commerce cleverly disguised as an aspirational visual scrapbook,” referring to Pinterest’s deal with Skimlinks to generate revenue.
Users can upload images directly to a particular “board” or use a toolbar widget to “pin” an image from a blog post or web page. The software automatically imbeds a link in the image, making it easy to find that recipe, pair of shoes, or infographic again. Although there is a considerable retail component to Pinterest through links, there could be room for much more than that. Users can follow a board, repin images to their own collections and like individual pins. One navigation tip for users: companies can be listed as people.
Boosting morale. One of social media’s greatest strengths, particularly Facebook, is the ability to bring individuals separated by geography together in communities with shared interests, like fighting a disease. The emotive factor that goes along with aesthetically pleasing photos could be enlisted to inspire a community of cancer patients using an inspiration board to boost morale, observes William Martino of Saatchi & Saatchi Health.
The health component is so early stage on Pinterest that it does not have its own category heading.
The art of medicine. Pinterest is, first and foremost, a curation tool. There is a bookmark on Pinterest that’s a collection of infographics. Another is “cath lab love”, which includes old and new images of hearts and at least one cardiology team. It’s an opportunity for marketing officers to delve into hospital archives and show the progress they’ve made. Medical device companies could present a brief history of how far they’ve come with their latest technology.
Lay a foundation for the future. Even if you don’t know what your company’s long-range strategy will be, Gallagher recommends including at least one visually striking image that is likely to be pinned and shared by an audience with an appreciation for aesthetics to gain enterprise advocacy. They can start by increasing their photo budget, a move that could follow a similar growth curve to video spend for YouTube.
Health education. Baylor Healthcare System has nine virtual bulletin boards on Pinterest. One focuses on helping people learn about gain a better understanding of family history, mammograms, healthy ways to order meals in a restaurant through a series of quizzes. Reed Smith, a social media consultant for hospitals and healthcare organizations, said healthcare organizations are starting to get involved with Pinterest because their primary users fits their target demographic. Women tend to be the healthcare buyers for their families. Summit Medical Group of New Jersey presence includes a video-driven board that includes segments presented by physicians on topics like calcium scoring, carpal tunnel syndrome and seasonal affective disorder.
Referrals. For some hospitals, their best business is referral business and they are looking to social media platforms like Pinterest to extend a dialogue with people who have already been through their hospitals.
Motivate and inspire. A hospital or rehabilitation center could use images from people recovering from surgery and charting their progress to inspire and motivate others and leaving viewers who may be strangers to the institution with a positive association. One bulletin board, optimized living, shows devices and therapies that can help improve one’s health. Children’s Medical Center of Dayton bulletin boards look at good news stories from premature births to children overcoming adversity. It also uses images to show connections between physicians, nurses and children, a little reassurance for parents and children making what may be their first visit to the facility.
The quantified self. It may be a trendy term in the wellness quarter of social media, but the use of smartphone apps to monitor calorie intake, pulse, heart rate and manage one’s health is driving much of the innovation taking place in digital and mobile health. Companies that can provide images of how people can take control of their health using their devices or apps could establish a positive rapport with that business.
Disease state categories. “I could see pharmaceutical brands keeping an eye on the ‘disease state’ category,” said Gallagher. For example, if a patient wanted to visually document their experience battling cancer. That approach could work for hospitals, too. One bulletin board, called “cancer” has slogans and images that are intended to inspire users.
GE’s Cancer Pintherapy Board board is a good example of community engagement (while promoting GE’s brand as a “cancer fighter”.) The board features the experiences of participants in GE’s Breast Cancer Mosaic along with information from GE’s Is My Cancer Different website. Alongside this the Pinterest board called Pinspire shares pins from cancer patients and survivors around the world. Users can pin for themselves or in honour of someone they know and features a new ‘cancer journey’ each week.
Very interesting. I think there is a lot of opportunities for health care industries using Pinterest and it's very visual social approach. By using Pinterest they may stand a better chance of getting their information seen and liked by others because it's still a very new social platform and attractive imagery is great for peaking peoples interest.
Interesting topic. Pinterest is fast being adopted by hospital and i believe this is a positive idea for physicians and doctors. Erick Kinuthia Team MDwebpro
Great to see how Pinterest is being used by hospitals. Inova Health System is using it to pinning health and fitness related content. We are to 8 boards: Healthier Life, Healthy Recipes, Fitness, Outdoor Adventures, Recommended Reading, Join Us, Inspirational, Go Green. These are evolving as we learn more about Pinterest and our followers. You can follow our pins/boards: http://pinterest.com/inovahealth/
Great article. Pinterest is definitely a channel worth checking out, but I wish health care professionals and hospitals would first focus on working on their websites before exploring social media. If you need more resources on health care professionals and use of social media: http://www.healthcaremarketingcoe.com/health_care_social_media/
Stephanie - Thanks for your well researched post. Congrats! to the healthcare providers who are stepping into visual social communications, Wonder if you know of any Pharma brands who are on Pinterest.
Like the old saying goes about a picture being worth a thousand words, Pinterest certainly has the potential to tell powerful stories through images. It's certainly a nice new way to curate great resources. Think of the eyes you could attract with images of delicious and HEALTHY meal recipes etc. Good post, Stephanie. Jason Boies Radian6
Thanks for noting the Summit Medical Group, however we currently have 7 boards with 21 pins. You can view our pinterest pinterest boards http://pinterest.com/summitmedicalnj/ We look forward to continuing to identify the most meaningful ways these platforms and new technologies can be used to share important information, connect and build relationships with our community!
The Children's Medical Center of Dayton was mentioned in this article. You can view their Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/daytonchildrens/ . We have chosen to have our logo as our main image so that people will associate our brand with our boad. However, we currently have 16 boards with nearly 150 pins that are images and topics we think moms will like and want to repin. We try to keep a balance between posting pins from our own website and blog and also repinning other relevant pins!