Pinterest and the Patient

Is there room for another social network in your life? You may want to make some for Pinterest.

The invite-only network has over 19 million users and counting. At first glance, the site may seem overwhelmingly fashion-focused. But delve deeper, and you’ll see that professionals from marketers to healthcare providers, consumers, and patients of all backgrounds are “pinning.”

What is it?

Pinterest users create a personal account which they use to build virtual pin boards. These boards are collages of “pinned” images that fall under a number of categories, from Food & Drink to Architecture. There’s no predefined category for Health, yet, but you can be sure it’s coming.

Each pin is sourced from another website or blog, uploaded by the user, or “repinned” from another user. And pins aren’t just standalone images; they usually link to the original source of the image, be it a news article, blog post, recipe, or other website.

Patients on Pinterest

We can see that patients are flocking to the new network to express peer support and advocacy for many disease states. They pin inspirational messages, ribbons, and images associated with information about treatment, diagnosis, and support.  And this is a key thing to note about the burgeoning network: it’s about hope and empowerment.

Whether users pin images of their favorite piece of art, a pair of designer shoes, or a pink ribbon, the overwhelming theme at Pinterest is “inspiration.” Pins are aspirational in nature—some represent goals and ambitions, some represent everyday plans, and some represent pipe dreams. Being respectful of this vibe is a key part of authenticity in consumer social media engagement.

Authentic engagement

Going in with the right mindset, there are many ways to engage with patients on the platform in meaningful and impactful ways to enhance your story. There are a number of granular ways healthcare companies should consider engaging with Pinterest and the patient: sharing advocacy messages, or simply offering a route to a patient support iPhone app via an appealing screen shot and link to the download location.

Further, as an active social media channel for patients grappling with a number of chronic or new conditions, Pinterest represents a new network to be monitored analytically for patient insights, opinions, and needs. Gaining this knowledge helps us to respond dynamically to the needs and opinions of the people we all want to help.


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  1. Kelley Connors, MPH
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this. I am going to look up some of the advocacy work. I started my own Pinterest…it’s pictures of ideas around the consulting work I do: Conversations, Trust, Connections…

  2. Carrie Baczewski
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    That’s great; I’m glad you found the post helpful. One of the things I find most fascinating about Pinterest is that it’s really a blank canvas and users just make it their own in so many ways, using it to help organize thoughts and ideas, find inspiration, learn more about their health and other topics, and interact with others. And of course there are so many ways we can use it professionally, and where professional meets personal. Pinterest introduces a great level of simplicity that some other popular social media platforms now lack.