Social Media

Pharma and Pinterest – The Good, The Bad, And The Bland.

5 Mins read


GE Healthcare recently commissioned an online survey to gain more insight on how social media can affect health behaviors. Here are some key findings from the report – a motivator for more healthcare brands to engage in social media.


GE Healthcare recently commissioned an online survey to gain more insight on how social media can affect health behaviors. Here are some key findings from the report – a motivator for more healthcare brands to engage in social media.

  • 82% of online adults have used social media in the past 12 months.
  • 26% of online adults discussed health information online.
  • Of those who discussed health information online 30% changed a health behavior as a result.
  • More than 42% used it to seek or post information about a current medical condition or find clinical trials on a specific condition.
  • 29% used it to friend/follow brands, companies, and/or organizations related to fitness, health, diet or specific medical conditions.

While Facebook and Twitter remain the post popular social media platforms for healthcare engagement, Pinterest is fast gaining ground.  

Why Pharma Should Engage On Pinterest  

Recap: Pinterest is a social networking site with a visually-pleasing “virtual pinboard” interface. Users collect photos and link to products they like, creating their own pinboards and following the pinboards of other people whom they find interesting.

Last April, I wrote an article  for HealthWorks Collective on how to leverage Pinterest for healthcare social media.   Since then Pinterest has continued to grow and maintain its position as one of the top ten largest social network platforms. It has added a health and fitness category to its boards and has gained more traction among hospitals, NGOs, non-profits, and increasingly pharmaceutical companies.

Once viewed as a niche player in the social space, Pinterest has become one of the fastest growing social networks ever, harnessing both an increased user base and its exponential growth as a referring site to become a considerable force in the marketing world – Hubspot  

Pharma On Pinterest – The Challenge  

The challenge for pharmaceutical companies on Pinterest (apart from ethical considerations) is the same challenge faced by all healthcare brands – given that success on the site is predicated on pinning visually interesting content and blatant marketing is discouraged, how do they apply a more visual approach to their Pinterest marketing?  Let’s look at some of the key players to see how they are meeting this challenge.  

Pharma On Pinterest – The Players

Bayer Corporation

The first pharma company to join Pinterest in April 2012, Bayer uses the site to share images and information about its activities in the US. The company maintains that joining Pinterest provides another way “to communicate and collaborate about its business and activities including, but not limited to, the topics of innovation, sustainability, business activities, corporate social responsibility, events and leadership”.  

Currently Bayer has seven pinboards, enabling it to showcase its business activities which focus on health care, nutrition and high-tech materials; its commitment to innovation and sustainable development; and its campaign to advance science literacy.  

Pinterest Optimization

  • Bayer uses their About section to good effect – simple and succinct description of activities.
  • Specific keywords and hashtags make their content more search-friendly and easier to organize for a specific campaign.

Creative Use Of Pinterest

Bayer’s One A Day® Pinterest Campaign 

In the fall of 2012, Bayer pledged to donate $10 for every Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer ‘Pin to Donate’ image that was re-pinned to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada and Prostate Cancer Canada.   

Boehringer Ingelheim

The company hosts seven boards, including a pinboard charting its history. Its visual focus on lung cancer and COPD is a good example of how to use Pinterest to highlight disease awareness and management.   

Pinterest Optimization  

  • About section needs to be more specific and include more keywords and hashtags.   

Creative Use Of Pinterest  

The best marketing on any social media platform happens when your followers share their passion and enthusiasm for what you do. On Pinterest, you can invite other users to contribute their own images to your account by creating a user-generated pinboard. This is something taken up by Boehringer and it is a good example of how pharma can use Pinterest to foster community and engage with followers in a personal and cost-effective way.  

GE Healthcare   

GE has 24 pinboards, the most number of boards in this sample, and the most diverse ranging from traditional health care to boards labelled Badass Machines – “the biggest and baddest technologies produced by GE” and Mind=Blown – “science facts so explosive, they’ll blow your mind!” This eclectic collection reflects a pinterest strategy that involves “pinning things that inspire us to build, power, move and cure the world.”  

Pinterest Optimization

  • Nicely optimized for keywords and hashtags. 
  • Titles of boards break through the usual bland generic pinboard clutter.
  • Shows some brand personality.  

Creative Use Of Pinterest

Launched in August last year, 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.   

Menarini Spain on Pinterest    

Like Boehringer, Menarini also has a pin board to share images related to its history. The Italian pharma company’s Spanish operations has 4 pinboards  covering health 2.0 and a selection of health tips for patients in areas like diabetes, travel health and shingles.

Pinterest Optimization  

  • Good use of #health2.0 hashtag 
  •  More keywords and hashtags are recommended along with link back to main website

 Creative Use Of Pinterest

Video Interviews on health 2.0 in Spain.  

Novo Nordisk on Pinterest    

In its first foray onto Pinterest, Novo Nordisk created then promptly deleted its boards. It is back on board again with four pinboards related to its activities in diabetes care, haemophilia care, growth hormone therapy and hormone replacement therapy. However, it still remains the weakest of the pharmaceutical companies on Pinterest to date.  

Pinterest Optimization   

  • Needs more keyword descriptors and hashtags.  
  • Although it created a board to mark World Haemophilia Day, it didn’t carry through enough with this. It only pinned 4 images and could certainly learn a lesson from GE’s Cancer Pintherapy board.  

Pinterest No Shows  

Two well-known pharmaceutical companies that have claimed Pinterest names, but haven’t created any boards are Sanofi and Astra Zeneca.   But at least, they have staked their rightful claim to their Pinterest names. Take a look at some of these Pinterest accounts, all familiar pharma names, but not claimed by pharma.


The start of a new year inevitably brings new predictions for social media marketing and according to author and social media strategist, Ekaterina Walter “2013 is the year when we will truly feel the rise of visual marketing. Visuals and video done right are highly effective in cutting through the noise. It is snackable kind of content that resonates with people across the globe and increases engagement across social nets. Brands will need to understand what it takes to do visual marketing well, whether within their current communities or new networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and others.” 

If pharma choose to engage on Pinterest, they need to do it right.  Like all social media platforms, Pinterest is not about advertising. Don’t just jump on board without a clear strategy. Learn lessons from those who are getting it right, understand what your audience is looking for and know the related industries or topics they are interested in.







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