Is Public Health Pinnable?

June 16, 2013
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I have a Pinterest board dedicated to public health….I also have pinboards dedicated to tattoos, Halloween ideas and things that make me giggle-out-loud. Guess which ones I pin more to? (hint: not the public health one).

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to public health….I also have pinboards dedicated to tattoos, Halloween ideas and things that make me giggle-out-loud. Guess which ones I pin more to? (hint: not the public health one). Although these health orgs are pintastic, there just isn’t enough public health visual content that I come across that pin-spires me.

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. My physical cork-board at work has work stuff pinned to it. My physical cork-board at home jewelry pinned to it. Let’s just say that context and function are important to me!

Context and function are just as important for communicating health messages.

I have often sat in on planning discussions about Pinterest with ideas like:

‘Let’s pin our campaign posters!’

  • Not a bad idea to showcase campaigns – however, what works in print doesn’t necessarily work online. (Think bus shelter ads vs. memes)

  • Content needs to be seasonal, timely and relevant – in other words, don’t pin your flu campaign collateral in the spring.

‘Let’s pin events!’

  • Also not a bad idea, but a high maintenance idea. Pinning time-sensitive material means you have to un-pin time-sensitive material. Think cluttered community centre boards with info about the annual picnic from summer 2011.

  • While it may happen on occasion that you come across an event pin, Pinterest just doesn’t seem to be the place people scour for events.

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‘Let’s pin our staff photos!’

  • Ok this one I have to call out as a ‘bad’ idea. When pinning, think: why would someone re-pin this? What inspires one to share with other pinners? Usually the pin-spiration is that it’s beautiful, cute, shocking, visually-delicious or you covet it.

What is your audience pinning?

Think about your audience. Who is Pinterest - Funny Blog - Collection of funny pictures and memeson Pinterest and what are they pinning. It’s widely known that pinners  (in North America) are overwhelmingly women, in their reproductive years and many of them are parents. You may take this demographic data and immediately think: ‘let’s pin breastfeeding info!’

Hit pause for a minute – are these women interested in getting breastfeeding (or parenting, pre- and post-natal, etc)  info from Pinterest? I’m not convinced. The user-generated pins from this demographic are largely about food and nutrition, home decor and DIY (e.g. crafts).  Their behaviour on the social network is just as important as their demographic. How they use Pinterest is your insight into the kind of content you should be producing. The same principles of engagement that apply to other social networks still apply to Pinterest.

Keeping the social in social is still applicable even on a primarily image-based social network.

What you should pin:

Memes! Jim Garrow has a fantastic tumblr dedicated to public health memes. At your organization, you can create your own memes in-house using images, use meme generators with viral images or even use someecards and get creative with some snarky public health messaging.

Infographics! Infographics are designed to be consumed by people hungry for visual stories. They are also designed to be shareable.

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Food! You don’t need original content here. There isn’t a shortage of food and nutrition info on Pinterest, but this is your opportunity to engage by re-pinning, commenting or ‘loving’ pins that are healthy, low-budget and sustainably-sourced.

I don’t believe you have to be everything to everyone. Sometimes we’re guilty of being navel gazers and forgetting that we need to engage an audience who has their own interests and style of communicating. Jumping on a social network purely to be there is just as ineffective as not being there. Strategy matters.

What do you think of Pinterest for public health? Un-tapped potential or over-hyped network? Have you seen good pinboards that communicate health messaging?