Pinterest: A New Social Medium for your Medical Practice?

Pinterest: A New Social MediumAmong the newest trends to hit the social networking scene is Pinterest. Pinterest is a unique photo sharing platform that encourages users to “pin” beautiful images from around the web onto a virtual bulletin board.

Pinterest users are able to connect their Pinterest boards to their Facebook and Twitter accounts as they browse the web and show off images that they think their friends would like to see.  A recent count reveals that Pinterest has upwards of 10 million users, which makes Pinterest an important new platform for businesses to get involved in as you are expanding your presence on the web.

Why Pinterest is Unlike the Others

In theory, medical  practices can use Pinterest to build relationships with their clients, but the platform does not accommodate for promotional material the same way that Facebook, Google+ and Twitter do. For this reason, promotion through Pinterest is not as obvious as it is on other social media platforms.

Unlike other social networking websites, Pinterest is not sharing a great deal of written content. When a user logs onto either Facebook or Twitter, she will see a list of other users profile pictures followed by written content that they have provided, with the occasional photograph added in between.

The premise of Pinterest is visual stimulation

The Pintrest website is set up as a large virtual picture board. Users who have pinned content are still visible, but their logos are smaller and sit underneath the images. Visual stimulation is the recipe for success so before deciding to allocate marketing resources to Pintrest, think through the visual content strategy you will use to keep a stead flow of interesting and engaging images flowing to the site.

The images are the central focus on Pinterest, not the people pinning them.

Pinterest has recently updated to accommodate minor user profiles. The Pinterest profile is more similar to what Twitter offers its users than it is to Facebook.  The profile is brief, but can feature your name, a logo or other image, and a short description of who you are.

Rather than providing space on your profile to share details of who you are, your appearance on Pinterest is left to the images that you are pinning. This changes the focus of the social media network from who is doing the sharing to what is being shared.

Who is on Pinterest?

It is important to recognize that the majority of Pinterest users are women, 83% to be exact.  This means that women are guiding the most popular trends on Pinterest, which are fashion, desserts, clothing and gift ideas.

What would I Pin?

In order to gain attention on Pinterest, you need to be providing content that is attractive so that others will re-pin your work. If someone likes what they see, then they will click on it and be redirected back to the original source, your website.

When you pin something on Pinterest, you are providing people with the opportunity to follow your image back to its source, which could be your website.

Pinterest is all about visual stimulation, so in order to make an impact on this social network you need to be sharing attractive images.  This does not include many of the photographs that are already posted on medical practice websites, such as diagrams, organ images or surgical before and after photographs. While these may be useful images in the context of your website, they are not the type of images that would gain popularity on their own.

To Use Pinterest or Not to Use Pinterest

Depending on your goals, medical practices may find that Pinterest is a realm of social media that is ultimately not worth the effort. There is little room on Pinterest for self-promotion, but it is a way to communicate and build a relationship with potential clients.

Pinterest is a platform where you have to put your images out there and let them fend for themselves.

One of the few ways that this could be possible would be through recipes. Food is a very common pin category on Pinterest, which does provide the opportunity for medical practices to share recipe ideas that they endorse.

However, the recipe itself is not what will be shared on Pinterest, the photograph of the final meal is. That means in order for a recipe to gain attention on Pinterest it will need to be accompanied by a professional quality image of the food item. Again, this may entail more effort than it is worth.

It is important to recognize that many pinners are not interested in actually learning where the recipe came from, but are instead happy to re-pin a dish that simply “looks good,” and may never click on the image to view the original source at all.

Concerns on Pinterest for Weight Loss Practices

Another concern that many medical practices have to be aware of, and bariatric centers in particular, is the new terms of service that Pinterest has released concerning anti-harm regulation.

Pinterest’s new terms of service agreement states that they forbid any content that creates “a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement or physical or mental illness to yourself, to any other person, or to any animal.”  These new terms are particularly intended to regulate the occurrence of “thinspiration” boards that were intended to help others lose weight.

Pinterest is coming out against these boards due to their use by underweight women that were sharing information to encourage each other to become unhealthily thin, but it is yet hard to say whether these new terms could affect the use of weight loss boards by users that are genuinely trying to lose weight.

Weight loss physicians would have to be particularly careful when posting content related to the weight loss efforts of other patients, as there is potential that the images could be flagged. Instead of using Pinterest as a way of sharing your patients weight loss success, focus on sharing images that would attract a wide range of clients such as attractive food choices, local events or nearby places.

What could I use Pinterest for?

Unlike Facebook and Twitter which revolve around what you say, Pinterest could be a fun tool to show your potential clients a bit more about yourself. Pinterest centers on creativity. While you cannot provide health and wellness tips, you could use Pinterest to showcase your own photography of local biking and hiking trails that you would like to encourage your patients to explore.

Time will tell if Pinterest will become more of a platform for businesses to promote themselves, but at the moment the structure of the website makes it very difficult for much more to be accomplished than the genuine sharing of interesting images.

Pinterest: A New Social Medium for your Medical Practice?

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