How and Why Should We "Pin" Public Health?

I regularly participate in the social media for public health (#sm4ph) twitterchat.  The chat (sponsored by the Public Health Management Corporation and hosted by Jim Garrow) explores various forms of social media use and how they impact (or could impact!) public health.  Back in March, the following question was posed to twitterchat participants:

At the time, I took note that several participants (including me) thought that Pinterest could be "the next big thing" (FYI: Pinterest is an online pinboard that allows users to create and share image collections):

Then this week, Nicole Ghanie-Opondo posed an important question to the field:  "Is Public Health Pinnable?"  She does a great job of breaking down all the "stuff" public health people want to pin (i.e., campaign posters, event information, staff photos) and analyzing why or why not it is a good fit for this particular communication channel.  She also emphasizes the key principle we need to remember and revisit in health communication:  

Think About Your Audience!  

When exploring any new communication channel, we need to review available data regarding the demographics and online behaviors of those users (whether it be Pinterest or Facebook or Twitter) and then tailor our content/strategies to those users.  The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project is a great resource for social media user data.

In preparation for this post, I followed up with Nicole to see if she had received any feedback from public health colleagues on her post.  She shared the major theme from her (informal) feedback so far:  

Public health is not creating content to optimize pins.

I thought that was really interesting and it changes the conversation for me.  The question is not: "Should we use Pinterest- yes or no?"  There seems to be enough evidence that Pinterest is a promising communication strategy.  For instance we have: (1) strong interest in Pinterest from the field (as seen above), (2) available data on its users, (3) key audiences represented among users (e.g., women), and (4) colleagues that are successfully integrating this channel into their social media plans (e.g., CDC and Hamilton County Public Health).

Therefore, the question should become:  "How can we use Pinterest strategically in public health?"  This approach would require a discussion of the following questions:

  • What audience/s should we be engaging on Pinterest?
  • What kinds of content/images are most likely to be re-pinned or shared?
  • How can we optimize our content for pinning?
  • How are we evaluating our Pinterest efforts? (*Note that CDC's National Prevention Information Network (NPIN) recently had a wonderful webcast on social media evaluation. While Pinterest was not one of the featured channels, many of the concepts and resources would still be applicable.  The slides are available here).

Tell Me What You Think

  • Why (or why not) should we "pin" public health?
  • How should we "pin" public health?
  • What other planning questions should be considered?
  • Please share examples of Pinterest being used successfully (or unsuccessfully) in public health!


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