Haven’t heard of Pinterest yet?  Well it’s about time you did. Launched in 2010, Pinterest became the fastest-growing website ever, passing the 10 million user mark in an astonishing nine months. Driving more traffic than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined; and holding users’ attention for an average of 98 minutes per month, it’s been the hot new thing for a little while now.

So how does it work? Pinterest is a virtual pinboard which lets you create visual noticeboards on any category you like. From ‘dream home’ to ‘sports,’ you can turn your screen into a visual plethora of all the things which catch your eye. From re-pinning other users’ pins, or pinning from the original source, the magical thing about Pinterest is that it always links back to the original URL. So whilst Pinterest clearly states that the site is not a platform for self-promotion, if you find users are viewing and re-pinning your content then their followers will be directed back to your original page.

Brands are turning to Pinterest to create and reinforce an image or a philosophy behind their brand. It helps marketers engage with their audiences to show how their brand fits into their lives. Whole Foods (one of the top 10 most followed brands on Pinterest) has created 45 pinboards relating to its organic and healthy living image and now has more than 67,000 followers. For the pharmaceutical industry however Pinterest is a whole different board game.

Some companies have taken the plunge.  In April this year Bayer became the first pharmaceutical company to create its own pinboard. Since then, others have joined the growing network and have begun utilizing the opportunity to interact with audiences in a user friendly forum. Whilst Novo Nordisk experienced some initial challenges which led to them deleting all of their pins, they have come back with a strong presence with boards including World Diabetes Foundation, World Haemophilia Day and an interesting pin ‘patient stories.’ The images link to videos that feature narratives spoken by real patients with diabetes. It is this innovative interaction with patients which makes Pinterest a valuable companion for patient engagement.

Following Novo Nordisk and Bayer as examples, there are 3 top tips pharmaceutical brands must consider when joining Pinterest:

1. Create a brand story – how can you express what your brand stands for

2. Content must add value for users – offer insightful information in an innovative fashion that will appeal to users

3. Engage with other pinners – think of ways in which you can communicate patient experience, e.g.  through testimonials or guest bloggers

Remember it’s not about promoting your products; it’s for showcasing your brand’s personality and becoming part of your followers’ lives. Whilst pharmaceutical companies’ engagement with their audiences via Pinterest is still limited, it is providing a new vehicle for dialogue. If you’re unfamiliar, or reluctant to explore Pinterest, start looking at what others are doing in the pharmaceutical and other industries.  You may be inspired.

Sophie Ryan