Pharma and healthcare has an image problem. Or at least, it has sometimes had a problem conveying itself in a compelling way through visual media. It’s curious then, that a number of prominent pharma companies in the US have set up corporate accounts on Pinterest, the latest much-hyped plaything of the social media world. Bayer US, Boehringer Ingelheim, Menarini Spain, GE and Novo Nordisk have all begun populating their boards with healthy-looking people and clinical researchers on a site more often associated with pictures of wedding dresses and cakes.
Let’s take a step back and explain Pinterest for those who may not yet have come across the site. Pinterest allows you to ‘organize and share things you love’ so your collection of paperclip sculptures can be ranked according to the number of prizes they have won and your photo albums of Iggy the pet stick insect can be shared with all of your friends. The medium is incessantly visual, as posts consist almost solely of either images or video, which can then be shared (‘repinned’), liked or commented upon by other users. While the site has grown at an exponential rate in the US, it remains to be seen whether it will have the same impact among the same groups of people in the UK and elsewhere when the site spends some of its recently-raised funds for international expansion. What does seem clear is that the site is growing fast and companies have begun to take note.
Now, back to that image problem. It may be exciting for pharma companies to have accounts across all the latest social media platforms, but it is important for companies to ask whether this will provide tangible benefits from a strategic communications perspective. Between them, Bayer, Boehringer, and Novo have a total of 355 followers. Meanwhile, the accounts don’t seem to have elicited much in the way ‘interaction’ or ‘engagement’ with these followers.
On the other hand, GE Healthcare has managed to capitalise on both the clout of its parent group and the innovative work done in other areas of the business to transform apparently visually unappealing engineering and energy operations into captivating images and video. By posting via the General Electric umbrella account, the healthcare arm already has an audience of over 9,562 followers, and the specialist healthcare Pinboards are original and well-populated. More importantly, they are also well planned with a clear remit and strategy.
Of particular note are the Cancer Pintherapy and Pinspire boards, which manage to be both warm and engaging. The Pintherapy board features a collection of pictures alongside famous motivational quotes and experiences of ordinary people affected by cancer and particulalry breast cancer. Pinspire asks users to submit their own inspiring content on the subject of cancer experiences, one of which is then chosen to be featured each week. Just as with the GE Healthymagination Facebook page, the account is particularly good at interacting with users promptly and with a personal touch.
It remains to be seen whether pharma and healthcare companies can make Pinterest into a truly effective communication tool, or, for that matter, whether Pinterest itself will survive in an often faddy social media environment.