What Problem Is Pinterest Solving?

Recently at a meeting, we were talking about the healthcare boards that have popped up on Pinterest. As we discussed the idea of creating a way for oncology patients to find others like themselves on Pinterest, and share inspirational pins, one of the clients turned to me and asked, “What problem are we trying to solve?” An interesting question, indeed. At first I answered – “we are not solving a problem; rather we are embracing an opportunity.”

Upon further reflection, Pinterest, which combines two of the most compelling elements of social media: 1) visual content and 2) sharing who you are – does solve a few problems.

First, there is the problem of so much content to consume with too little time. For many, the journey from diagnosis through treatment includes constant perusing of information online, in the doctor’s office, and in print. Some patients blog daily, necessitating constant research, commenting and feedback to help educate the community.



Pinterest, a Content Curation Tool

Yes, Pinterest is another destination that takes our time, but this interactive, shareable scrapbook site is really a content curation tool, as Twitter is, whereby information is compiled by our peers and consumed quickly. When in need of education, motivation, or ideas, Pinterest is a rich and targeted source (And fun and quite addictive!).

Second, we have always had the issue of creating healthcare content for the masses: compelling to all levels of education and diverse backgrounds. We have lived by the “sixth-grade reading level” health literacy rule for years – (and in categories like oncology, this is near impossible) – but imagery breaks through the barriers of literacy, even culture. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and images are becoming more useful than ever in education. 

Indeed, the earliest forms of communication were symbol-based, dating back almost 30,000 years. By comparison, writing as a form of communication came into existence but 7,000 years ago. 

As Mike Parkinson says in his article about the power of visual communication, “an image can convey what words alone sometimes cannot do justice. Images can thrill us, like the images sent back to Earth from the Mars Rover missions. They can inspire us, like the photo of the American flag raised over the rubble of the World Trade Center by three New York firefighters on September 11, 2001.”

He further states, “Research at 3M Corporation concluded that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Further studies find that the human brain deciphers image elements simultaneously, while language is decoded in a linear, sequential manner taking more time to process.”

Pinterest Enhances Self-Expression

Lastly, one problem we’d love to be able to address is the feeling of solitude and being misunderstood that patients/caregivers experience. Providing a platform for self-expression, one where they can find their unique voice is key. 

That’s what old-school scrapbooks are…ways of compiling pieces of ourselves, sharing them, reviewing the past. They reflect our style, opinions, and outlook. When patients are in a state of heightened emotional distress, this can impact their treatment and outcome. Finding ways to garner support, and being able to share their voice is very powerful. It has been shown that even the expression of negative emotion fosters a fighting spirit and stress-buffering social support associated with positive outcomes.

Scarcity of time, health literacy, and feeling alone and distressed are very real issues for patients and caregivers. Can Pinterest alone solve these problems? That would be an over-promise. But for the 10 million visitors per month, the Pinterest value proposition is compelling. Let’s see how healthcare brands take patient education one step forward through this new medium.

1 comment about "What Problem Is Pinterest Solving? ".
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  1. Julian Gibson from Med Megaphone , September 30, 2012 at 6:12 a.m.

    Pinterest is a great tool as the report says a good use of Pinterest could be infographics. We use them on our blog to display the dangers of health problems like heart disease and obesity. Social media in healthcare is proving to be a useful source of information. Like us on Facebook at for more information.

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