3 Ways to turn Pinterest into PHInterest (Public Health Pinterest)!

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Pinterest – the social media platform that was apparently created to share recipes, wedding plans, and tattoo ideas – also may be a great way to introduce your network to multimedia that advocates for health.  C’mon!  Let’s make Pinterest into PHInterest!  Here are 3 ways to make it happen.

1. Know your issues and how to communicate them!

It’s true that a picture is worth (at least) a thousand words.  However, it’s important to find the right thousand words to use!  Conflicting visual imagery can create a board that is off message or too diverse.  Organizing your “pins” into coherent “boards” can help, so your followers can understand how to locate your content and what story you’re trying to tell.  Choose your pins wisely; a crowded board may convey a confused message!  Make sure to spread out your posts during the day, so you can capture the attention of your followers on a more consistent basis.

2. Master the ancient art of the infographic…and when not to use them!

Public health uses a lot of data in order to tell stories.  It’s perhaps this characteristic of public health professionals that explains why the infographic is the primary language of public health on Pinterest.  Don’t believe me?  Just plug “public health” into the search box!  I did.  Here’s what you’ll get:

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Instead of relentless infographics, consider the occasional photo or quote that captures your idea, just to break up how you express your idea.  Remember that you don’t always have to tell the whole story in just one image.  After all, how many ideas could be developed in a more impactful and visually appealing way from the following (very worthwhile) infographic, thinking about a board as a visual collage of images rather than just one big composition?

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Remember, “Pinspiration” is currency of the land on Pinterest.  Your infographics and visual images should be clean, easy to interpret, and…uplifting!  On Pinterest, it would seem the most effective public health messages should be delivered as “Yes We Can!” and “It’s Great to Be Healthy!” rather than “Dude, You’re Sick!” and “Just Exactly How Messed Up Are You?”

Rather than “Obesity WorldWIDE,” (* Author shudders) why not create a whole series of boards around the health benefits of a normal BMI, healthful recipes, and inspirational quotes about changing behaviors?  People who are interested in obesity for personal reasons already may know they’re obese and it’s bad for them.  (* Author slowly raises hand here.)  Maybe it would be better for users to see something like this after a bad day of dietary decisions:

Pins like this also might pull people into following you who aren’t focused on the issue of obesity.

3. Don’t be afraid to re-pin content that works for your needs.

Unlike most social media platforms, there’s absolutely no need to be completely original in your content.  You can re-pin content from other boards in order to save time and resources, and still have a very impactful platform.  This skill in curation is a bit like taking care of a collection at a library.  Except, instead of a famous author, it’s famous “you”!  Use keywords for your pins, in order to optimally target users you would like to reach.  You can check the effectiveness of your keywords using Pinterest analytics, in order to have an objective basis for judging how well your content is getting out there.


Pinterest is a fantastic approach for public health professionals to turn Pinterest into PHInterest.  Be focused, be positive, and be on the lookout for great content from everywhere!

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6 thoughts on “3 Ways to turn Pinterest into PHInterest (Public Health Pinterest)!

  1. Hi Todd! I liked how you organized your content with a numbered list and relevant pictures and that you encouraged positivity rather than negativity for the content of pins. Knowing your audience is important and I think Pinterest is a community that exists for inspiration, not for harping on each other/nagging. How would you change these rules up (if at all) for the various other image sharing sites- flickr, instagram, etc.?

    • Thanks, Jersey. You raise a really good question. I’m not sure how the rules would be different for other image sharing sites. My sense is that there would be a lot of commonality at this point, but your comment is stimulating me to check out the other platforms to test how they might be different. I’ll try to report back!

  2. Todd, I love it “PHInterest”-BRILLIANT! Before this week I had never used Pinterest to look up Public Health. However, after reading your post, I decided to do a little more research. Previously, I too was under the impression that Pinterest was more for, “sharing recipes, wedding plans, and tattoo ideas.” But that really is just the beginning. I did some digging and found APHA’s board-great example of how to use pinterest for public health! You did an incredibly job of incorporating outside resources that further support your points. You also do a great job of picking images that go perfectly with your point. And, your title is very catchy, which I find to be incredibly important and one thing that always draws me in. All of your tips are incredibly helpful to anyone in Public Health who would like to use this multimedia platform. This is already a strong post, but some things that you may want to think about adding are examples of organizations using pinterest and doing so effectively. Lastly, you may want to add more of your own personal story or your own experience. Adding a bit of your own personal experience is one way that your readers can connect with you. Overall, great work and insight!

    • Thanks for your feedback, Alissa! I agree I could have done a better job at finding a public health entity that seemed to do well. I have to say, though, that I got a little overwhelmed on Pinterest and sort of gave up. Not sure whether that was me being unable to interact with some much visual media, or the low quality of the Pinterest boards in public health, or maybe a bit of both. I will try to reflect a little more on personal experience for future posts. I appreciate your comment!

  3. Todd – Nice post – it’s clear, concise and to the point. It was easy to read and your message was succinct. LOVE the post-it on Plan-A. I think those type of candid posts resonate the strongest with audiences.

    • Thanks, Mark! I use a lot of motivational interviewing in my practice, so it’s the first thing I think about when I see a marketing campaign. Positive and empowering messages are always to powerful rather than some of the health scare tactics to which people kind of become immune. Thanks for reading!

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