Pinterest: An Effective Social Media Channel for Healthcare?



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Maria Todd is a trusted authority in the healthcare industry frequently hired to provide her expertise on marketing, branding and business development. With more than 40 years of experience in the industry, her client list spans hospitals, surgeons, ambulatory health facilities, and other healthcare providers and investors in the USA and 116 countries. 

While most healthcare is a service oriented business, packaged services sold under bundled price case rates may be effectively marketed through Pinterest. These may include, among other services, concierge medicine, bundled price surgery packages, medical tourism packages, as well as cash pay programs such as physical rehab and chiropractic care, series services (injections, visits, etc.) and more. 

Pinterest is a platform with over 100 million users. One third identify as male. 40% purchase what they pin, repin or like, 80% of the content is repinned, and 93% of users use Pinterest to plan purchases. Maria Todd believes that Pinterest could work but the preparatory work to identify one’s ideal customer personas and what they want or need is a prerequisite to using Pinterest effectively to grow market share, brand awareness and revenues.

Build a Business Account

Maria Todd: Sign up is free. Create a separate account for your company, practice or facility.  Just go directly to to create a business account and fill out the information. Or, if you go to, be sure to click on the “Continue as a business” button under the regular account option.

Create a Pinterest-specific Strategy

Maria Todd: There’s so much more to Pinterest than pinning a bunch of pictures. If you do that or assumed that’s how it works, you’ll be greatly disappointed in your results. For the best results results, it’s important to understand how you can best utilize Pinterest to effectively promote your business and increase your brand’s online visibility. If you are a surgeon, you have a professional brand (your reputation, etc.) and you may have a business name brand. Promoting your business name brand can get expensive, but you thought about that when you launched, right?  If you didn’t, take three steps back and consider rebranding with the assistance of a professional. 

With Pinterest, to develop a detailed, goal-oriented marketing strategy, you must first decide where to begin. This can be daunting. Part of the challenge is designing a “product” when people view your business as a “service”.

When a client elects to market on Pinterest, the first order of business for me as their expert and social media authority is to confirm that the strategy might work.  To do this, there are 10 questions I must answer up front:

  1. How your competitors may be using Pinterest
  2. If they are using it effectively or wasting time and opportunity
  3. What we can use to create experiential or bundled-service products you’ll sell
  4. How to price your products
  5. How we’ll adhere to your brand guidelines on your Pinterest account 
  6. How often you’ll schedule your Pins and if we’ll need to adapt content and creative assets to align with the Pinterest viewer/searcher you’ll target
  7. What goals and objectives you are seeking out of your Pinterest efforts
  8. How large an audience you might grow in the first 6 months and first year
  9. Will paid promotion on Pinterest make sense, and 
  10. How we’ll measure your results/using analytics

Once these questions are answered, I can recommend a unique strategy for your practice, facility or healthcare business. This pre-strategy research isn’t something I or any other marketing expert pulls out of thin air. You’ll be asked to agree to fund the time for the research and the recommended next steps. Payment is not contingent on whether your ultimate decision is to proceed as recommended. How long it takes is ultimately up to you. 

  1. Do you have a fully-created and developed  brand standard?
  2. Do you know your costs to provide services so we can price a bundled product without financial risk miscalculations?
  3. Who will create the content? Is it done? Is it appropriate? Will what you already have in hand be adaptable to Pinterest? If not, what will it take to make it so?

Content is Key

Maria Todd: To create a board and not have content on it is the same as a 404 result on your website. The recommended launch is 10 boards with about 5 pins each, according to How can we build that before taking the Pinterest account live? That’s 50 pieces of content! Do you have 50 pieces of high-quality, original content prepared? 

Keep in mind that you won’t be using gated content at your website for this. No interstitial sign up forms to collect contact details before they are allowed to read your content. This is “express lane”. Click the pic and read the information, no barriers. 

Infographics, charts and diagrams, photos, videos, and even podcasts can be used as your featured pinterest content. Keep in mind that these will all be findable on Google images as well. Topics can be case studies without revealing patient names, Surgical case descriptions and fully-transparent package pricing. New technologies such as robotics, new diagnostic tools, can be featured and explained as how they benefit patients. After all, you’re not selling the tools, you’re selling the patient benefit of the use of the tool, so don’t merely copy the text from the vendor’s collateral if it isn’t written for consumer consumption.

For my clients involved in concierge membership medicine, I would create boards that focus on diet, wellness, anti-aging therapies offered, ancillary services included in the membership, and not the membership itself. Take your toughest diagnoses and create boards with information on each of them: Fibromyalgia, depression, weight loss management and nutrition, hormone replacement therapy, pain management, stem cell treatments, etc.

Designing Pins

Maria Todd: To design the pins themselves, you must first know your ideal customers and of the, the subset of you Pinterest-specific audience. How do they consume content? What piques their interest and attracts them to click and read?

With this information in hand, you can use a variety of tools to create pin images, including Canva, PicMonkey, Be Funky, Pic Lab, and Pixlr, that make it possible for you or your staffer to create graphics quickly and easily. What’s your time worth? What’s your staffers’ time worth? Is this the best use of their time? If not, what will it cost to hire a creative to do this for you?

Pinterest feeds are best designed for vertical presentation. Generally, you’ll focus on vertically formatted pins 600px wide by 900px tall. You can go longer depending on what the subject of the pin is about and if it is an infomercial or chart of some sort. But I want to remind you that you are pinning about a “product”. A “thing”. Not a service. Focus. Focus. Focus!  Every image you create must also have your logo and your copyright information on it. Also remember to harmonize colors with your brand image and logo. This will ensure all your pins relate to your brand.

Also, you’ll be selling using a visual attraction, not words. Text is an afterthought used in the caption. Your picture must be worth a thousand words and tell your story straight away.  Here are some tips to get you started:

  • According to, images without faces see almost 23% more repins.
  • Pins with smooth textures are repinned 17x more than rough textures.
  • Design infographics. 
  • Lighter images are repinned 20x more than extremely dark images.  But Pins that are too light may be overlooked. 
  • Warm colors (red, orange, etc.) are favorited over cool (blue, green, etc.). 
  • Create bright, eye-catching visuals. 
  • Use targeted keywords in your image file name. 
Keep in mind that you could easily spend an hour designing the pin, which would then lead to a click to existing content on your site. The time to create the landing spot content on your site also requires time, creativity and effort, plus budget. Are you really going to commit for the long term? If not, please, I implore you, don’t even invest in the preliminary research. So many of my clients begin with the greatest intentions and few sustain momentum after the first two weeks. This is not easy. It is time consuming and takes patience to realize results.


Maria Todd: For analysis and reporting, the best and most economical tool is Google Analytics. Any basic programmer can help you deploy Google Analytics to measure Pinterest activity, conversions and more. You’ll benefit from

  1. Referral reports to analyze how many site visits came from Pinterest.
  2. Custom reports to view specific, actionable information and insights including, but not limited to: how many visitors from each page, if they’re returning visitors, how many pages they’ve looked at, how long they visited, bounce rate, etc.
  3. Dashboards to determine if you are meeting your established goals.
  4. Multi-channel funnels to help you determine whether Pinterest is fully or partially responsible for visit conversions.

Two Additional Ways to Optimize Pins

Maria Todd: After visual appeal, optimize Pinterest pins by including prices for your products and building in calls to action for a nest step into your sales funnel.

What to Post and When

Maria Todd: Pinterest viewers prefer food, home and lifestyle topics.  A great model are topics you read in Self, Real Simple, AARP’s magazine, Men’s Health, Women’s Health and topics found in your local community lifestyle publications. 

There’s actually a cadence to the posting topics:

  • Sunday: Food , recipes and nutrition
  • Monday: Fitness and wellness  
  • Tuesday: Gadgets and technologies  
  • Wednesday: Quotes 
  • Thursday: Outfits and apparel 
  • Friday: GIFs  
  • Saturday: Travel and medical tourism
The best time to pin is actually 8-11pm Eastern Time in the U.S. if you are targeting US customers and visitors.

Promoting Pins

Maria Todd: You can promote pins (pay to play) with a business account, but not with a professional account. Don’t go overboard until you get a feel for how and if Pinterest will work for you based on your pinning and content strategy and tactics.

Curating Others’ Content

Maria Todd: Found something you wish all your patients would read? Share it on a Pinterest board on your account. Explain your reason for the cross post and what benefit the reader will derive in the caption.

Playing Nice with Others

Maria Todd: To connect with your Pinterest followers, follow them back, comment on their pins and direct message those who elect to follow or repin your content. You can also have a voluntary group board.  Any board can be a group board.  When you click on a board, small, circular profile photos of all the people who contribute to that specific board will appear. If there are no outside contributors to the board, it will just have the photo and name of the user who created the board. Encourage your followers and contributors to share healthful recipes, tips and wellness activities, PT hacks and other time out for health posts. 

When you are logged in and view one of your boards, you will see the red “Invite” option next to the profile photos. Clicking on this will open a pop-up window where you can invite or remove contributors to your board. You can type in a name or email address or find friends via your other social networks. Just keep in mind that under HIPAA compliance regulations, you  may not data mine email addresses from patient demographics files in your computer or practice management system to invite patients without specific permission to use their PHI for marketing communications.

HIPAA broadly defines “use” of PHI to include the sharing, employment, application, utilization, examination, or analysis of such information. 

The HIPAA definition of marketing excludes certain communications as follows:

Marketing does not include a communication made: . . . [f]or the following treatment and health care operations purposes, except where the covered entity receives financial remuneration in exchange for making the communication[,] . . . to describe a health-related product or service (or payment for such product or service) that is provided by, or included in a plan of benefits of, the covered entity making the communication, including communications about: the entities participating in a health care provider network or health plan network; replacement of, or enhancements to, a health plan; and health-related products or services available only to a health plan enrollee that add value to, but are not part of, a plan of benefits.

HIPAA defines a “marketing communication” as “a communication about a product or service that encourages recipients of the communication to purchase or use the product or service.”

HIPAA requires covered entities to obtain prior valid authorization from a patient to use or disclose PHI that is not otherwise permitted under the rules.

“A valid authorization is a document that meets [specific] requirements…”

The HIPAA Privacy Rule allows HIPAA authorizations to be obtained electronically from individuals, provided the electronic signature is valid under applicable law.

HIPAA requires that the authorization not be combined with any other document, be written in plain language, and include:

1) A description of the information to be used or disclosed that identifies the information in a specific and meaningful fashion.
2) The name or other specific identification of the person(s), or class of persons, authorized to make the requested use or disclosure.
3) The name or other specific identification of the person(s), or class of persons, to whom the covered entity may make the requested use or disclosure.
4) A description of each purpose of the requested use or disclosure. The statement “at the request of the individual” is a sufficient description of the purpose when an individual initiates the authorization and does not, or elects not to, provide a statement of the purpose.
5) An expiration date or an expiration event that relates to the individual or the purpose of the use or disclosure. The statement “end of the research study,” “none,” or similar language is sufficient if the authorization is for a use or disclosure of protected health information for research, including for the creation and maintenance of a research database or research repository.
6) Signature of the individual and date. If the authorization is signed by a personal representative of the individual, a description of such representative’s authority to act for the individual must also be provided.

In addition to the core elements listed above, the authorization must contain statements adequate to place the individual on notice of all of the following:
1) the individual’s right to revoke the authorization in writing, including exceptions and explanation of how to revoke;
2) the ability or inability to condition treatment, payment, enrollment or eligibility for benefits on the authorization,
3) the potential for information disclosed pursuant to the authorization to be subject to redisclosure by the recipient and no longer be protected by this subpart.”

Also, if the authorization is for marketing and “involves direct or indirect financial remuneration …to the covered entity from a third party,” or if the authorization is for the sale of PHI, then the authorization must also state that such remuneration is involved.

The signed authorization should be retained for six years from the date of its expiration.The covered entity must also provide the individual with a copy of the signed authorization.

This part about regulatory compliance is where many physician practices and their generalist marketing consultants (along with medical tourism referral agencies located within and outside the USA) goof and frequently break the law in marketing efforts – if only out of ignorance.  Experienced healthcare marketing consultants may cost a little more to hire but they know better and many have errors and omissions insurance in the event that they do something that results in a fine or penalty. But merely having liability insurance doesn’t mean it protects the client unless you also negotiate for liability by contract and are assured that their liability insurance allows for liability by contract. 

Do you have questions about social media marketing or Pinterest-specific healthcare marketing and branding strategies?

Would you like authoritative answers from an expert?

Schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns. Request a time for a courtesy chat with this form.


…for more information about what’s been mentioned in this article​ or something else you’d like to learn more about



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