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The secret to understanding social media: Understanding the purpose of each tool and choosing which meets your needs best
Friday, January 25, 2013

Just as we were getting used to the idea of using Facebook and Twitter for business, two new social networks are starting to vie for our attention: Pinterest and LinkedIn. For your purposes, Pinterest is a visually driven tool to connect with patients and caregivers in a personal way. LinkedIn is a business-to-business relationship building tool. 

Social media can be quite effective for developing your brand and growing your business; however, the secret to deciphering social media is to understand the purpose of each network and choose which one(s) meets your needs best. Perhaps the most compelling arguments in favor of using these networks isn’t better ROI, it’s research. By tapping into your customers in a social way, you are able to gain insight into what makes them tick, the activities and interests they favor, where they like to shop, who they know...even what colors they like! Those insights are invaluable for developing your marketing campaigns. 

Pinterest: The basics

Imagine having a giant bulletin board where you could pin every web page that you really liked, that you wanted to save for later or that you wanted to share with someone else. That is the concept behind Pinterest—a virtual “pin board” of your interests. Pin + interest = Pinterest. 

Each Pinterest account is a curated collection of information that is managed by the user and shared with “followers.” Unlike counterparts Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest is a visually driven network. Every “pin” (analogous to a post or tweet) is an image and link to a website. Multiple pin boards allow you to sort pins into categories. Some of the most popular categories include food, fashion, home decor, healthy lifestyle and DIY projects.

Pinterest users tend to be less technology savvy than other social media users and are mostly female (upward of 80%.) According to a recent study, approximately 10% of users fall into the baby boomer category. The average Pinterest user also spends much more time with the site than other social 


What does it mean for you?

The key word here is lifestyle. This is certainly a business-to-consumer relationship tool and especially effective for reaching women. Women are the caregivers in our industry and tend to make most of the family decisions related to health care. Pinterest reaches users who are family-oriented and are actively seeking solutions. Though there aren’t many healthcare companies hopping on the bandwagon just yet, your target audience is there.

As with any social networking tool, start small to get familiar with the basic features. Create boards focused on a specific aspect of your customers’ lifestyles. Include content that is visually interesting and relevant. For example, you could create a board titled “Helpful aids for daily living” featuring new and interesting products, or one titled “Recipes for diabetics” featuring recipes and tips for healthy eating and managing blood sugar.

LinkedIn: The basics

LinkedIn is like Facebook for professionals. While your personal Facebook account maybe be filled with pictures of vacations and kids, LinkedIn news feeds include updates on colleagues’ career moves and links to white papers. Each user has a profile, including a picture, resume, contact information, marketable skills and, of course, status updates. Companies are also able to post their own profiles. Many consider this social network a place to explore business connections, which is what makes this a great business-to-business relationship tool.

What does it mean for you?

We’ve all heard “knowledge is power,” and LinkedIn brings that adage to the 21st century by making it easy to stay on top of industry current events and trends. The biggest opportunity this affords is the chance to develop relationships with industry resources: referral sources, manufacturers/vendors, other providers and consultants. 

The ability to create groups is one of the most compelling reasons to get involved with LinkedIn. By creating a group and inviting your connections, you can focus on specific topics and specific groups of people. These groups become forums for discussion. There are already several HME groups you can join.

Another potential use for LinkedIn is internal marketing. Perhaps one of the most underused strategies, internal marketing is about making sure everyone on your team is on the same page. Encourage your staff to sign up for a profile and connect to one another. Create a group just for your company where you can post announcements, link to helpful articles and make educational resources readily available. You may even find it a catalyst for collaborative problem solving. hme

Anna McDevitt is the owner of Laboratory Marketing. Reach her at 248-227-6930 or