By Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
As a general rule, I advise people to resist the shiny object. In geek-speak, the shiny object is whatever network or application is getting attention simply because it is new and talked about. Tech insiders often suffer from shiny object syndrome and pontificate that the shiny object will be and anyone who is not using it will regret it. However, the vast majority of optometrists should be conservative when choosing how to allocate marketing resources, and until proven otherwise shiny objects are simply too new and risky to implement.
At the moment the shiny object is definitely Pinterest, a social combination of scrapbook and bulletin board.Itis defined as a pinboard where users share picturesthey like–with others who like many of the same things.It’s particularly heavy on fashion items, and users make comments aboutwhat they see and share.
Pinteresthas been around for over two years, but recentlyit started to get tremendous attention from both the tech and mainstream media. It has grown to service over two million active users daily and has attracted over 250 brands.
Being the shiny object it is, I initially resisted Pinterest both personally and professionally. Most of its users are women, and its content reflects this. I was not especially interested in the pictures I found. It didn’t seem like a straightforward avenue for patient education or practice marketing. However, over the last few months I have learned more about how–and why–Pinterest works. Almost everyday, I see new accounts for those in the eyecare community. I now think Pinterest will be around a long time.
How I Use Pinterest
At my office, Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Fla., we asked our patients if we should set up a Pinterest page and discover that there was interest. Now we use the page to share information about specific frames that we carry as well as services that we provide such as vision therapy and contact lenses. To draw people’s interest, we have pictures of eyes, beautiful images and optical illusions. To give the page local character, we share pins from around Tampa Bay. While I can’t say that the page has resulted in new patients or sales yet, it has gotten attention from patients and it is a work in progress.
Reasons to adopt Pinterest:
It is super easy use.
Unlike other social networks, like Google+, LinkedIn, and even the new Facebook, setup and navigation of Pinterest is extremely easy. You can do it on your computer or device simply, without a learning curve or detailed settings. “We wanted an easy/fun way to build an eyecare story and the importance of eye-health, fashion and inspiration to consumers via social media” says Cathy Ives of The Optical Vision Site. “We have tons of photos and wanted to share them and we wanted to see what others have pinned, so we can share those as well. Nothing like synergy!”
It is highly visual.
Pinterest by design is meant to be visual. Optometrists are experts in vision. We treat vision problems and sell products that improve the visual function of our patients and are fashionable. Craig Miller, OD, of the Gahanna Vision Center, Gahanna, Ohio, says, “I think Pinterest is a great way to showcase what’s out there in terms of eyewear. We love to show our patients that we have our finger on the pulse of the industry, and not just what frames are on our boards in the optical. We also use Pinterest to highlight our services and bring awareness to many eye conditions.”
Its unique demographics.
Nearly 70 percent of Pinterest users are female, and users tend to be 25 to 54 years old. This coincides well with the demographics of many practices, particularly with the decision-makers of many households–moms. Vision blogger Cheryl Murphy, OD, Holbrook, N.Y., puts it like this: “(It is) another great way to get information out there and to attract subsets of people who may not be on other forms of social media like Twitter. I think Pinterest has a highly visual and artistic component that will attract a lot of attention.”
Others are seeing success
Although it is new, some in the eyecare field are using it successfully. Ruth Villeneuve owner of Social Visionaries, a social media consultant company, says “I have seen many re-pins and have had friends of mine ask about Vision Therapy who have never done so before.”
Reasons to wait:
Concerns over copyright
Some in the tech world are concerned about how Pinterest treats linked images. Instead of just creating a thumbnail copy, Pinterest saves the entire file and may expose users to risk of copyright violation. While this issue is being resolved, some are hesitant to join. Most users whom I have talked to are not concerned about the issue. “The images we use are ours or we were given permission to use by vendors. I can see how this could be a problem for some though,” says Brett Ball of Wing Eyecare of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Shiny Object Syndrome
Have I fallen victim to shiny object syndrome? Possibly. Am I drinking the Pinterest Koolaid? Definitely. Should everyone use it? No way. If you aren’t using Facebook, you might want to start with that before honing your Pinterest boards. But for now, I am a Pinterest advocate. I am aware that, “But this time it’s different!” is not a very persuasive argument for anyone who has labored to build a presence on a social network, only to see it crumble. However, I do believe that Pinterest is different and is worth exploring, if not jumping into outright.
And for the sake of disclosure, I have no financial interest in Pinterest. I do have financial interest in my practice, though. And if Pinterest helps me connect with patients and distinguish ourselves from the competition, I’m all for it. If you want to be ahead of the curve, then check it out. For now, you still need an invitation to join, so ask me at Doc@BrightEyesTampa.com if you’d like one.
Some Eyecare Pinterest Users:
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD,of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Fla., is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. He is a member of the American Optometric Association, and is currently immediate past president of the Hillsborough Society of Optometry, as well as chair of the Children’s Vision Committee of the Florida Optometric Association. To contact him: Doc@BrightEyesTampa.com.