Kristen Holland Shear shared how she and her team revitalized UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Pinterest page and grew engagement

Kristen Holland Shear, Director of Digital and Social Media at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said her team has had a branded Pinterest account set up for more than five years. But, with the rise of Facebook and Instagram, their use of the platform had lost momentum.

That was, until they started seeing an increasing number of users come to their Pinterest pages for heart content they had created years ago.

People were engaging with us so we decided, while it may not be our biggest platform, we needed to engage back with them. Kristen Holland Shear
“The posts we had up continued to get likes, shares, and comments,” said Kristen. “People were engaging with us so we decided, while it may not be our biggest platform, we needed to engage back with them.”

She and her team started working to figure out how they could get back on the platform and provide really rich content to their audience — without using all their resources.

They started research on their audience segments and different content options in the summer of 2018, then kicked off their new posting strategy in August.

Kristen said they wanted to figure out what people were already engaging with — if it was general content or the content that made them stand out as an academic medical center — so they did a deep dive on where their audience was engaging.

“We found there was a lot of interest in nutrition and exercise,” she said. “But, more than that, we found wherever there was an opportunity for us to provide content that helped our audience actively do something — whether it's providing recipes from one of our dietitians or exercise advice from our exercise physiologist — that yielded the best response.”

Beyond diet- and exercise-focused content, Kristen and her team started mapping out areas where they saw opportunities and room to grow.


They found the best place to focus their priorities and pull ideas for content was from their master calendar.

“We started taking the calendar and looking at where there were days or months we could use for posts that would also fit into our institutional strategy,” Kristen explained. “We compared that to where we saw some opportunity on Pinterest and started mapping out what those posts would look like.”

We're trying to find topics that people want to talk about, but also relate to our larger brand. Kristen Holland Shear
For example, for Yoga Month — which Kristen said isn't something they historically talked about — they put together three posts that tied into work underway at UT Southwestern's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, including a post on mindfulness exercises which also tied into a Facebook Live chat they did on resilience.

“We're trying to find topics that people want to talk about, but also relate to our larger brand,” she explained. “We try to post three times a week.”

According to Kristen, their goals on Pinterest were twofold: driving more visitors to their newsroom and increasing traffic on their blog.

“We've seen tremendous engagement from the posts so far,” said Kristen. “Last June and July, when we were just starting to think about Pinterest again, an average post got about 100 impressions. Now the average post is getting over 1,000 impressions, and we've gone from 100 views to close to 600 views for every post.”

She said the big increases they're seeing is one of the reasons why they've continued to invest time in the platform, and they hope to grow it more in the future.

Kristen said one challenge was while they grew their engagement on the platform, they weren't able to grow their team.

Now the average post is getting over 1,000 impressions, and we've gone from 100 views to close to 600 views for every post. Kristen Holland Shear
“We were working with limited resources,” Kristen explained. “So when we started out, we would reach out to staff we work with across campus and ask them if they were going to events and could help us by providing photos and at least a draft of written content — because we just couldn't cover everything.”

She said they had to work to prioritize where they spent their energy and make shifts within the team.

“I had somebody on my team that was almost entirely focused on Instagram, and when we started this, I told her she'd also have to focus some time on Pinterest,” said Kristen. “So we had to pull back a little bit with some of the Instagram frequency without sacrificing quality.”

They plan out their Pinterest content a month in advance.

“We like to plan far in advance on this platform and focus our content on specific observance days or months to help us manage the workload, while sticking to topics we know will be relevant for our organization,” said Kristen. “This isn't a platform where we post content on the fly.”

And, according to Kristen, they knew they wanted to follow that process from the start. “Planning that far ahead is not something that's typical for us, but we thought it would be the best way to work with everything else we had going on,” she explained. “When we launched in August, we had posts ready for September and October.”


Kristen credited much of their success to collaboration efforts both within her team and across the organization.

“Around the time we started this, we were just starting to talk about our priorities in terms of observance months and days — we didn't have a set idea of what was important to all of our different service lines,” said Kristen. “That was challenging, because it involved a lot more personal interactions with people in the office asking what they cared about.”

This isn't a platform where we post content on the fly. Kristen Holland Shear
But through that work, they were able to put together an overarching marketing and communications calendar that puts organizational priorities front and center.

She also emphasized that the work of a strategist and her two contractors — who produced most of the content for their Pinterest posts — helped take the project to the next level.

“One of our most successful campaigns was one they came up with. It was a ‘better health challenge' for early January that performed phenomenally well,” said Kristen. “That was something we hadn't done before, so it was exciting to see that response.”

Moving forward, Kristen already has a few ideas for ways she wants to evolve their content on the platform.

In the spring, she is planning to test the “Try a Pin” function that recently launched on the platform with members of the UT Southwestern community. Through this function, they will be able to encourage followers to make or follow the steps of a pin and post themselves doing it.

“So we might post a recipe or a workout routine and encourage people to do it and post about their experience,” Kristen explained. “That's something I'm really excited to try.”

She's proud of what they've been able to achieve so far on the platform.

“I'm excited about the success that we've seen and that people really want to engage with us on this platform,” said Kristen. “It's really wonderful that people in our audience see content from UT Southwestern and comment on it and pin it to their boards.”

Looking at three or four main ideas and service lines that are really important to you -- at least at first -- is really important. Kristen Holland Shear
She also said their work on the platform has helped them connect with a younger audience than they're used to on other platforms.

“We typically cater to a much older audience just because of the type of medical center we are, and we're often the last place you go if you can't get something answered anywhere else,” she explained. “But on this platform, we're seeing younger people engage with us, and so we're able to put out content more directed at them — like content related to parenting young kids or going offline for the holidays.”

For anyone looking to make a similar push on the platform, Kristen recommends staying focused on topics that are the most valuable for your organization.

“Looking at three or four main ideas and service lines that are really important to you — at least at first — is really important,” she said. “When we first did this, we tried to be too broad and it wasn't really strategic, but now we're trying to really focus and fill the gaps with these observance days that are relevant, and it's a better system. So don't try to do too much.”

And although they had to figure out how to incorporate it into their strategy without growing their team, Kristen emphasized it has all been worth it for them. “There's nothing negative about this. It takes a lot of work and planning, but the results we're seeing are already surpassing all my expectations,” she said. “It's a relatively little amount of work for a big payoff.”

Kristen Holland Shear has been a member of Health since 2016. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.