The study found that users liked and pinned posts that were healthy but more engaged offline with recipes high in fat, sugar, and total calories – indicating that users were more likely to want to cook the less healthy recipes.
When it comes to sharing recipes on social media, what users post and what they cook can be two completely different things. This is the result of a recent study by the College of Health and Human Services at George Mason University, which was published in April in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), a leading journal for digital medicine and health research. The study led by Hong Xue Analyzed hundreds of Pinterest users and Pinterest influencers, found that users liked and pinned posts that were healthy and had more poultry, fish, and vegetables, but were more engaging offline with recipes high in fat, sugar, and total calories – indicating that users were more likely to want to cook the less healthy recipes.
“It’s an interesting discrepancy between what the winners posted / liked and how users actually consumed the information,” said Xue. “Pinners are more likely to publish recipes that are socially rewarded with likes and repins. They are more likely to adhere to an elite social norm set by celebrities and influencers to promote healthier, low-calorie, clean diets. But when it comes to the recipes, users are more interested in making foods high in fat, sugar, and calories. We see a completely different picture. They comment on and publish ready-made photos of the less healthy recipes. “
The separation between popularity and engagement is important, according to Xue, because users don’t take the extra step from interest to action. This could have a significant impact on anyone trying to use social media campaigns to improve healthy eating behavior. In particular, the study found:
- Engagement (commenting, sharing photos of finished dishes) increased when the amount of fat, sugar and total calories in a recipe increased
- The popularity (reposting, liking) of a recipe increased with the number of poultry and poultry products Seafood went on in a recipe
- Mining comments on recipe posts found that users were more likely to comment on the flavor of a recipe
- Users were far less likely to comment on a recipe’s difficulty level (less than 8 percent) or its health attributes (less than 3 percent).
With 18 percent of the U.S. adult population using Pinterest and sharing recipes as one of the most popular areas of interest, the platform represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen healthy eating habits, Xue said when Pinterest influencers posting recipes use different strategies apply.
“If users are into unhealthy recipes, influencers should potentially offer options to reduce fat as part of those recipes. It is definitely a job for health organizations and fitness professionals to offer healthier recipes with great flavor as this seems to be an area where users find the recipes to be missing. To change perceptions, public health professionals need to make healthy food a pleasure, not the other way around. There are tremendous opportunities to influence healthy behavior on social media, ”he said. “We are only beginning to understand the potential and the pitfalls.”