Vr3: Reputation, Relationships, Results

The business side of Pinterest

I’m not going to assume you’re familiar with Pinterest simply because I and 13 million other subscribers have a personal obsession with it. As a busy working mom who looks for cooking, fitness, interior design and DIY tips, it’s my personal playground. However, this post will not focus on what Pinterest is or how you can use it. There are a lot of great articles out there explaining it. Here’s one from Mashable: Pinterest: A Beginner’s Guide to the Hot New Social Network.

What I will focus on is the business side of Pinterest. According to a recent study, Pinterest is driving more referral traffic than Google plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined. Some are calling Pinterest overhyped (Forrester is one) but clearly this new social network is not something to be ignored. However, it turns out there’s a lot happening behind the scenes at Pinterest and it has everything to do with affiliate marketing.

If you’re familiar with Pinterest you know that along with tips, recipes and inspirational quotes you’ll also find pins to products that can be purchased from various e-commerce sites. Last week, a report by social media blog LLSocial revealed that Pinterest is adding their own affiliate tracking codes to e-commerce links that already have an affiliate program. This means if you purchase an item from that store, Pinterest makes money off of the sale.

The discussion over the last week or so is not whether or not Pinterest should be doing this (affiliate marketing is nothing new) but rather why they have not disclosed it to users.

Honestly, does it matter? While addicting (ask my husband), I find Pinterest extremely useful and a behind-the-scenes affiliate program doesn’t affect my experience one bit. In fact, it’s better than the alternative, which would include annoying on-page or pop-up ads interrupting my pinning experience. Pinterest isn’t encouraging me to buy something or endorsing particular products either.

There has been a considerable amount of coverage on this topic over the last week including the New York Times, CBS News and countless blogs. Almost all are focusing on the fact that Pinterest has not disclosed this practice. According to Skimlinks (the organization that manages Pinterest’s affiliate links), the company isn’t legally bound to disclose the affiliate program because there are no endorsements by Pinterest.

Here’s my advice to Pinterest: make everyone happy and add a disclosure to the Help section so everyone understands you participate in affiliate marketing. Simple, easy, done!

Now, back to those baked avocado fries I need to repin.

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