3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Advertise on Pinterest

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Advertise on Pinterest

There’s been a lot of interest online lately in advertising on Pinterest, given the incredible amount of traffic the site has seen over the past year (according to Mashable, the site is reporting 2,700% growth over May 2011!).  There’s no denying that the site’s growth is impressive, nor is it surprising that there are website marketers out there who are eager to cash in on this unprecedented level of engagement.

However, before you drop everything to launch a new Pinterest promotional plan, there are a few things you’ll want to be aware of…

First of all, you need to understand what Pinterest is and how marketers are using it to promote their sites.  Check out any of the following articles to get a basic understanding of what this popular site is all about:

Single Grain – The Beginner’s Guide to Pinterest (Part I)
Single Grain – The Beginner’s Guide to Pinterest (Part II)
Search Engine Journal – 13 Ways to Get More Pinterest Followers
Search Engine Journal – Pinterest: Link Building & SEO Strategies
SEER Interactive – Pinning Your Interest: The Potential SEO Value of Pinterest

The general consensus amongst these writers is that Pinterest represents a great opportunity to reach out to new target customers in a non-threatening way, while at the same time seeding links with good viral potential.  Basically, Pinterest promotion is being used to:

  • Expand brand awareness – Because the purpose of Pinterest is social sharing, creating viral pins can be a great way to increase a brand’s online presence and exposure amongst new customers.
  • Increase engagement – According to the Mashable article linked to earlier, Pinterest has one of the highest “average times on site” of all the top social networking sites, with users spending an average of 15.8 minutes per visit (compared with 12.1 minutes/visit for Facebook and 3.3 minutes per visit for Twitter).  This gives brands a better chance of engaging with interested consumers and getting new products or services in front of their eyeballs.
  • Build links and improve SEO – Every pin includes three potential backlinks, which translates into a lot of new linking opportunities for brands that seed their products effectively.  This number increases exponentially as users “re-pin” your links, growing your Pinterest backlinks virally.

But while Pinterest certainly does have these advantages and more, some marketers would have you believe the site represents the biggest brand promotion opportunity ever seen online.

Me?  I’m not so sure…

For starters, from an SEO standpoint, Pinterest has recently changed its pin links to “no-follow” links.  While having extra links from the site won’t hurt your standing in the SERPs, these links also aren’t going to pass on the powerful link juice that the site was initially prized for.

And when it comes down to it, there are better, easier ways to get “do-follow” links pointing back to your pages than to put together a Pinterest campaign for the sole purpose of obtaining backlinks.

Second, it’s worth noting that very few websites are actually good candidates for promotion on Pinterest.  Although marketing strategists try to make it sound as if anyone can benefit by sharing pins and cultivating a presence on this new site, the reality is that the user base of the site is relatively limited.  This means that the number of brands that can actually carry out effective promotions on the site is much smaller as well.

Currently, nearly 70% of the site’s users are women, while over 28% of users fall into the $100,000+/year income bracket, according to Mashable.  The site also reveals that the top brands advertising on Pinterest include:

  • Nordstrom
  • Whole Foods
  • West Elm
  • Modcloth
  • Mashable

Notice anything about that list?  The top four brands represented in this list aren’t there by chance – they’re there because they already sell products to this demographic.

There’s a reason most unrelated brands will find it difficult to “shoe horn” their products into the site and that’s that Pinterest users don’t treat the site like Google, as a way to look up new information.  Instead, they log on to explore interests they already have and share information about products, services and websites they already like.

So if you run a website in the crafting, cooking or specialty retail industries, that’s great – you’ll probably actually do fine on Pinterest.  But if your site falls in a niche that doesn’t already have significant representation within this demographic (say, for instance, you promote pay day loan CPA offers), you’re better off focusing your promotional efforts elsewhere.

Finally, one major concern about brands using the site that hasn’t been talked about nearly enough is the legality of sharing images on Pinterest.

According to Brian Heidelberger, a partner and chair of Advertising, Marketing and Entertainment Law Practice at Winston & Strawn:

“To be clear, just because the Internet gives a brand the ability to pin an image to a Pinterest page doesn’t mean that it’s legal. In truth, the vast majority of images found on the Internet are not “public domain” and pinning or re-pinning them on a brand’s virtual pinboard, risks of a copyright infringement claim by the original image owner.”

The reality is that very few Pinterest users adhere to copyright and intellectual property laws when pinning and re-pinning their favorite images.  They don’t worry about image usage rights and they don’t stop to be sure they’ve obtained the right license in order to distribute pictures in this manner.

And as private consumers, that’s not a big deal.  Clearly, it’s unlikely that an established brand will take the time to prosecute Mrs. John Smith for sharing copyrighted images on Pinterest, given that the brand receives free exposure and advertising whenever she does so.

However, if you’re promoting different pins as a brand (or as the established representative of one), you’re no longer simply sharing images for personal interest.  Because you expect to earn money from your promotions on the site, there’s a demonstrated commercial intent that may make you a much more lucrative target for lawsuit-happy brands.

If you do insist on promoting your brand on Pinterest, either explicitly separate your personal pins from any branded promotions or ensure that you hold the appropriate licenses for any images you share under your brand name.  Typically, this means finding images that allow for unlimited usage across the internet, which you’ll find the vast majority of image licenses do not include.

What do you think?  Have you tried promoting your brand on Pinterest yet?  Whether or not you’re active on the site, share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image: RevNaomi

11 Responses to 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Advertise on Pinterest

  1. Chas says:

    First-off,
    I am appalled that you aren’t jumping up and down in hysterical ecstasy with the throngs of other Pinheads, like they were the first ones to get through the doors at Macy’s on Black Friday! After seeing hundreds of articles about the site, one would almost get the impression that Facebook is the next Myspace when compared.
    Really, I think StumbleUpon is the main site that has been negatively affected by the rise in popularity of Pinterest. From a marketing perspective, if your product, or service is along the lines of fashion, interior design, jewelry, or cupcakes, you would probably do well with the venue; football cleats, or fishing gear, probably not so much. You should also be aware of the link-swapping and auto-followers attributes of the site, as explained in the following two articles~

    http://agbeat.com/real-estate-technology-new-media/pinterest-covertly-swaps-out-your-links-for-affiliate-links/

    http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/44365.aspx

    • Sarah says:

      Yeah, I did see that about Pinterest auto-appending affiliate codes to peoples’ links, but I believe you can go in and swap theirs out for your own. Not that I begrudge them earning income – their hosting costs can’t be cheap :)

      And really, I do like the service (and I actually have a few sites that would be a good fit for marketing there) – I just don’t get all the ass kissing that makes it seem like Pinterest is the best advertising opportunity of all time.

  2. Ryan Sprout says:

    This is very interesting and useful stuff! I just read why you should get traffic from pininterest but this article has shifted my thoughts on it now!

    • Sarah says:

      I don’t mean to discourage anyone entirely, just that it’s a heck of a lot of time to invest in cultivating a presence on an entirely new social network if a) your target audience isn’t there and b) content that’s at all relevant to your business isn’t being shared.

      If you meet those two criteria, then go ahead!

  3. Kalen says:

    Good point about the image copyright laws. I hadn’t thought about that. I do wonder though about the value of nofollow links. Sites like Facebook and Twitter also nofollow their links for SEO, but Google supposedly pays them a ton of money each year and social media presence can definitely help with SEO rankings. I am not sure whether we would get the same from Pinterest though, as Google may still be trying to figure out what they are going to be in the near future.

    • Sarah says:

      From my experience, I believe no-follow links are still counted in some way in the ranking algorithms, with that total number still conferring some advantage (no matter how the links are structured). No-follow links might not pass link juice from their respective pages, but with what I’ve seen on some of my aff sites, they still seem to matter.

    • Chrisvdberge says:

      there are 2 things here; social signals that google is using, and plain old links and linkvalue.

      nofollow or dofollow doesn’t really matter if the link is just used as a social signal,
      it does matter in terms of passing link value.

      but I agree with Sarah, nofollow links still seem to have positive effects on your rankings. In my opinion most likely by confirming/affirming the topic of the linked page via the anchor text and perhaps authority. (so no real linkvalue, but it helps otherwise)

      • Sarah says:

        Exactly – links are used for far more than just passing PageRank, which is why most webmasters will still see a benefit from pursuing no-follow links.

        I’m not sure what the exact mechanisms are for this (although confirming topic relevancy could definitely be one), but it works.

        Thanks for sharing!

  4. Chrisvdberge says:

    Your first comment is not entirely true. The link from the board is still dofollow, as is the link from the ‘source page’. So each pin still gives you a dofollow link (as well as 2 nofollow links) and so does each repin.

    I’m still not sure what the exact value of a link from pinterest is in terms of how google is evaluating them, but at least it is easy linkbuilding.

    I’ve created a visual overview of the linkflow of a pin and repin on pinterest;
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikao/7028909373/

  5. Shalu Sharma says:

    Very interesting, this is contrary to what is being said at the moment about Pinterest. But personally I am not very found of it. The pictures seems to be in no random order.

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