Rena Tom Rena Tom

A Disclosure and an Experiment



I wanted to announce that a company has asked if I wanted to try making money from pinning things to Pinterest, and after much hemming and hawing, I said yes. Well, a “yes” with conditions of course.

Some background – I have a Pinterest account. I enjoy checking in every couple days, repinning things and occasionally adding some of my own. I did a lot of initial Makeshift Society research with Victoria on  Pinterest. Because I joined early, and through some twist of fate, I used to be a recommended person to follow in the Kids category. I think they do things differently now but I have a feeling I am still being recommended to new signups because whoa nelly, I have a *hell* of a lot of followers, due to that kids board – and I don’t even have that much content there.

Anyhow, this attracts the attention of marketing firms. After much investigation (and you knew I would have to do much investigation), I have decided to give it a try. In the interest of transparency, here are some ground rules I will be following:

– I am not directly being paid to pin. This particular company pays when people sign up for retail sites that require you to join. It’s a weird model, but it works for me.
– It should go without saying that I will only pin things I want to, when I’m good and ready.
– As a corollary, I will only pin from sites I already have bought from, or have pinned from before. This really, really limits opportunities for me, but I feel it’s the right thing to do.

These rules mean that I will likely be making pizza money, if that, from this experiment. That is completely fine to me. Why I’m calling this an experiment is that I often write about things but have little or no direct experience with them, and I hate doing that, so this helps alleviate any guilt in that direction. Also I want to continue to enjoy using Pinterest, and monetizing my interaction with it will probably kill that off, so I want to be as slow and thoughtful as possible.

I’m not opposed to people making money through endorsements, sponsorships, or whatnot, as long as everyone knows what’s going on, as much as possible. In a weird way, this is ideal because you know that you absolutely have permission to pin the content. Directly sponsored pinning troubles me more as any designation you care to include in the text can be deleted the next time someone repins that image. (I think Pinterest needs to designate a way to indicate sponsored pins also, but that’s a whole other story…)

Thoughts? Is this right or wrong? How can I do this better?

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  1. Julie Prichard says:

    Hi Rena….I quit Pinterest. The thought of people gaining popularity and now..possible payment by collecting images that are not their own seems wrong to me. (If I could be so flattered to have something pinned in the first place.)

    The problem I have is a lot of times the images don’t give proper link credit back to the owner of the image.

    So…I guess if you’re only pinning big corporate merchandise..whatever. But if you are driving traffic to your boards that potentially host images that are not your own…doesn’t seem right. (And I don’t know what you’re pinning because I don’t look at Pinterest anymore..)

    I remember when I joined Pinterest…in the good ol days when people didn’t know what it was…there was a statement in the usage terms that mentioned that you should not use the boards as a method of self promotion. I know that’s out the window these days….

    • Rena Tom says:

      Thanks for writing, Julie. Yes, I prefer, if I am going to do this for monetary gain at all, to pin images where permission is granted – more than that, it is requested. And it’s still up to me whether or not I do that. It’s a tricky situation these days with content, and I am treading as lightly as I can, while still seeing how rules and laws are being made and enforced as everything evolves.

  2. Chloe says:

    Great post Rena. It echoes many of my own thoughts as I too am trying this experiment. I said no many times as I feared losing my (major) love for Pinterest and wondered if any money interaction with Pinterest was somehow dirty or sneaky. 

    The only route I have agreed to experiment with thus far has been the same as yours — based on sign-ups, not paid to pin and from sites that are vetted as much as possible. Most importantly, I only agreed because there were absolutely no pinning requirements in terms of frequency or content. If I don’t love a product and would love to have it, then I ain’t pinning it no matter what $ is involved!

    In my opinion, the quickest way to kill your affection for and niche on Pinterest would be to start pinning things you don’t really love. I have noticed a few pinners, who had style and boards I always admired, have turned their boards into 98% sponsored or paid pins. Their unique taste is gone. That stinks. And sort of kills what made their boards and aesthetic special in the first place.

    As to Julie’s point, I agree that no money should be made off of pins that you don’t have permission to pin. It works for me to work with a company that gives full permission and is excited to. The sign-up system means the consumer has a choice. I like that.

    Basically, I am treading lightly and experimenting like you are. I would say I have one sign-up pin per 18-20 of my regular pins. That ratio works for me. Yes, that ratio also ensures I will be making true pizza money but so be it. I have no desire to turn my boards into anything other than my personal inspiration station. Pinning only what I really love and would have pinned regardless of money, is how I think I can keep that vision (and my conscious) intact. 

    Looking forward to more thoughts on this experiment! 

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