I just got Pinterest.
I’ve been hearing about it for awhile, but it took me this long to actually get around to getting invited and playing around with it. But now I have and I get it. I totally totally get it.
Let me explain.
Pinterest isn’t just a hot thing in social media. It isn’t just a pinboard to express yourself. It is a useful tool for promotion. And yes, I know that Pinterest asks users to avoid self-promotion, but I think there is a way for people to pin AND promote without turning the community into a can of spam, much the same way that there are good marketing practices for the use of Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media tool (be authentic, share valuable content, diversify, etc).
Why is Pinterest So Popular?
It’s VISUAL and SO EASY to use. It is a natural fit for the internet because it capitalizes on things that are already popular–funny animals, kids and babies, unique or interesting crafts, art, decorating, and recipes. There are hundreds of user groups and internet forums and YouTube channels and email chains dedicated to these things. Pinterest just makes it easy to share and store images you like, in a visually attractive way, with virtually no effort at all.
How Can Pinterest Help Your Business?
I don’t know why the SEO community isn’t freaking out more about Pinterest. It’s basically hotlinking 2.0. Actually, I don’t even know if it’s hotlinking 2.0. Pinterest is just hotlinking.
What does this mean? It means that every time somebody Re-pins something that you have pinned from your own site, it LINKS to your site, because the image is actually HOSTED on your site. If you click through images put on Pinterest, you end up on the page where they are hosted.
I pinned images on my blog that I thought others might find useful and shareable. And you should too, especially if you own a small business that is graphical in any way, shape or form. Photographers, designers, artists, crafters, bakers, and chefs…PIN YOUR WORK! (concerned about copyright? see below)
Pinterest is great for other businesses too. Does your company make attractive infographics? Pin them. Publish an ebook? Pin the cover so people can how that they like your book, with a description and a link to your website, reviews, reasons to read, place to purchase, whatever you want. You can even create really unique or inspiring images with the purpose of showcasing your stuff and driving traffic to your site. Pinterest is like an unlimited advertising board for absolutely everything.
But please keep it pretty. Or useful. Or funny. Don’ t just pin junk. Value is key here!
Also remember this: if the site where your images are hosted has limited bandwidth, you may experience problems from people hotlinking that may cost you. But this is a good problem to have as it essentially means that your image advertising is working and your images are “going viral.”
Wait. What About Copyright Infringement?
SO GLAD you asked.
Pinterest IS having difficulty around the issue of copyright infringement. Technically, you aren’t allowed to use images created by others unless you pay for them or get permission. Of course, people break this rule on the internet all the time because they don’t know about it, especially bloggers, but Pinterest’s business is built around the sharing of pictures that technically don’t belong to them…so copyright could impact them (and their users–i.e. YOU) the same way Napster got slammed for peddling music it didn’t own (thanks for the insight, Visible Technologies–ye providers of social monitoring software).
You don’t have to worry as long as you are only pinning images you have the rights to. Since you shouldn’t be uploading images to your blog or website that you don’t have permission to use, this shouldn’t be an issue. All of the pictures I pinned from my blog are either free (from Microsoft’s free image library. Thanks, Microsoft!) or were pictures I made, photographed with my phone, or had commissioned. And you know what? PLEASE SHARE THEM. Yes. I want you to repin my work. You have my blessing.
As for pinning images from other people’s sites (which is most of Pinterest)…be careful. Right now, the onus is on you not to abuse copyright, but here is what I think should happen:
Artists, graphic designers, bakers, photographers, etc. should upload/make available versions of their images that are “cleared” for pinning to Pinterest. This could be done with a caption or a logo (Pinterest approved! Please make a universal one, Pinterest!) or watermark. If Pinterest was really ambitious, they could offer an “auto watermark” feature that essentially takes care of this for everybody. This is similar to what istockphoto does with thumbnails, to distinguish advertising of art from the actual art. That way everyone can admire and browse through pictures without being able to use the originals for anything else without purchasing them. Net result? Exposure for artists.
For this to work, Pinterest needs to make “Re-Pins” free from legal issues. Pinterest would have to put the onus on uploaders and adders while those who just share can do so without penalty (like YouTube does with videos). That way, I can keep my Social Media Infographics board (and other boards) intact without abusing anyone’s creative design.
If Pinterest DOESN’T find a way to make repinning okay, I predict a mass exodus from Pinterest (myself included) as people become informed of the risks. I’m willing to give it a little time, though, since the concern is new (please don’t sue me!).