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How to Use Pinterest

Over on my business website I’ve been putting together a list of helpful links about Pinterest. All well and good, it’s being talked about a lot at the moment and I feel very strongly about a site that I love so much, have been with for a long time and use daily (okay – hourly most of the time).

The problem is that I think I am falling out of love with it a little. When I first joined it felt like there were not enough people using it and I pushed it towards a lot of people hoping to make it better for everyone. Now there seem to be too many people pinning some really odd things. It is a great tool for business, a good way of promoting some products but overall I use it more for fun than anything. And the fun part is being eroded away.

The purpose of Pinterest, for me, is changing. Since people heard how much traffic is driven to sites by Pinterest everyone has started using it, seemingly without thinking about how or whether it will work for their business. A couple of companies that I love have joined and I have followed and then quickly unfollowed them. I don’t think that they are necessarily doing it wrong but the way that Pinterest works is becoming something else entirely and I am going to have to get used to that.

I liked Pinterest because it wasn’t pushing sales on people. It was purely peer driven and although you could follow through and find something if you wanted to find an article or buy a product it was not heavy-handed. I pinned some things very early on from my own Etsy site and I got a bit of traffic from it but I was more interesting in sharing my tastes than selling items. Now the quality is going downhill and it is starting to feel very pushy.

There is one other major issue. THIS. The link is to an article explaining the problems that a lot of Pinterest users (myself included) are having with their Terms of Use. I had a mini-rant a while ago about their nudity clause but this is a much bigger issue. I’m not leaving yet, I want to see where they go with this but it is in no way a minor issue and as Pinterest is expanding so rapidly and has moved from mostly individuals to businesses it is going to need to be addressed. I have quite a lot of photography in various places around the web and I love seeing them on Pinterest (not that it happens all that often, but still!) but I would be annoyed if it was used beyond that without my permission or without acknowledging my work.

That sounds like a lot of complaints but I love Pinterest. I do.

I love the community – which has been little affected by all of the businesses flooding in as they are mostly still on the periphery, part of the problem I suppose. Two pinners, one of whom I have followed for yonks (Claudia) have set up a new account called Pin Pals where you can go and find people who match your interests – such a brilliant idea. I have so much fun finding new people to follow who share the same ground.

I love the ideas, feelings, sights, plans and emotions that spring from using Pinterest. I can be down in the dumps and cheered up or stuck for an idea and find inspiration. In short – everything that Pinterest has always been for me. I rarely even see the changes but I suppose I feel a little protective – both of the site and of our community. I’ve been there for a lot of the changes and I feel a little grumpy about the big companies coming in and trying to make sure they are not missing an opportunity to cash in on our hard-built friendships and connections.

If businesses do want to use Pinterest and not raise the hackles of old-hand users (such as grumpy old me) then what they need to do is find a way of becoming part of these communities not just jumping into the middle with a sales pitch. It is the same as any other social networking, companies need to remember that social media is about people, communication and relationships. Peer recommendations always carry more weight than straight marketing so the better you treat your customers and fans the more they will evangelise about you! Makes perfect sense. So far it is really not too bad and I hope that lots of individuals continue to join Pinterest to balance out the companies joining. All about balance. And pictures of otters, obviously.


p.s. If any of you would like an invite – I’m not sure any longer how hard they are to come by – then just drop me a line or leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to send you one.

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  1. Loved your post. I admit, that like a lot of folks, I hadn’t read the T&C’s, and now I have, they are quite scary!!

    I am relatively new to Pinterest, and I own NONE of the pics I have put up so far. They are all just random pics of people, places, and food etc that I like. To be fair, I don’t claim ownership of them, I am not using them for anything, and I am not making any money off them.

    Pinterest to me is like a virtual corkboard, and I wouldn’t dream of phoning a magazine before asking them if I can cut out and put a copy of their images on my board at home, so why should I have to do that virtually?

    I was actually about to start a new board, to pin some digital art I have created on, but may rethink that if Pinterest claim that they can use or sell anything I pin.

    • It does take a bit of reading. To be honest, I’m just as worried about my pinning an image and that allowing Pinterest to claim copyright over someone else’s work as someone doing the same to me. I love the art/crafting/photography community online but I think I might stick to Flickr until it all gets cleared up. I have so many little and diverse ways of making bits of money that I really can’t afford to lose any or to spend any on legal fees!
      Vick x

  2. I’ve read the terms, and to be fair I don’t think the problem is with them, it’s with users believing they can pin whatever they like without specific permission. Pinterest have released a nopin meta-tag for website owners to use if they don’t want their images on the site, and if they’ve put a Pinterest button next to any images it’s pretty obvious that sharing is encouraged. It’s just a matter of using it sensibly and not copying every graphic out on the web as if artists don’t deserve the right to make a living from their work.

    It’s pretty obvious judging by the amount of mentions it’s had in the media that this is set to be the next big social media craze, so it’s inevitable that the marketing spammers will move in. What Pinterest needs is a good system for allowing people to filter information, choosing not just who to get updates from but how often and how popular the pin should be. I’m still waiting on their waiting list so I haven’t had the chance to explore how they’ve handled it, but in my view how they manage the signal-to-noise question is going to be crucial.

    • I know that Flickr won’t allow you to pin from their site and I’ve seen a couple of other places as well. I think the main bit of the T&Cs that people are finding is this bit:
      “…By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services…”
      I completely see what you mean though. I think Pinterest is going to have to keep a very close eye on things in the next six months. And we will need to keep an equally close watch on them!
      I tried sending you an invite which I think gets around the waiting period – but I was on my phone and had terrible signal, if it didn’t go through and you’d like one, just let me know!
      Vick x

      • Thanks, my invite came today. I’ll probably put some time aside this weekend to set things up and start posting.

  3. Erin

     /  March 15, 2012

    Great post. OK, we’re now worried that Oceans Initiative http://www.oceansinitiative.org is one of those groups that is “doing it wrong.” I’ve loved using Pinterest personally for the past year and recently set up a page for our non-profit. Like you, I’ve been disappointed to see the shift toward commercial use and away from an inspiring space. I’m now wondering, are non-profits (like ours) equally shameless in self-promotion?

    Is it OK to link to a cause, when we’re not selling anything? Pictures of dolphins & whales are still pretty and most of the photos are photos we took ourselves while doing our field research. Do you have advice for non-profits so we don’t fall into the pushy category?
    Thank you, Erin

    • Hello!
      First off – I had a look at your boards and I like them, I really do. I also think that people are far more tolerant of marketing when it comes to non-profit organisations as opposed to businesses.
      I don’t think anyone will ever mind seeing pictures of beautiful marine life! I think the main thing is to make sure you are highlighting a lot of things besides your own work – that’s always the key. The same holds with FB and Twitter, keeping yourself a part of the community rather than being apart from it. The fact that you have a products board and the favourite food bit is fab. I think you’re doing it absolutely right (so much so that I’m following you now!) and not at all pushy.
      I’m going to pop a link HERE to your Pinterest boards just so people have it if they want.
      If you’d like some more advice I’m going to be popping up some articles tomorrow on my business blog about using Pinterest for businesses. It will be here but obviously isn’t up yet!
      Hope that helps, keep having fun with it all,
      Vick x


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