Breaking Down Pinterest’s Updated Policies and What This Means for Marketers

  |  April 3, 2014   |  Comments

With the changes to Pinterest's Acceptable Use Policy, marketers may have to rethink the way they use the social site. The policy update includes modifications to the rules on compensation, accessing data, and contests.

On January 31, 2014, Pinterest came out with an updated Acceptable Use Policy, which will directly impact how a brand presents itself on Pinterest. Pinterest’s ultimate goal is to make the site a place where users come for inspiration and share their thoughts and ideas.

So I sat down with Noah Abelson, chief executive (CEO) of ShareRoot, a leading Pinterest marketing company, to discuss what this means for brands.

1. Paying Pinners

"The biggest update to Pinterest’s updated policy is that brands are no longer allowed to directly compensate users for pinning, following, or unfollowing," says Abelson. Pinterest came out with the rule because the company wanted people to pin authentically, because of its belief that "people should be able to find things on Pinterest that actually interest and inspire them." While this might not affect many brands out there, this does have an effect on those third parties that work with brands. This will directly impact third parties selling a Pinterest "Influencer Network" - users who have a lot of followers and thus can influence what a large amount of Pinterest users can see. By paying these Influencers, a brand can get them to follow them on Pinterest and pin or repin their images.

Brands need to be careful moving forward and ensure they are in compliance with the Pinterest policies.

2. Accessing Data

The next update from Pinterest is their updated stance on accessing (scraping) information off the Pinterest platform. "Because Pinterest does not have an API, the only way for third parties to date to gather data was to scrape the data off of Pinterest to determine metrics such as followers, repins, likes, etc. With the updated policies stating that you aren’t allowed to access, search, scrape, download, or change Pinterest or anything on it, Pinterest is making sure that extricating data without Pinterest’s consent is not OK," says Abelson.

This means that brands temporarily will not have as much access to data as they once had. Specifically, third parties are unable to provide the more in-depth metrics such follower engagement, follower saturation, velocity, average second-degree followers, etc.

3. Contests

When it comes to contests on Pinterest, there has been a shift in making sure that the contests do not appear to be "spammy." "In keeping with their policy of wanting Pinterest users to be pinning authentically, Pinterest has cracked down on making sure that users are not required to pin from a selection, pin the contest rules, or ask for votes based on pins, likes, or boards," stresses Abelson. This gives the user the ability to pin whatever image they want when entering the contest, thus keeping in line with how Pinterest wants its site to be used. By prohibiting the use of votes based on pins, likes, or boards, Pinterest has leveled the playing field by allowing every entrant to have an equal chance at winning the contest.

Brands need to be aware of the new rule when crafting the contest rules.

What This All Means

These changes show that Pinterest is doing everything to prevent brands and third parties from gaming the system. That is, growing their presence organically and authentically and making sure the content is shared because the users want to share it and not because they are being paid or incentivized otherwise.

What Can Your Brand Do?

The end game is still for brands to attract followers, engage them, and ultimately drive revenue. There are a variety of tips and tricks to help your brand drive engagement (including but not limited to):

  • Pin engaging content 
  • Follow your active followers 
  • Add a Pinterest tab to your Facebook page 
  • Tweet your pins 
  • Add the Pinterest button to your homepage 

"The other alternative for a brand is to utilize a third party to help promote and grow their page on Pinterest," closes Abelson. "The obvious example is to run a contest that promotes your brand and has the entrants follow the brand’s Pinterest page. While Pinterest does not currently have advertising available for purchase, a company such as ShareRoot provides targeted advertising across different platforms that drives Pinterest users from off-site accounts to the brand’s Pinterest page."

That said, this shouldn’t prevent brands from continuing to expand their communities on Pinterest, as the network is already one of the key traffic-drivers for retailers and brands and will continue to drive successful and meaningful engagement.


Ekaterina Walter

Ekaterina Walter is a social media trailblazer and an author of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) bestseller, “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg”, as well as “The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand.” A recognized business and marketing thought leader, she is a sought-after international speaker and a regular contributor to leading-edge print and online publications. Walter led strategic and marketing innovation for brands such as Intel and Accenture, and is currently a co-founder and CMO of BRANDERATI. She has been consistently recognized by the industry and her peers for her innovative thinking, most recently receiving a 2013 Marketer of the Year honor (SoMe Awards). Walter was featured in Forbes and BusinessReviewUSA, and her opinion was highlighted on CNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, First Business Chicago, TechCrunch, WSJ and more. She sits on a board of directors of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

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