Pinners Get a Payday: But At What Cost to Pinterest's Content?

It’s no secret that Pinterest is one of the hottest social media platforms out there right now. The statistics are sort of mind-blowing: Mashable reported that monthly unique visits to the site increased 866% from September 2011 to February 2012—that’s just six months. And the user demographics on the site are a luxury brand’s (pardon the crudeness here) wet dream. According to L2, a think tank specializing in digital media, 60% of Pinterest users are college educated, 70% are female, and the majority are aged 25-44. It’s also overtaken Twitter as the second most significant source of referral traffic (Facebook is still number one). Which all adds up to one thing: ka-ching. Or at least the potential for a lot of coin, assuming brands are savvy enough to jump on the pinning bandwagon. Calypso St. Barth’s made news a few weeks ago when they announced their partnership—the first ever publicized fashion company/pinner collab--with Christine Martinez (“Miles to Style”), who went to St. Barth’s and pinned some boards especially for the brand. While this was a very public partnership, it turns out that a lot of money is exchanging hands between so-called power pinners and brands—and you’re not necessarily going to hear about it. The Power Pinners...
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It’s no secret that Pinterest is one of the hottest social media platforms out there right now. The statistics are sort of mind-blowing: Mashable reported that monthly unique visits to the site increased 866% from September 2011 to February 2012—that’s just six months. And the user demographics on the site are a luxury brand’s (pardon the crudeness here) wet dream. According to L2, a think tank specializing in digital media, 60% of Pinterest users are college educated, 70% are female, and the majority are aged 25-44. It’s also overtaken Twitter as the second most significant source of referral traffic (Facebook is still number one). Which all adds up to one thing: ka-ching. Or at least the potential for a lot of coin, assuming brands are savvy enough to jump on the pinning bandwagon. Calypso St. Barth’s made news a few weeks ago when they announced their partnership—the first ever publicized fashion company/pinner collab--with Christine Martinez (“Miles to Style”), who went to St. Barth’s and pinned some boards especially for the brand. While this was a very public partnership, it turns out that a lot of money is exchanging hands between so-called power pinners and brands—and you’re not necessarily going to hear about it. The Power Pinners...
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It’s no secret that Pinterest is one of the hottest social media platforms out there right now. The statistics are sort of mind-blowing:

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How Brands Pay: Which brings us to how exactly you can earn a paycheck in the upper echelons of Pinterest. Both pinners said that brands often approach them offering to pay, well, nothing in exchange for pinning. Which is not OK. “There are brands who would like to see multiple pins happen and to me that’s a form of advertisement,” Martinez said. “It’s always better to approach the pinner with [an offer].” Arends agreed, saying that if she decides to take on a recurring pinning gig for a product or brand, “I’ll work out an agreement. Just because my reach has gotten so far, it’s worth the investment for them.”

What’s still unclear is how much a pin is “worth.” Payment is usually in either cold hard cash or trade. Martinez said she wasn’t paid for her Calypso gig, but the trip to St. Barth’s and a lot of free clothes—which she loves and pins frequently—was worth it for her. And while it totally depends on the project or promotion, Arends said she’s seen anywhere between $80 to $200 offered for a series of pins.

UPDATE: In a follow up email with Arends, she wanted to clarify that what makes Pinterest such a "powerful" platform for creatives like her is that potential clients can see your design work. She has picked up many freelance clients through Pinterest referrals, and currently makes more income through this route than by endorsing brands or pinning products.

Enter the agents...

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The Middle Man: Like bloggers, pinners are being approached for commercial projects, so the logical assumption is that pinners would get representation—like bloggers--to help manage their image and projects. Both pinners we spoke to declined to discuss representation issues at all.

We were tipped off about

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How To Stay Transparent on Pinterest? As with bloggers, integrity is everything. Or at least it should be. Christine Martinez and Kate Arends both said they turn down many more offers than they accept. Martinez said, “I’m very discerning about what I pin. Unless it’s something I really love and would naturally pin anyway, I’m not doing it.” Arends agreed. “From all the [brands] that approach me, I’d say probably 10% are appropriate for my boards. I’m really concerned about losing the integrity of what I curate,” she said. “The thought of losing that to make money scares me a little bit.”

Disclosure of sponsored pins is an area where we could see abuse happening (intentional or not). Unlike a blog, Pinterest doesn’t have a lot of space for text. You can put a comment under a pin, but generally the images speak for themselves. Arends tries to always make it obvious when she’s pinning something for a brand, writing things like “courtesy of” or “thank you for sending this gift.” But it may not always be obvious and transparent. So going forward, both brands and pinners are going to have to be careful about how they represent themselves--and of the two, pinners probably have the most to lose, since their reputations are wrapped up in how they present themselves online. It's the same blogger dilemma, just on a new screen.

But we're not totally optimistic that the transparency will always be there. When we asked Science’s Kyla Brennan if we could expect to see more press releases like the one we got about Calypso partnering with Martinez—or if these sorts of arrangements would remain behind the scenes she said, “It’ll definitely remain behind the scenes.”