Disclosure: I am Vice President, Influencer Marketing at BlogHer. Advertising and social media marketing programs are a significant source of revenue for my company and for the bloggers in our advertising network.
It’s not a secret that I am something of an ethics/best practices aficionado. As a result, I pay particular attention to the terms of service and acceptable use policies of the social platforms commonly used in sponsored programs. The good news is: I love it so you don’t have to
Recently (1/31/2014), Pinterest changed its Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to explicitly prohibit both compensated pins and ads that could be confused with Pinterest content.
Specifically prohibited per the AUP :
“Create or show ads that look like or could be confused with Pinterest content (for example, embedding Pinterest actions like Pin, follow or unfollow in your ads)
Directly compensate users for Pinning, following or unfollowing”
“a business can pay someone to help them put together a board that represents their brand. For example, it’s okay for a guest blogger to curate a board for a local boutique’s profile. We don’t allow that boutique to pay the blogger to Pin products to her own boards.”
How does this impact brands that want to use Pinterest in their promotional efforts? Here’s my take.
Brands CANNOT compensate influencers to pin brand content on their own Pinterest boards. This includes asking them to curate from a pre-defined pool of content or Pinterest boards.
Influencers can create boards for brands on the brand Pinterest. Because the brand’s Pinterest is understood to be commercial, the board can include branded pins, and no further FTC disclosure is necessary.
Brands can license previously published blog content to populate the brand Pinterest boards. These licensed pins can include branding.
Finally, influencers can create sponsored boards on their own Pinterest account using a theme that aligns with the brand messaging but does not specify content sources or include any paid branded pins. The board sponsorship would require disclosure per FTC requirements, as it is a compensated activity, but one that is more akin to an editorial sponsorship than sponsored advertorial.
Pinterest does not include an example of this type of board in the AUP update but I am confident that this is well within the policy. Here’s an example, built around the theme of beautiful things:
That said, Pinterest can always change its mind about this, or any other policy in its Terms of Service or AUP, so it is wise to check the company’s blog for updates before finalizing any program.
In particular, if you want to do a contest or sweeps using Pinterest, something I generally do not recommend, the service regularly refines its policy on sweeps and contests. The current policy is much in line with the new position on compensated pinning. It states: “please don’t:
Suggest that Pinterest sponsors or endorses you or the promotion
Require people to Pin from a selection
Make people Pin your contest rules
Run a sweepstakes where each Pin, board, like or follow represents an entry
Encourage spammy behavior, such as asking participants to comment
Ask Pinners to vote with Pins, boards or likes
Require a minimum number of Pins”
What do these changes mean for brands over the long term?
Pinterest is still feeling its way around commercial use of the platform, and is simultaneously trying to maintain the authenticity of the experience that caused such dynamic growth while evaluating and building its own monetization models. Right now, it is being very restrictive on commercial use of the core functionality of the platform, much as Facebook did a few years ago.
Facebook has since loosened some (but not all) the restrictions it placed, particularly with regard to Pages (versus personal Profiles). I expect Pinterest will do the same: reserve some capabilities to itself while lightly loosening the restrictions in areas where it is not building its own solutions.
More to come, I am sure!