The Versa Blog

Affiliate Links on Pinterest

May 24, 2012

PinterestFor those of you that haven’t heard of or used Pinterest, it’s a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos, etc. to a pinboard that they’ve created. Think of it as an online pinboard. The latest controversy is that Pinterest is monetizing their website by using affiliate links. Affiliate tracking links allow publishers (like Pinterest) to earn a portion of revenue when a consumer; 1) clicks on a link, 2) goes to an e-commerce site and 3) makes a purchase. The issues is that Pinterest is converting the links that their users create into affiliate tracking links. They disclose this in their Terms of Use but the marketing industry has started to take notice.
The other part of this equation is that other publishers (also known as affiliates) have caught on and are adding their own affiliate links to Pinterest. They do this by adding content to Pinterest, including their affiliate link, and directing it to a merchant’s website. When a consumer clicks on this link and makes a purchase the affiliate gets paid. Pinterest has asserted that when an affiliate add their tracking link they are not overriding the it and converting URL to their own affiliate link.

AskDaveTaylorDave Taylor wrote a good article on his blog that explains how affiliates add tracking links to their Pinterest contest.

Either way, the presence of affiliate links on Pinterest has been a topic of discussion. From the forums, boards and articles I’ve read, the backlash has come from people within the marketing industry. At this point I believe Pinterest users are continuing with the service unaware that this monetization component is even happening.
Here’s my opinion. Pinterest has a right to monetize their own website as long as they disclose how it is being done and do it ethically. From a Pinterest user perspective I would much rather have Pinterest turning user generated content into affiliate links than having affiliates adding their own monetized content. My thought process for this is outlined below.
Process for when Pinterest converts URLs to affiliate tracking links:
1. A user adds content to Pinterest because they like it and not because they’re being paid.
2. Pinterest converts URLs in that content to affiliate tracking links.
3. Pinterest earns some money.
4. Affiliates can no longer make money from Pinterest.
5. Good content is created by users.
Process when an Affiliate creates tracking links:
1. Affiliates add content to Pinterest.
2. Affiliates add affiliate tracking links to the URLs in their content.
3. Affiliates earn some money.
4. Spam affiliate content is posted to Pinterest because affiliates can earn money from it.
The advertisers/merchants remain unaffected in either of the above scenarios but the Pinterest users win in the first. Time will tell how Pinterest ultimately defines their affiliate tracking strategy but I’m sure there will be opposition to and support of their decision.

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