Pinterest’s recent decision to remove affiliate links from Pins has received wide-spread attention for its ramifications for the blogging community – especially the Power Pinners who previously enjoyed a revenue stream from affiliate commissions through the platform.
Admittedly, I have no inside knowledge about the change. That said, as a business owner in the social shopping space, I could extrapolate that the move was motivated by the desire to control the revenue stream and divert more money towards Pinterest. It is likely also a way to manage user satisfaction and, thus, maintain the engagement goals that advertisers will expect and for which they’ll pay a premium.
First, the shift is designed to eradicate spammy and broken links – that’s the publicly stated reason for the move. Since pins can live forever, those referring traffic to products on retailer sites quickly become out of date, and user satisfaction declines when experiencing the resulting broken links and “product not found” pages.
This creates friction in what could otherwise be a smooth and satisfying path to purchase, and that dissatisfaction likely affects those engagement levels. With the upcoming “Buy” button and aggressive moves to pursue advertising dollars, Pinterest is working hard to protect the quality of its user experience — laying the groundwork for ad pitches promising engaged and interested users who will continue to spend upwards of 15 minutes on the site each visit.
Second, removing affiliate links from the site also tightens the spigot on the revenue driven by referrals from Pinterest. The site has built its reputation as an effective source of shoppers, and can now more closely control – and get a piece of – the revenue it drives. Why allow the posting of free ads that generate revenue for affiliates when you’re trying to charge brands for the same privilege?
Rather than look at just taking a piece of the traditional digital ad spend that might be split across social channels, Pinterest seems to be staking a claim on the monies that brands have been forwarding through separate budget buckets to bloggers — for sponsored posts that could also be featured in Pinterest Pins. With the new move, those funds may be available to be redirected back to Pinterest itself.
Whether Pinterest will establish its own affiliate program or partnership to play both sides of the court remains to be seen, but Power Pinners can quickly adapt to this change. They will continue to Pin links to monetize content, with nearly no discernable difference in the “discover and click” experience for their followers (as the user base of my company, Stylinity does). Frankly, the monetization simply happens off the Pinterest site.
For bloggers, Pinterest’s move takes away an easy revenue stream of curated product choices. While they can still post the links to their blogs on Pinterest, and direct traffic back to their blog posts to monetize, they can no longer simply connect their wishlists of product collections directly to purchase pages. They can still curate product selections on their blogs, but it means a bit more work for them and their consumers, and, perhaps, a lower conversion rate.
What can bloggers do to continue to extend their reach and revenue streams in this changed Pinterest world? They can continue to use Pinterest posts to engage users and drive back to their blogs, while exploring the other newer avenues to expand their reach, syndicate monetized links, and increase their revenue:
- Cultivate the RSS feed: Blog aggregators like Bloglovin’ can be a great way to get long form content in front of more people, and take the blog posts right from your RSS feed. Readers can follow their favorite blogs on the service and discover new ones.
- Opt for original content: Using original images to make product recommendations and curate showcases will have more impact. Why simply repost a brand’s picture of a favorite pair shoes shot on a boring white background when you can inspire others by showing all the different outfits you wear them with, occasions, and places you wear them to? With the right service, you can instantly tag product information directly to a photo with a “Buy Now” button, so when you share that photo across your social networks, you are driving interest for your blog AND making it easy for viewers to instantly purchase the product (and for you to get rewarded when they do).
- Make it “snackable”: These tagged and trackable photos are “bite sized” and easy to digest — an important part of any content strategy. It will help showcase your unique point of view in more of a spontaneous lifestyle context, letting readers to engage with you at multiple touchpoints throughout their day — when they have time, and wherever app or site they choose to be on. You probably already do this with your personal social media content – that picture of you and the girls out on Saturday night that the rest of your friends loved? Bingo – an easily created glimpse into your life.
- Pick a powerful partner: When looking to syndicate your content across social media and other sites, be sure to select a partner that has the ability to keep your links live across all outlets without having to reload or repost. You can use that service to create the tagged content and push it out to your various social media networks and blog with one touch, without having to log into each and create custom content.
Pinterest’s decision means change for bloggers – but it’s also a good reminder to review your current tools and ensure that you and they are capturing all the opportunities available to you today, with the rapidly evolving landscape. There are opportunities to monetize your influence and syndicate your content more easily than ever before. Pinterest will remain a great discovery site, but the tools you use to post your content to Pinterest – and other sites – will evolve, to help you continue to capture the opportunities presented.
Tadd Spering is CEO of Stylinity, the first company to make selfies shoppable. Stylinity’s social commerce platform and mobile app easily allows bloggers and brand fans to attach clickable product-specific links to every picture and syndicate those now-shoppable photos across their social networks.