Josh, over at LLSocial has an interesting post on how the social sharing site Pinterest, that’s all the rage online, is quietly generating revenue by changing the links that it’s users are “pinning” to include Pinterests affiliate links. There’s quite a bit of conversation in the comments over there as to whether doing so is really even legal, and if it is, whether it is really all that ethical.
Briefly, it is legal, or would appear to be, since the FCC rules that many of us worry about really only cover disclosure on things that the site is pushing directly. Because the links are user published, the site gets around the disclosure with the extra degree of separation. Parts of me want to say that it isn’t ethical, but I’m having a hard time validating that urge. The service is free. They’ve got to have some sort of revenue model, and ads would be the first obvious choice. By changing links to include their affiliate link, they’ve found a way around including ads that would likely be a detriment to the service. Reports (mostly from the comments of that article at LLSocial) indicate that they aren’t changing the links that are already using an affiliate link, so they aren’t outright stealing the income of people who were smart enough to include their affiliate links. (Although, there could be some argument over whether those users should have to disclose)
In the end, Pinterest might have found the ideal income (revenue) engine for a site of their like. The content is almost entirely user generated, and a large majority of it is product oriented. (read: affiliate linkable.) The fact that they are doing this is relatively recent news, so it still remains to be seen if they’ll see any backlash from users, but even if they do, I doubt it will mean much in the grand scheme.
If you’re familiar with affiliate programs at all, you’re probably already thinking what I was. If affiliate links on the site are a good revenue stream for the company hosting the site, perhaps they could be a good revenue stream for an affiliate marketer. I have yet to test any of that, and, actually, don’t even have a Pinterest account yet, but it might be interesting to test out and see what kind of results can be gotten.
Does anyone have any experience using affiliate links in Pinterest and care to share how it performs?