3 Ways Pinterest Can Damage Your Small Business

Pinterest can drive traffic for your business, but be wary about how you use it.
March 06, 2012

Pinterest is a wild success story. Used in a smart way, Pinterest can help your business. But small-business owners should be aware of some issues that bear watching.

Pay attention to how you use Pinterest. Be sure to read and understand the terms of service and consider copyright issues when you pin. With these caveats, I hope the service continues to grow.

Guard your brand

Limit your liability as a company by only pinning or posting images that you own or have licensed. There are big differences in how a consumer can behave on the Web and how a company can, according to Brian Heidelberger of Ad Age. His post, "How Brands Can Use Pinterest Without Breaking the Law," is a worthwhile read.

If you have concerns about your company images being used or pinned on Pinterest, you can insert "no pin" code on your website and your blog posts. Flickr, the large photo-sharing service, instituted a no-pin rule for all its photos unless they are not copyrighted (as in Creative Commons).

I don't think that Flickr banning pinning will be an issue or even a blip for Pinterest. But it signals that people are paying attention to copyright at Pinterest on some level.

Read the terms of service

Some of what doesn't affect a consumer might have consequences for your company if you violate the terms of service. One could argue that every site, from Facebook to Google, has onerous terms of service. Few people actually read the TOS on various sites.

But remember that on Facebook and Google+ you are usually posting your own stuff. If the terms on Pinterest are violated, are you or your company prepared to manage the consequences?

Watch the links

Pinterest is using a company called Skimlinks, according to Compete. Pinterest earns money when you click through to buy something. Some pundits argue that they should disclose this practice. They say that consumers deserve to know that there is an affiliate sales link when they click on something that's pinned on Pinterest.

A recent VentureBeat article says that Pinterest is also "automatically swapping out the links behind product pins." One comment on the VB post clarified the practice: "To be more accurate: 'Pinterest is adding it's own affiliate code behind some product pins when they don't already have affiliate codes.'"

So, watch the links and make sure they go to your site store, and not to Amazon or some other e-commerce site. If you have an affiliate program, you want to leverage Pinterest traffic, so it behooves you to make sure the links are not stripped. Online retailers report record traffic and sales from the service, so it can likely help your online business.

I'm not out to bash Pinterest—it is a good company. It is trying to do the right things from a marketing and a legal perspective, I believe. But as issues pop up, you have to study how they impact your brand.

Pinterest is driving lots of traffic to small business websites. It is powerful and intoxicating. Just make sure you're playing by the rules and covering your bases. If you believe your copyright has been violated, you can address that with Pinterest.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Russ Neumeier