TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pinterest- To pin or not to pin? THAT is the question!

We launched TAFA's new site mid-January, then I was gone for a month.  When I got back, I jumped into working on the site again.  Members have been slowly adding their profiles, but so far, not even half of them are up yet.  I have the site on Google Analytics and absolutely LOVE the Real Time view, where you can watch who is there, what pages they are looking at and from what country.  I started to notice a lot of views coming from Pinterest.  We have a closed group on facebook for members, so I asked if anybody had been pinning us on pinterest.  Virtual hands waved, "Me!  I am!  I am!"

Well....  that sure opened a can of worms!  Pinterest has been generating heated discussions all over the web due to its user policies.  I'm not sure that I understand all of it, but there are weird contradictions like, "all content belongs to Pinterest", then, "Make sure you only pin your copyrighted material", then, "Don't post just your images."  Huh?  How can you pin only your copyrighted stuff, but then not make your boards all of your own products?  More sinister, "If there is a lawsuit, the pinner pays ALL legal fees" and "Pinterest may sell any image on the site".........  I'm not quoting here, just interpreting phrases that I have seen over and over in articles posted around the web.  And, there's more, much more.  Serious stuff!

For those of who don't know what Pinterest is, it's what we call a "curating" site.  You can create boards of things you are interested in: travel, hobbies, health, fashion, etc.  The layout is beautiful, visually entrancing.  You can go on any website and instead of bookmarking something that you like, you pin it and it links back to that page (supposedly).  So, it's a handy way of keeping track of things you see and want to re-visit in the future.  Everything you pin gets sent to the front page and other people see it.  If they like it, they can re-pin it to their boards.  What that means for those of us who have something to sell is that the viral potential is immense.

To give you an idea, I made some boards on my page for TAFA products:

If someone likes the content of your board, they can follow the whole theme and see new items in their feed.

Well!  Sounds good, right?  Fun!?  Pinterest has been around for awhile now and is still by invitation only.  You can request one....  But, it's taken off like wild cakes in the last few months.  Millions are using it and if I remember correctly, it has passed Google+ in users.  Wowzers!

Not so quick.  Not all is well in Pinterland...  Those issues that I mentioned above have made artists really angry.  Why?  Because Pinterest can strip their images of copyrights, other users are taking the images and setting up sites inspired by Pinterest but not giving credit to the person who owns the image, and money is being made without consent and without compensation to that owner.  We had a wild flurry of articles being posted on our group with many, many arguments against using Pinterest.

The problem is that many of us long for that traffic.  Although we may not like the notion of our images being stolen, some of us would rather have a potential sale and the visibility than to be left out of the loop.  So, I struggled with this and decided that we needed to have a strategy.

TAFA has made use of social media from day one.  We have hubs on facebook, linkedin, google+, flickr and Etsy.  My approach has always been that if a large number of the members are there, we should have a presence there, too.  I went and checked my account that I had created months ago and poked around.  There was a significant number of  TAFA members on the site who were active AND I had almost 600 followers for my almost empty boards.  Well!  That told me that we needed to be there.

I sent out an email and told the members that if they wanted to be there, I would create a SAFE Board with one pin from each member who wants to be pinned.  From there, members and TAFA supporters can start with that board and know that it is OK to pin that person's stuff.  The pins link to the member profile and users can go from there to the blogs, shops, websites, etc.  The member does not have to have a pinterest account, although many do.  Here is our SAFE Board:

If you are an avid pinner and you love TAFA, this is where you start.  Do NOT pin any members who are not on this list!  We must all be respectful of the complex issues that surround this site.  

From there, I created several theme boards of TAFA products (pictured above) with other items from these members.  I will continue to build those boards and they are all SAFE to re-pin.  We really appreciate your support with this!

I also had an idea which I thought was pretty cool.  Why not do a board with TAFA members who have been supporting the site with ads?  This could potentially give more bang for their buck and serve as an inspiration for people who want to advertise on TAFA.  I set that board up, too, and really like how it looks:

The ads all link to their member profiles, but these are not necessarily sanctioned for pinning.  As the images have their business names on them, it is unlikely that anyone would steal them.  But, you are welcome to explore these profiles and visit their sites.

I also created a board for the TAFA members who sell on Etsy.  I made this one into a group one so that members can pin their own product.  It's an iffy proposition as already one of the members pinned other people's stuff.....  But, intentions are good and there is a learning curve with everything.

As you can see, there are many creative things that can be done with these boards to promote a business or feed an interest.  But, do not underestimate how serious the concerns are around Pinterest's policies.  I received an email this morning saying that the word was out on the web that the owner was meeting with lawyers to change the policies.  I don't know whether this is true or not, or even if the changes would be significant enough to put out the fire.  But, it was a piece of hopeful news.  The concept is wonderful, but when you build your business on underhanded practices, it will fall.

Interested in learning more about this issue?  
Here are some of the articles our members posted:
That is probably enough to educate anyone on the issues behind the uproar.  

What should you do?

Each person has to decide what is best for him or her.  But, if you are a pinner, educate yourself and respect people's wishes on this.  Do not pin anything that does not link back to the owner of the image.  Have a doubt about it?  Ask them.  In fact, this is good practice for anything done on the web.  Do you see an image you would like to use on your blog?  Ask the owner.  

My belief is that if you have a web presence you automatically put your images at risk with anything you post.  If it's out there, even if you have code on your site protecting downloads, anybody can copy it.  All they need to do is do a screen print and they have it.  It's unfortunate, but it does not mean that we need to condone this behavior.  Do the best YOU can to be a good web citizen.

The one solution I see is to use discreet watermarks embedded into the images.  That is probably what I will do with mine in the future (IF I can figure out how to do it quickly...).  And, I believe that for every scoundrel that is out there, 99% of the others are good people who would like to do the right thing.

Pin Responsibly!


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