By Clare McDermott published March 28, 2012

Spammers and Bots Driving Up Pinterest Membership, Traffic?

spammers on PinterestPinterest is the new darling of content marketers, who are tripping over themselves to “pin” new content to the site. But the site has suffered bad press of late. Most recently, some wonder whether the site’s ‘invitation only’ gate is merely a marketing ploy—and a faulty one at that. Recent reports suggest spammers can gain easy access to the site and are using Pinterest to artificially drive traffic to commerce sites.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Daily Dot, one spammer claims to make thousands of dollars per day on Pinterest by setting up dummy accounts, using the accounts to pin fashions, unleashing bots to ‘like’ those images and improve rankings, and using the momentum to drive traffic to an Amazon affiliate site. The anonymous spammer reports Pinterest is “by FAR the easiest social network to spam right now. Quite possibly the easiest ever to spam. It requires almost no work to get started and no money to invest.” [An excerpted interview with the anonymous spammer is available here and worth a read.]

The tipster also claims to have “stockpiles” of fake accounts, but to date only one has been deleted by Pinterest.

Another canny Pinterest blogger noticed suspect pin-boards are ‘liked’ by members who mysteriously lack profile pictures—something uncommon in a normal sample of Pinterest users. The blogger also noted that suspicious profiles link to Twitter profiles with no activity.

Popularity too much of a good thing?

With the site’s soaring popularity, it’s not suprising that Pinterest is experiencing growing pains. In response to mounting confusion about acceptable behavior, Pinterest released new terms of service for all ‘pinners,’ as members like to refer to themselves. Among the changes:

  • The site is making it easier to report copyright or trademark violations. This after TechCrunch reported “frequent” copyright violations when users pin content that does not belong to them.
  • Pinterest removed the word “sell” from the prior Terms of Service because, says co-founder Ben Silverman, “our original Terms stated that by posting content to Pinterest you grant Pinterest the right for us to sell your content. Selling content was never our intention and we removed this from our updated Terms.”
  • Most interesting for content marketers, Pinterest got rid of one of their “Pin Etiquette” statements that previously guided users “not to use Pinterest as a tool for self-promotion.”

The terms of service are intended to help the company navigate the tricky issue of legally sharing content, but also to help Pinterest expand beyond the site’s core group of pinners, which to date have been primarily women interested in fashion, interior design, arts & crafts, and cooking. But how will this core group respond to the hordes of marketers that have been pinning decidedly different content?

Brands must use Pinterest with care.

More than a few brands have found themselves haplessly in the middle of dueling pinners, like when Hubspot was the subject of a small kerfuffle because pinners objected to Hubspot’s ‘pin’ of a new ebook, Pinterest for Business. (To Hubspot’s great credit, they jumped in to ask questions and find out what exactly was off-putting, winning followers in the process.)

Marketers outside of the site’s core group of pinners—design and fashion-oriented women—should take care before wandering in just because Pinterest is the ‘next big thing.’ Reggie Bradford, CEO and founder of Vitrue, describes the site’s limitations for marketers in an interview with The Content Marketing Institute:

  • “The “pin-it” button works well for consumers, but was not designed for marketers.  It is missing features that allows for analytics tracking (platforms can help here along with the API).”
  • “Still images are great, but do have their limitations.  Unless users click through to the source site, a brand’s ability to communicate everything they want to is limited.”
  • You also have to watch for ‘link rot’ where the source image is moved or removed, thus generating a broken link that stands out like a sore thumb in such a visually driven environment.”

For more ideas, check out the full interview with Bradford.

Author: Clare McDermott

Clare McDermott is the editor of Chief Content Officer magazine and owner of SoloPortfolio, a Boston-based content marketing provider for professional service firms.You can follow her @soloportfolio.

Other posts by Clare McDermott

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  • tcmarketeer

    The demand for authenticity will regulate a lot of overzealous brands looking to marketing to a captive audience. Just because Pinterest is hot right now doesn’t mean people will be receptive to anything and everything that gets pinned. 

  • Clare McDermott

    Could not agree more. 

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