Why I’m Not a Pinterest Fan: A Small Seller’s Point of View

I used to love Pinterest as much as the next person. I mean, I’ve been on it long enough that I was able to use just the word ampersand as my username.  I don’t use it as much as a lot of people, but that’s fine. I’m more involved with Tumblr, of which Pinterest is basically a less interesting, less community-oriented version. However, since I recently learned that Pinterest is the third most popular social network, behind Facebook and Twitter, I decided I should pick it up again. And I’m an Etsy seller, have been for about a year, so I figured that I could amp up my marketing over there and do a little bit of self-promoting for my favorite items that I’ve made.

This was about a month ago. And after only a few short weeks of dealing with Pinterest users’ blatant disrespect for my craft, I’m about ready to throw in the towel. Of course, I feel obligated to stay on, since social media awareness is part of my personal brand, but I’m not thrilled about it. If I were just an average user, I don’t think I’d have these problems. But as a budding Etsy seller, I have more than a few bones to pick with Pinterest.

First, remember Pinterest’s copyright issues drama a few weeks ago?

The drama where they had to change their terms of service so they didn’t read that whoever pinned an image had to own rights to it? I mean, Tumblr is pretty rampant about copyright infringement as far as images go (hello, .gif files), but when the images being posted to Pinterest are from a small, not immediately recognizable source, it makes it that much harder to track down the original owner.

“That looks so easy! I could whip that up, no problem.”

In my pinning adventures, I’ve noticed three types of repins:

  • People who repin, leaving my original commentary and link
  • People who repin, deleting the link to my Etsy and replacing my commentary with the above bolded.
  • People who repin onto a DIY board that consists of wire wrapping tutorials and crafts

And this is only a small recent sampling.

While the first pinner is my favorite, obviously, the third pinner is someone I can respect. I’m not going to say I don’t find inspiration on social networks, because that would be a lie, and if someone who works in the same way I do finds inspiration in something I’ve done, I’m okay with that. We’re in this together, and while maybe he or she is my competition, I don’t necessarily feel threatened by that. We live in an era when DIY is coming back and I love the spirit of camaraderie that comes with that.

That second pinner, though – she is not my friend and I do not like her. This is something that happens all over the Internet, and I don’t understand it. If you’re going to pin or repin something I’ve worked hard to make, why would you delete the link? As a struggling artist, I depend on pageviews, and you’re not doing me any favors by deleting any sourcing material. While this person is the minority, it still happens often enough that it gets to me. I don’t like to be that person who follows around their repins, but I’ve been doing so while researching this and, well, it’s not pretty. I’ve had conversations with people who turned incredibly hateful when I question their harsh critique of a design of mine, or are entirely dismissive of the hard work I put into something. If you’re reading this, it’s probably not you – all of these conversations have been with total strangers, which is even more shocking, I suppose.
And while we’re at it, let’s mention how disrespectful that kind of repinning is. I’ve been working on my craft for almost a year now, and my technique has vastly improved. The things that people repin onto their DIY boards are not something that can be recreated easily, especially for someone who doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Wire wrapping may not be that hard, but it’s not that easy, either. I try to keep my prices affordable, and for someone to repin and say she could make this for two dollars instead of spending money on mine is offensive and disrespectful to me.
I don’t want to be out to fight Pinterest users for this kind of thing. That’s not how I want to spend my time – I have much better things to do. But please, please be aware while pinning that what you say is public and can be read by anyone, including the original artist.

Why are you complaining? It’s free advertising! You should just get over it!”

Well, I’m glad you asked. While I do get marginal traffic from Pinterest (and by marginal I mean less than 50 total referrals over a month, far fewer than my other networks), it’s not proportionate to the amount of views, repins, likes, etc., that I get on Pinterest. I don’t expect every user to click through. But Etsy has a strong stats program in place, and I can see exactly how many of my referrals are from Pinterest – and it’s not many. Compared to how many referrals I get from Facebook and Tumblr, it’s shockingly low.

I know that the percentage of users who can (and will) actually recreate my designs is quite small, but I haven’t seen that other percentage turn into sales – or even site views. And that’s partially where we come back to people removing the link to my store in their repins, see? In addition, I can’t tell you how many times I see people post to Facebook or other social networks pictures they found on Pinterest, no source included. If I saw someone posting a picture of something from my Etsy to someone else’s Timeline without crediting me, I would be frustrated – but it may not even be the poster’s fault, if the person they pinned it from deleted the source link.

Pinterest can be great advertising. It’s true. I’ve seen sellers go through the roof off of a pin before, but that’s the exception, not the rule. And Pinterest can make it easier to find what you’re looking for on Etsy, especially if you’re looking for something pretty common and you don’t want to have to sift through pages and pages. But, for me at least, it doesn’t even out. For small sellers trying to distinguish themselves in a market where anyone can use cheap materials and try to make a quick buck, having the link to their work included can literally make all the difference.

Also, the number of people who have told me and other sellers to “just get over it.” I just can’t with that kind of attitude, you know? I just cannot. How rude is that?

My big beef with Pinterest is that it’s not very friendly to small sellers like myself. My Etsy is a third of my income right now – a disproportionately small third, but it’s there – and when someone strips my pin of the link, it directly hurts me. I think it’s a great concept and clearly the rest of the world does, too, but I can’t decide if it’s worth it. Sometimes I want to delete my boards, and sometimes I want to make a pre emptive strike and pin my work first so that I know, at least on my pin, the source is included. Usually I take the second tack, but Pinterest has always made me vaguely uncomfortable. I know they’re going through growing pains right now and I hope they can make it more friendly to the people whose hard work is being pinned.

What do you think? Are you a seller who’s had success, or are you similarly frustrated? If you’re a pinner, what do you think is appropriate for repinning? And while we’re talking about Etsy, remember that you can use code FRIDAY13 through Saturday to receive 30% off your order! I just put up a bunch of new things in the last few days, so…check it out. And feel free to pin, as long as you leave the link 🙂

2 thoughts on “Why I’m Not a Pinterest Fan: A Small Seller’s Point of View

  1. OMG I love you. You must be some long-lost sister. I have the same problem! My graphic website has more pins & repins on Pinterest than there are images on my website, and that’s quite something. In my logs, Pinterest referrals are less than one in ten thousands! Pinners stay on Pinterest and don’t visit the source, in my case. Whether the source is included or not hardly matters – it doesn’t help me.

    Right now my website content is free, because it’s sponsored by advertising. If my traffic dries up, though, I can’t give my content for free anymore, I’ll have to charge my users. It is so unjust.

    The admiration of pinners for my craft will kill it, and my making a living from sharing this craft. How is that for irony?

    • Haha, glad to find some solidarity! I was afraid to jump out on this limb because I know how many people love Pinterest, but I figured I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way. Pinterest can be great, but it is killing a lot of siteviews and even blog comments – people pin rather than comment, which again can hurt the original user. I’m sorry to hear that we have this common, though, since it’s not good for business – good luck with everything!

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