A Case Study in Stupid: My Take on Pinterest
The online buzz about Pinterest is hopping. Lots of people are talking about it. Some hail it as a new website design opportunity, weighing the value of pictures over words. Some are taking heat for commenting that it’s “for women”, like that’s a bad thing. Some are intrigued but not convinced it’s usable as a brand marketing tool. Still others are saying “What’s Pinterest?”.
Me, personally, I like Pinterest a lot. It has been in my personal beta toolbox for a few weeks now and I’ve been playing with it to get a feel for the space. It’s a brilliant idea and I like it.
I have had problems though. My avatar has somehow mysteriously been deleted, likely during some upgrade or bug fix of the site, and now I can’t get it back. The links underneath the update profile picture buttons in the edit profile section don’t work. I look like a green bird placeholder spammer. Yuck.
So far, the company has not responded in any way to my repeated attempts to resolve my support problem. I have reached out via Twitter, email, and Facebook. The contact information on their website is practically non-existent and they clearly, based on the distinct lack of interaction on their social media platforms, are overloaded with inquiries.
With 100+ followers and growing on my account, I don’t want to delete my account but until I can get help, I don’t feel right promoting my account actively.
Can’t We Work It Out?
Even with this problem, I still want to work it out somehow. I get that a new, explosively growing start-up can have some scalability service issue. Still, can a girlfriend get a little sumptn sumptn – a hey, an f-you, nothing?
Takeaway #1 - If you launch a start-up, have a plan for what happens if you are wildly successful. So many of us plan for the downside of failing but we don’t as often plan for crazy success.
You Playing Me?
Just as I started really loving Pinterest, the news that they are switching out their own affiliate links for their users’ links broke. Huh? (honestly, it was an f-bomb that exploded from my mouth, but I tried to clean it up a bit.)
According to FTC guidelines, anyone posting affiliate revenue links must disclose, openly and obviously, their relationship with that vendor. Yes, lots of people are doing this wrong or not doing this at all. Lots. That doesn’t change the fact that this ruling is currently law in the US.
A Case of Culture Clash?
This FTC disclosure rule is a requirement that is relatively new but the online people who know what they’re doing don’t risk being the Supreme Court case that questions the ruling. They disclose, openly and obviously. Pinterest headquarters out of California, so they probably fall under the jurisdiction of this ruling.
Pinterest has not properly disclosed, the best I can determine as a layperson. Many of the online commenters don’t understand how this is even a problem. Much like the generational divide about downloading copyrighted materials, not everyone agrees that this behavior is wrong.
Even if their users “don’t mind” that Pinterest is monetizing the site without saying so directly, that doesn’t change the situation. I frankly think it is a great strategy if it had been disclosed. Unfortunately, the story gets worse than just that from a potentially legal point of view.
Tattoo an “F” for Fraud on Their Forehead?
Here is Pinterest’s policy about links on their site:
“Our Site and Application contains links to other websites. If you choose to visit an advertiser by “clicking on” a banner ad or other type of advertisement, or click on another third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s website. The fact that we link to a website or present a banner ad or other type of advertisement is not an endorsement, authorization or representation of our affiliation with that third party [italics my own for emphasis], nor is it an endorsement of their privacy or information security policies or practices…”
WOW. If you switch out those third party user posted links with your own affiliate revenue links, affiliation is EXACTLY what you have.
This direct and clear denial of affiliation might border on fraud. I am not a lawyer but it’s pretty clear that Pinterest isn’t one either. If you say we have no affiliation, yet you do, and also the law says you’re supposed to be honest and disclosing about revealing that relationship, that stinks of bad, bad mojo.
Takeaway #2? Don’t play fast and loose with your revenue model. Boiler plate legal policy is not sufficient if you want to be a millionaire start-up guy. Hire a lawyer for your start-up.
What Were They Thinking???
Social media is a petulant mistress. What benefits you one day might hurt you the next. Transparency isn’t just a buzz word. It’s a character value.
Having values will help keep you out of court and keep your company going. Well, unless your value seems to be a sneaky confidence player who doesn’t respect the marks they’re manipulating through deceit. Perhaps I am reading too much into it all, though.
For all the jabber in social media circles about the risk of social, seems to me that this basic business issue is a bigger risk.
Takeaway #3? If what you do can’t be disclosed openly, with your audience feeling OK about it, DON’T DO IT.
I feel a mix of melancholy, anger, frustration, and insane irritation. This could put this fledgling start-up out of business. The FTC fines can run up to $10,000 per incident, even for first time offenders.
Let that sink in – $10,000 fine per incident. Every picture that Pinterest switched out their links with could be deemed an “incident”. It doesn’t take a math genius to see that could easily equal bankruptcy. Add in the potential for jail time if they are deemed fraudulent and it could easily be buh-bye to Pinterest.
What do you think?
Is this a case study in stupid? I think so, but I want to hear what you think – please sound off below!
And, of course it should go without saying, but these are my own opinions, not commPRO.biz’s. I am fortunate they let me fly on my own wings untethered. These are simply my meanderings in SocialMediaVille.
Seriously, though, what was Pinterest thinking???
Til next time!
Vicki @Smartwoman Flaugher
p.s. I do still wish my avi was not a green bird placeholder…[UPDATE: I was contacted via email by Enid at Pinterest who assisted me in fixing my avi problem. The instructions were clear my cache, which I was unwilling to do, and use a different browser. I use Firefox that didn't work. I tried Explorer. That didn't work. I installed Chrome and that worked. I now have my face avi back.)
[graphic by JOPHIELsmiles]
Published: February 8, 2012 By: