PR Pros React to Pinterest’s Link Blockade

When Pinterest began driving more traffic to retail Web sites than Google+, LinkedIn, Reddit and YouTube combined in January 2012, it cemented itself as one of the Big Three social platforms for brands.

However, the traffic-referring highway has actually taken steps to disable sharing links as part of its broader efforts to fight spam, reports All Things D. Specifically, Pinterest is blocking or stripping three types of links, when they are “pinned” by any user, according to All Things D:

  • Pinterest treats affiliate links from sites such as Amazon as spam, and has been doing so since April.

  • Pinterest is also now flagging links posted with shortened URLs created by Bitly and HootSuite.

  • The site is stripping information added to the end of a URL, a common analytics technique to track click-throughs.

While most of these blockings likely won't change the average Pinterest user's experience, they do have implications for social media managers and PR pros. Callan Green, senior social media specialist at Sony, says she noticed these changes a while ago, and stopped using URL shorteners and tracking codes, instead relying on Sony's back-end analytics to track traffic from the site.
Additionally, Green, who will be co-leading a session on Pinterest at PR News' Aug. 9 Big 3 Conference in San Francisco, says that Sony isn’t solely relying on Web site traffic to measure success on the platform. "While the traffic from Pinterest to the site is certainly an indication of intent to buy, we are also looking at engagement with our pins and overall brand impressions," says Green. "We’ve been using both Pin Reach and Curalate to help us track these metrics." Pinterest has said that these blockings are not necessarily long-term solutions to the spam problems, so Green doesn’t see any need to adjust Sony's strategy—for now.

Staci Perkins, director of marketing and communications at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and also a Big 3 Conference speaker, says that based on these link blockings, the foundation—which pins to increase general awareness of the organization—doesn't plan to make any strategic changes. "It would be a challenge to pin from a retail site and not be blocked for spam, but Pinterest will figure it out based on the behavior of the end users—just like it has learned from its huge growth over the past year," says Perkins.

Perkins created the foundation's pinboards through trial and error. "Seeing what our followers repin is a real-time gauge for us. There’s a lot of awareness being generated for the children we serve—the 107,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted—so we’ll keep pinning," says Perkins.  
In terms of alternative analytic tools that aren't being blocked by Pinterest, Perkins says she has used Pinerly intermittently, which is campaign-based and only provides results based on a “campaign.” However, the foundation's strategy isn’t campaign-based—Perkins posts a lot of child-welfare news stories, free resources from its Web site, adoption stories and inspirational stories.

Despite the lack of robust measurement and tracking tools, Pinterest's dramatic growth and dedicated user base—and the fact that 21% of U.S. Pinterest users say they have purchased a product after seeing it on Pinterest—is reason enough for PR pros to stay committed to pinning while the site deals with spammers.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg

To hear more from Pinterest experts Callan Green and Staci Perkins, register now for PR News' Big 3 Conference: Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook on August 9 in San Francisco.