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Potential Pinterest Dangers and Proper Pinning Etiquette

Pinterest has become the next big social media craze. The site’s design is so simple and inviting, it’s no wonder that pinning has become such a popular pastime. I use Pinterest every day, and I’ve found that I pin images even more than I update my Facebook status or write a Tweet.   

Recently, however, I noticed a potential flaw with the site. While Pinterest makes it easy for users to credit images and link back to the original source, it’s also very easy not to. Proper pinning etiquette may not seem like an issue for some pinners, who, unfortunately, might believe that the Internet is a “free-for-all” of content. But for many bloggers, crafters, designers, photographers and others who use the Internet for their business, Pinterest unleashes the opportunity for their creations or products to be shared across the site and the Web without the appropriate credit.

Do you see the danger here? Let’s take a closer look.


  • Careless sourcing. Using Google Image Search may be an effective way to find pins, but it’s also an ineffective way to source them. Pinning from Google Images creates a link back to Google, not the original source. For example, an image of knit fingerless gloves pinned directly from Google Images means the business that provides the gloves gets no credit for its product, and the pin becomes useless for anyone trying to find out where to buy those gloves.

    Another example of careless sourcing is repinning an image without verifying if the original source is correct. That incorrectly sourced image of knit fingerless gloves could be repinned hundreds of times, without the true source ever being known.

    Proper pinning etiquette:
    Always pin from the original source, and don’t repin unless the original source is known.
  • Embedding improperly sourced pins onto a blog. The “embed” feature on Pinterest allows users to take a pin and post the image on their own blog. Let’s say I find a great social media infographic on Pinterest, and then embed it on my Chicago marketing company blog. If the pin is improperly sourced, I end up sharing an original design to all of my readers without correct attribution.

    Proper pinning etiquette:
    Don’t embed images from Pinterest unless you can credit the original source.
  • Editing links to direct to an incorrect address. The ability to edit the links for pins and repins allows users to redirect images to a completely different URL than the original source, potentially boosting traffic for a site on which the image never even appeared. (Fortunately, I haven’t seen this happen on Pinterest yet, but the fact that it’s possible is a little unsettling.)

    Proper pinning etiquette:
    Don’t be a dishonest pinner. Only edit links if you are correcting an incorrect source.
  • Copying and pasting text. The copy/paste move is a big Don’t when it comes to Web content creation, and the same goes for pinning. Users who copy and paste copyrighted content directly from a website (for example, text on car lift parts safety) and onto a pin’s description are essentially stealing content. In addition, they are reducing potential referrals to the original source by giving viewers no reason to click the link for more information. 

    Proper pinning etiquette: Use short descriptions that provide the author, artist, business or website to which the pinned image belongs.

Pinterest has put together a Pin Etiquette page, which advises users how to keep the Pinterest community positive and useful. Suggestions include crediting sources correctly and avoiding self promotion.

If you see any content on Pinterest that has been sourced incorrectly, it’s likely that the pinner is simply unaware of proper pinning etiquette. Leave a comment and request proper credit for the pin. For those who have identified stolen content on Pinterest, there is also a way to report copyright infringement.

The good news is that as of now, no one seems to be abusing Pinterest. But that doesn’t mean it can’t (or won’t) eventually happen. I’m curious to see how (or if) Pinterest will address the issue.

Are you on Pinterest? Are you using proper pinning etiquette?

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