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How People You’ve Never Heard of Got To Be the Most Powerful Users on Pinterest


These social media “Pinomenons” differ from most Internet celebrities in a few key ways. First, they are not celebrities. And second, for the most part, they didn’t hound the spotlight with so many self-promotional posts and “#followforfollow” traffic schemes. Instead, in many cases, popularity was handed to them, without warning, by Pinterest itself.


Perhaps inadvertently, Pinterest gave these pinners a valuable asset — a captive audience—that they’ve been able to cash in on since. Vokolos, hardly the exception, says she can pay her Manhattan rent with the money she earns through Pinterest. She’s been hired by brands such as Nars, Mr. Porter and Sevenly to share products of her choosing on her boards. Often, using affiliate links tracked by the company RewardStyle, she’ll earn a commission off of accessories she posts that her followers later buy. There have been fashion week party invitations and offers for free clothing. 


Though Vokolos negotiates all her own deals so she can keep full control over what appears under the Veanad name, a suite of companies, includingHelloSociety and Storylark, now exist to help brands inject promotions into popular pinners’ feeds. HelloSociety, for example, sells access to what it claims is an “exclusive group” of over 350 Pinterest “influencers.”


Pinterest also has its misgivings. Even as the site has sought to make money off its popularity, it has laid down a patchwork of often inconsistent-seeming rules that limit its users from profiting off their followings. Referral links that pay a commission, such as RewardStyle or ShopStyle, are a-OK. But Pinterest prohibits getting paid for pins — even, presumably, if the pinner gets to choose what items to post and when to delete them. The site seems keen to reserve this particular privilege for itself. Earlier this year, it launched “Promoted Pins,” a way for Pinterest to charge companies for placing pins in users’ feeds. Members aren’t allowed to do so, explained a Pinterest spokeswoman, because the company “want[s] Pins to represent authentic interests — not just things sold by the highest bidder.”

Several pinners quietly admitted to making money off their enormous followings but declined to share more on the record. They’re confused about what Pinterest does or doesn’t allow. And since they rely on the site for extra income, they fear saying the wrong thing could get their accounts closed, banned or purged of their followers.

With no consistent way (or incentive) to disclose paid deals, the lack of transparency filters down to pinners’ followers. Sponsored posts on Pinterest often seem to fall short of what the Federal Trade Commission’sdisclosure rules require, where even the pithiest paid posts are meant to have some form of “#ad” or “#sponsored” disclaimer. Earlier this year, the FTC chastised Cole Haan for running a Pinterest contest under the hashtag “#WanderingSole” that, the agency argued, failed to highlight the financial incentive. Cole Haan escaped with a warning, as the FTC admitted that it had not “explicitly addressed whether a pin on Pinterest may constitute an endorsement.”

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Pinterest is the top social referrer to e-commerce sites, and the amount of traffic it sends is on the up:

Pinterest social referrals traffic chart 2015 data driven predictions

Meanwhile, as we can see from the graph below, Pinterest’s traffic has more than doubled between June 2013 and November 2014.

Pinterest traffic growth rate chart 2015

With this in mind, expect social sharing (and Pinterest in particular) to be of even more importance to e-commerce sites in 2015.


eCommerce is becoming more social.

No wonder brands want to pay top Pinterest users for their help!

What's interesting about the original article is that Pinterest created its power users by giving them traffic. And yet Pinterest doesn't really do any power user community management. 

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