How Pinterest’s Decision to Ban Affiliate Links Affects Strategy

"Power users" need to find new revenue sources.


A couple of weeks ago, we talked to some experts about the decline of Facebook’s once-famous organic reach. Looks like we might need to have the same conversation regarding Pinterest.

To the dismay of fashion and food bloggers everywhere, the company recently announced that it would ban affiliate links and ask “power users” to find other ways to make money.

Today the reason behind the move became clear: Digiday reports that the company told ad agency executives that it plans to roll out a “multi-pin carousel” option that will allow their clients to include several products and retail links in a single promoted pin. The idea is very similar to past efforts by Twitter and Facebook to force users to pay for results.

We asked experts in the field for their opinions on the move.

From Alicia Navarro, founder and CEO of content marketing platform Skimlinks (which aims to “allow publishers to understand the performance of their commerce-related content or ‘comtent'”):

“On one hand, it is good news that Pinterest is applying their policy fairly across all affiliate providers, so it’s an even playing field. But overall I think their strategy may disincentive content creators from spending the time creating engaging boards.

You look at other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and they encourage their community to monetize the content they create on their platforms, and optimize their efforts around minimizing the spammy elements that can result for this activity.

I would have liked to see Pinterest take a similar approach: let their community monetize their links where their actions weren’t spammy, while they focus on their higher-funnel marketing efforts with advertisers.”

From Cynthia Johnson, director of marketing and social at Santa Monica digital marketing consultancy Ranklab:

“Removal of affiliate links from Pinterest was the only logical step for Pinterest to take.

Just like every other social media platform (or any other business for that matter), they need to find new ways to increase revenue — and advertising is clearly the way to go with their platform.

This is the reason why people should not build their business models on platforms or with tools that they have no control over.  It’s time that people and brands start getting creative and start building relationships that allow for growth and long-term success.”

What do we think?

How will these changes affect strategy moving forward — particularly with respect to food and fashion influencers with big Pinterest followings?