Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Dark Side of Pinterest.

I'm one of those people who always asks, What's in it for THEM? whenever a new, "free" online service becomes hot.

We all know What's in it for Google when we search. THEM build databases from our searches and then sell ads based on the popularity and value of keywords and search results. And if we use Gmail, then Google sends us ads based on the keywords used in our emails. Which is why I've curbed my use of the word, dildo.

We know What's in it for Facebook. THEM give you a place to hang out while you're supposed to be looking for a job.

And in exchange for wasting all your free time there, THEM get to see who and what and why you exist. THEM get all your personal data, your online life and sell it to everyone. THEM get your soul.

Now some people, assholes we call them, say that you are just trading this information for being able to use these free services. But this is the part that makes them assholes; if the services were free, then I shouldn't need to give anyone anything. Asshole.

So these free services are not free and since we never know just what they are taking from us in exchange for our using them, we can never truly understand just how much we have given away. What is your personal information worth? Is it worth five hours growing fake crops? Is it worth looking at a dozen photos of your junior high best friend's new baby?

And so when Pinterest came along, I also asked, What's in it for THEM? when I upload and pin photos of items of things I want or like or might buy?

My first thought, which was completely wrong, was that companies wouldn't want all of us pinning the photos of their products to some other website when they really want us to visit their website to view those products. And now I know that's not even a little bit right. Like if I saw some lingerie at Anthropolgie that I liked, which I often do, and I pinned it on a Pinterest board, wouldn't Anthropologie get mad? The answer is No. (Whoops, but it looks like some people don't appreciate having their content pinned.)

When you create a board on Pinterest and pin items to it, those links actually benefit the companies where you pin. Think of it this way: if you're Store X and have some products on your website, the only way to for anyone to see them is to visit your online store. Or if you're lucky, have your product appear in a Google or Yahoo shopping or NexTag or PriceGrabber or whatever search. But what if you had your own tiny little army of soldiers who would make tiny little stores on Pinterest where all your coolest stuff were on display? Wouldn't that be awesome?

So if I'm Store X and my buyers fill my store with stuff, I need to advertise it if I want it sold. And advertising isn't cheap. If my Pinterest Army made boards and pinned only my best stuff, then I would have another outlet for my products. It's like, maybe an Elle or Vogue magazine page where they group all the white dresses and white accessories together or all the hats. But this is a live page with links to actual items you can buy and not some sheet of paper that just says, Jimmy Choo sandals, $450. I can click on the image and buy it now!

Let's say you want to find that black and white stripe sailor bikini you just saw Taylor Swift wearing in that photo the other day and you find a Hurley or Juicy Couture style that looks just like it? If you Pin It and describe it as the Taylor Swift bikini, you're probably going to get hundreds if not thousands of "likes" or "repins" for it and more than a few sales. And I'm betting that Juicy can't legally call their bikini, the Taylor Swift, without suffering some legal bungholery. But you can pin it and name it and it's all legal. Even if you're a Juicy employee or work for the store that sells it.

In fact, Pinterest has a whole section devoted to shopping for Gifts. Who'da thunk?

So if you are Store X, how do you reward your Pinterest Army? Do you reward just one person, the General? Or do you not reward all the soldiers? And if you're a soldier, what do you get out of all the time you spend pinning?

I never think my time is worth nothing. Because I went to college. Three times.

So now when I see items on Pinterest, I think, What motivates that person to pin? Is this someone working for Store X or promoting their friend's stuff on Etsy? Is this their job? Am I being manipulated?

But I'm guessing some of you don't care. Because those earrings are gorgeous.

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