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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Pinterest Conundrum

Photographers struggle to determine whether Pinterest is a marketing savior or a copyright nightmare

"Also," he adds, "driving traffic to a website isn't the same as conversion. You can have a lot of unqualified traffic that's disinterested in buying photos or hiring you for a service. I think you're better off building word of mouth in conjunction with your Facebook presence."

For photographers in search of long-lasting editorial, corporate and advertising clients, there are likely better methods of engagement than Pinterest. For wedding shooters, family photographers and specialists who target new moms, however, the site simply may be in its infancy as an invaluable tool for marketing and branding, if not direct sales.

Family photographer Amy Hoogstad hasn't been able to attribute sales directly to her use of Pinterest, but she still believes it's a useful tool. She experienced firsthand how a blog post showcasing her work could take on new life and reach a new audience.

"My experience with Pinterest is simply as a way to increase traffic to my website," she says. "Before Pinterest was even a thing, I wrote a post showing canvases I created of my children. They were unique. Someone pinned it and it spread around, and since then, it has been pinned many times. I haven't gained clients directly from Pinterest, but increased traffic helps my SEO, which in turn helps me get new clients."

Search engine optimization is a very real concern. Pinterest, as the fastest-growing social network in history, certainly seems to offer SEO benefits by providing links back to a photographer's own website or blog. The more you're pinned, the more relevant Google deems you to be.

Perhaps the biggest challenge when using Pinterest is to balance the site's unspoken etiquette—not to use the service for blatant self-promotion—with the legal realities of sharing another photographer's work without permission. Etiquette in the blog-osphere has long dictated that bloggers link photographs directly to the creator and/or license holder, another strained place where etiquette and the letter of the law collide. Pinterest, unlike millions of independent blogs, offers a single point of focus in what may be an inevitable copyright battle—much like Napster more than a decade ago.

While it remains to be seen how well Pinterest will weather a potential legal challenge to its service (the site's terms make individual users responsible for any copyright violations), its marketing potential is on equally unsteady ground. It's sure to become increasingly useful, allowing wedding and family photographers to interact with customers, plan shoots and potentially even garner new business. But for advertising and editorial photographers—those whose clients are creative directors and art buyers—Pinterest simply may be the place where buyers occasionally stumble upon photographs they appreciate—whether those images were uploaded by the photographer who made them or not.

The conundrum each photographer must wrestle with is whether consenting to our work being shared via Pinterest ultimately may be in the best interest of our businesses or if the site is best treated as a threat to our copyrights and the value of photography, in general. It's a decision that's sure to be different for every photographer.


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