When Pinterest cut off affiliate marketing for pins recently, they urged “power-users” who had previously been using either RewardStyle or Hello Sociey's affiliate links to
monetize their fan base in approved ways. The company suggests: “participate in paid social media marketing involving Pinterest, be paid to curate a board or be paid to create original content for a business.”
There's a lot of speculation about why Pinterest did this—they say that they had noticed that among RewardStyle users specifically, “their Pinner behavior going downhill,” and their main concern is keeping pins relevant and un-spammy. But the consensus among observers seems to be that Pinterest is launching their own buy button that will enable them to make money directly from merchants, thereby cutting out bloggers altogether.
But Pinterest endorsing paid campaigns/sponsored posts as a way for bloggers to make money, implying that affiliate marketing is less than desirable on their platform is what interests me. Not the least because I would have assumed that the “buy” button they're presumed to be launching would be an affiliate scheme by which they make a percentage of sales.
And then, it made me think about the nature of monetizing blogs in general, and which is “better:” sponsored content? or affiliate marketing? And what does Pinterest's decision mean for blog monetization in general?
In my more than 10 years blogging, I've only taken 2-3 “sponsored” post opportunities, preferring to make more than 75% of my full-time blogging income from affiliate commissions. I choose not to take a lot of sponsored posts because I don't like the strings that are inevitably attached to them, but for many bloggers it's not a choice whether or not to take a sponsored campaign; they don't even get offers.
Blog monetization is all about trust, and I've found that one of the biggest indicators of trust and loyalty on a blog is making money from affiliate marketing. The ONLY way you'll make money that way is if your readers trust (and like) you enough to click on your links, and THEN, if they buy what it is you linked to! I use it as a tool to determine what sort of stories resonate better with my readers, what they tend to click on more often, and what they buy.
Yes, affiliate marketing can be spammy, and over the top sometimes, depending on how it's used, as well as the blogger using it. But in my opinion, it's a good and “genuine” way to make money from blogging. Of course, there are exceptions to everything, and many bloggers do sponsored campaigns very well, and tastefully. But many STILL do NOT disclose that they've been paid for their posts, or that they received something for free, and besides that being illegal, it's just not “right.”
Ultimately, the message for bloggers from Pinterest's recent decision is don't put all your eggs in one basket; diversify your income streams. I can't imagine how hard that that hit the bloggers who WERE making money from their pins. The message seems to be: don't rely only on affiliate income from your pins for most of your income. Instead, do freelance work, monetize your blog with direct advertising, and start taking sponsored campaigns from companies you trust if you're offered them and are so inclined.
What do you think of Pinterst's decision to eliminate affiliate links?