Should you self-promote on Pinterest?

As Pinterest grows and faces copyright issues, pinners are shifting their opinions on whether it's alright to pin their own pictures. 


Lauren Rae Orsini

Internet Culture

Published Mar 2, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 8:38 pm CDT

Is it alright to self-promote on Pinterest?

Official Pin Etiquette doesn’t exactly say that it’s good to do it. But the policy doesn’t say it’s bad either.

“Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion,” it says.

Though this statement may seem open-ended, many pinners have taken a stricter stance.

“Constantly pinning your own blog posts, photos, etc. is like masturbating in public, said Thomas Hawk in a blog post. “That’s right.  Do it as much as you want but it’s fucking gross.”

This previously firm opinion may be changing. Between the site’s booming growth—more than eleven million people visited this January—and the rise of copyright issues that call into question what kinds of pictures are OK to pin, the site is undergoing a cultural shift. What was once considered gauche may now be fine.

“Perhaps self-promotion is frowned upon because it’s ‘free advertising’—but, again, the whole site is basically free advertising for everything—products, bloggers, brands, causes, etc.,” said  Allison Tyler of WTF Pinterest. “So are ‘they’ saying it’s OK to advertise ‘free’ for others, but not for oneself?”

The case of Ann Romney (leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife) shows just how split the community is. When she dedicated a pinboard to her family photos, some users derided her as self-promoting:

“Ann sweetie, please keep your lame pictures in your scrapbook, because we are not remotely interested,” wrote a commenter on the Huffington Post.

On the other hand, at least 50 pinners left positive comments.

Pinners take so-called self promotion very seriously, according to Kristen Kowalski, a lawyer and photographer whose post on Pinterest legality went viral,

“Last week another photographer posted a question on Facebook asking if it was okay to pin your own work on Pinterest.  I was surprised to see that many of the photographers who commented back admonished those who pin their own work and even cited Pinterest’s suggested rules of etiquette, which apparently discourage self-promotion.”

Kowalski’s post highlights the core issue at hand—pinners are no long sure that reposting images from around the Web is legally OK when it comes to copyright law. New questions are emerging, such as whether it’s OK to pin a photo from someone else’s page or even a company’s product line.

Some community members at Flickr and Etsy are even going so far as to say no, it’s not OK. They’re opting out of the pinning party and requesting that you do not repin their work.

The practice that was once core to pinners: pinning other people’s work, not their own, may no longer be acceptable. And if artists don’t want people to pin their work, perhaps it’s time to rethink self-pinning.

It can work effectively.

Take Tyler Cheese, a copywriter who broke a hard and fast etiquette rule by hardly pinning anything but his own photos. When companies have acted similarly, they’ve been derided.

But Cheese seems to make his self-promotional style work. He  uses Pinterest as a resume, portfolio, and medium for his life story. Cheese tells us he’s received an onslaught of positive feedback.

“I got a chance to express who I am professionally and personally and I’ve received overwhelmingly positive responses,” he told us. “I’ve been completely amazed at how many people have seen it. And I am positive that people in Europe wouldn’t be tweeting about my resume if I had just posted it on any old site.”

His page isn’t just random photos. Paired with pins about his work experience and biography, the Canadian copywriter shares personal details about his life, explains why he took certain jobs, and details  favorite genre of TV (Sci-Fi, if you’re wondering.)

Cheese’s boards make personal pinning interesting by using the Pinterest medium to tell a story about his life. Perhaps Cheese is leading the way for other pinners.

Maybe it’s time to bend that old Pinterest etiquette rule—or even break it. Would you—or do you—do the same?

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*First Published: Mar 2, 2012, 9:00 am CST