Why The New Pinterest Contest Rules (Mostly) Make Sense

Once the Wild West with its lack of restrictions on contests, Pinterest has new marketing guidelines for businesses that clamp down on certain types of promotions and sweepstakes. While the rules might prohibit some contests from running in the future, they leave most promotions alone — and even help marketers stay clear of contests that were once a analytical nightmare.

If you once ran a Pinterest contest that gave a prize to an entrant whose pin received the most likes (or re-pins), you were smart. A simple click of a “repin” or “like” reduced the barrier of entry and encouraged participation from pinners not quite yet ready to build entire boards for brands.

But such contests are no longer allowed. Pinterest’s official word in its updated marketing guidelines states “Don’t …  ask pinners to vote with a repin or like.”

These restrictions are similar to what Facebook has in its page promotion guidelines. The idea here is that both platforms do not want an action on their “walls” to constitute an entry for a prize.

Axing like and repin contests makes good business sense given its closed API and lack of native measurement tools.

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Right now, there is no easy way to track all those who repin or like a particular image on Pinterest. Take my pin about animals doing yoga poses for an example– the only pin I have ever had go viral. It has received an astonishing 664 repins to date — but if you scroll down that pin’s page, you’ll notice that you are able to see only 10 of my repinners. If I was to have run a contest with this pin, I would not have been able to contact any of the remaining 665 repinners.  The same loss of data would have applied to 143 people who took the time to like my pin.

While Facebook does not permit comments as a mode of entry on its wall, Pinterest hasn’t made that leap yet. Its new guidelines merely caution businesses to “[s]teer clear of contests that encourage spammy behavior, such as asking participants to comment repeatedly.”

Keeping comments as an option for contests is smart for three reasons. First, it’s considerably easier for contest admins to track those who have left comments (versus those who have liked and repinned — as we’ve just learned). Second, Pinterest is currently without any sort of direct message function. So if a contest requires an entrant to send a URL to a entry board or an email address for winner notification, the only way to do it on Pinterest is by leaving a comment with the pertinent info.

And lastly — and most attractive to the marketer geek in me — a contest that requires a comment on a business board can bring in tons more market feedback than a simple like or repin click can. If you’re thinking about ideas for a comment contest, try a photo caption contest or give a sneak peak into a new product or service and have your followers give a whack at naming the upcoming offering.

How will your future contests on Pinterest change as a result of these new guidelines?

Photo credit: Flickr CC/sierratierra

Comments: 7

  • Tom Bishop says:

    Great post! Santa’s Village in NH, btw, in case anyone wonders about the photo. I knew it. I’ve been there WAAAY too much!

  • Jen M. says:

    There is one big reason I’ve never run a contest on Pinterest (or Instagram, for the same reason): I can’t figure out a good way to notify winners. Do most people just do it through the comments? What happens if Pinterest goes the same way as FB and disallows winner notification on their site?

    • Jen: many brands have had your same concerns and have thus run one of the following three hybrid Pinterest contests.

      The first is to host the contest on company blog/Website where entrants add a comment to the contest post w/the URL of their board/pin entry. With this method, winners are usually announced in a new blog post or as a final comment to the contest post.

      The second option is to create a custom Facebook tab for entrants to paste their URL of their board/pin entry and add their email address.

      Others who don’t have the tech skills/bandwidth for the first two options have required entrants to send their board/pin entry to a company email address.

      In the last two cases, companies can contact winners via email. In the first case, brands can ask a winner to send their email to a particular address for further info.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you’d like more info.

  • Lisa, Thanks for the great post about Pinterest Contest. Contest guidelines can get confusing real quick when a company uses a bunch of legal jargon. It’s nice to see Pinterest communicating like a person and not a law office — or at least giving us both versions (legal and normal language).

    Thanks again!

    Leah Van Rooy

  • You may want to update this post. It now states under the DON’T list: “Encourage spammy behavior, such as asking participants to comment.” The word “repeatedly” is not mentioned which leaves me to think commenting at all is not allowed to be part of a contest.

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