The rise and fall of a Pinterest influencer

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Today I’m going to talk about a different type of topic. One that maybe you didn’t know about me, or you did, but I thought it would be an interesting topic none the less. Did you know I have 853.5K followers on Pinterest as of this writing? I used to have over a million followers before it sort of hit the fan. I say that like I dropped tons and tons of followers but it hasn’t really gone down that much I should say. Still, a loss of almost a 150K+ followers is quite a bit.

Let me start off by telling how it all came to be, I was lounging about on the web one day and discovered a new up and coming social service, it was actually in beta at the time, but I had read an article about Pinterest on a design blog somewhere that got my interest piqued. Pinterest’s original idea was to be a place to bookmark your favorite things around the web all in one place in the form of a grid with lots of pretty images and share them with all your friends. There were already some other similar sites out there, but never quite took off like Pinterest did.

Once I got my beta invite I was hooked, it was an all magical place to store everything I ever saw that was cool, and growing by thousands of people a day by then. I was pinning really frequently at first, 10-20 pins 3-4 times a day, which got me in the hotspots of the featured section back when it was a much more prominent part of the site, especially since I was a male and there wasn’t a bunch of active male pinners there yet.  I’m pretty sure female to male ratio there is still pretty slim these days.  I would get hundreds and thousands of re pins and likes which just blossomed and grew and grew my social gathering.

This went on for about a year, I was labeled as one of the top influencers on Pinterest and I had companies coming to me to hock their products. I never did take many of them up on the offers since most of them were Chinese companies looking to pay out to pin cheap Chinese knock-offs. I stuck to my principles and only pinned things I liked about the product or that I had tried myself. Other influencers didn’t care and took in whatever they got offered and thus they have millions of followers because it fit with their pinning style. I chose not to “sell out” if that could be applied here. If I were to get offers today I would still pick and choose which they would be and if they fit which makes the most sense.

 

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I did however go with one company for a very long time, I discovered them and started pinning them pretty frequently because I liked their products a lot, not because I wanted to get paid or receive any monetary value for doing it. At least at first. I didn’t really want money and I honestly just wanted the product. The company I’m talking about and I’m sure you heard of, is Sevenly. They weren’t very large when I first started pinning their products and have since grown into a huge startup company. You may have even heard about their original CEO who started it, who now owns a company called Startup Camp.  He wrote a book about how his life changed being fired from his own company he created, it’s a good inspirational read about starting a small business and transforming it into something great you can read it here.  The whole thing was a great relationship at first. I would pin some stuff every week and in turn I would get a t-shirt sent to me. I must’ve had probably 30 or 40 shirts by the time it was all over.

During all this I really discovered what it was to be an “influencer” a social media influencer is one of those people labeled today who have huge growing follower accounts across their social media who influences a lot of people from all over the world. Saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing when you’re famous can cost you. It wasn’t really apparent to me how much I actually did mean something to someone else’s life until I pinned my first image of a gun. It had 56 comments and 1.3K repins but I instantly lost a couple of thousand followers because of it. It was the first time I got a real taste of how offended people can be and how I could lose followers from something so simple.  You can see the aformentioned pin here. I never actually commented on it and when I later pinned some other questionable things, didn’t comment on those either, I let people form their own opinions and kept mine to myself, because it doesn’t make a difference in what I think, although at heart, I’m pretty Sweden about most things. I like to hear both sides of an argument and form my own opinion, and if it’s different than yours I don’t really care, it’s your own and I don’t believe in forcing my opinions on others.  I respect people’s opinions even if I don’t agree with them.

Flash forward 4 years later and that trend has gotten much MUCH worse. People spout off, share, hate, like and comment on every single thing they don’t agree with anymore. 4 years ago it wasn’t nearly as bad, when people had much more respect and consideration before posting anything on the internet. Alas, that’s a whole different topic.

After that, I had to carefully start deciding what to and what not to pin, which was a first indication of why I don’t like to do it anymore as much. I should be able to pin what I want and not worry about losing 10K followers for it, and I shouldn’t care that if I did, but at the same time you have a huge sense of…I guess I would say dread about how 10,000 people liked you, then didn’t over one tiny thing in a span of about 2 minutes.

There was a few other pins that did similar things, one was about a donation campaign against KONY if you can remember that. I heavily researched everything before pinning what I did, and everything was legit about the campaign at the time I pinned it, which for that particular case turned out bad way later on when the CEO of the company went crazy.

I always made sure to do a couple of things when I did pin, and that’s ALWAYS pin the original source, which today on Pinterest is super hard to find on most things on there. It will usually take you back to a site, that has re listed it several times over some where else, and I always gave credit to wherever I got the pin from if necessary.

Doing that it started to become a job, I was pinning at peak times during the day a set number of times, daily for months. It started to become less and less fun as it become more and more of a job and more stressful and really to keep people coming in for more rather than just enjoy what I was doing. Then Pinterest decided to make some changes. Their long time goal was to ultimately allow you to advertise and to sell products on their site, which coincidentally didn’t rollout until fairly recently. They’re still in the beginning stages of that, but their long term goal started off hot.

 

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Their first step was to get rid of as many spam accounts as they could, so in one day I randomly lost 25K followers.  It was a huge hit, it wasn’t until they made the announcement that I saw why and what it was about. Then shortly after they changed their terms of service which stopped allowing companies to pay or give any item as monetary value to pinners to pin on their site, and thus my relationship with Sevenly had pretty much ended. By that time, the CEO had been fired and the company was already changing into a whole new beast, all my awesome contacts had moved into different positions or moved out of the company. They were already winding down using Pinners to promote their business since they used us enough to get what they needed and decidedly had stopped asking pinners to pin for them.  At least, that’s what I was told, to me it made sense since Pinterest was going to stop allowing that to happen anyway after a certain point. To this day though I’m sure there are tons of top influencers that get paid big bucks to pin things. There’s no way to really enforce the policy they’ve set in place and they’re naive in thinking that they don’t get paid to pin. They have to allow it or their big pinners would simply leave if they decided to crack down on it, and when your top influencer has over 12 million followers you don’t mess with them.

When they started to make the changes, this was about a year after becoming a big influencer and about 2 since I started using the service. After that, things got a little different. They started introducing new features, one where your feed didn’t only have your followers in it, but anything related to the pins you were posting show up. You can of course change it at any time, but when I started pinning again I noticed that every time I pinned some things I always lost hundreds of followers for whatever reason and I would never gain any. At first I thought it was some algorithm before I realized it was just people unfollowing me because maybe it was a long time since they’ve seen any pins from me or because their styles changed.

My styles and interests have definitely changed since I last pinned regularly, I’m not into the fashion scene as much and with so many people on the network it became increasingly hard to get noticed with the new algorithms they added in place, and after feeling like for so long it was a job and my worries about me actually influencing people TOO much I wasn’t wanting to stick around. I get on there frequently, but I don’t pin much anymore. It’s still a hugely popular service, and I still love it, but waning follower counts and the totality of everything just made me want to basically quit worrying about it. I see these stories about top influencers who were making tons of money and doing really well only to falter and fall from one pivotal moment to the next. It’s no different than being a hot AAA movie actor to sliding down scale and becoming a B movie actor after a few failed box office disasters.

I still think about going full on and trying my hand at it again some days, I’m not in denial that I could easily come back if I worked at it and stayed or gained as many followers as before, but as I said it can be at least a part to full time job, and as you can see pretty stressful, especially in today’s craziness.  Sadly these things happen to many people in the influencer profession. For comparison look at Gaby from Buzzfeed. A once thriving and still hugely famous youtube influencer who recently wrote an article about how being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are stories about Youtube stars who make millions of dollars (like PewDiePie) and have enveloped their lives around being an entertainer but it’s not always like that as you can read on HERE from Gaby’s article. You can also get an interesting read on Gaming Grandma, who is an 80 year old woman playing video games and streaming them on youtube who has become another major influencer, even for her you can see how weary she becomes after becoming and instant online celebrity. You can read all about her here.

So there you have it, the rise and fall of a Pinterest influencer, I’ve not hit rock bottom but in some ways I felt if I continued I could have.  Will I go back to it? Maybe. Right now it’s not really in the cards, but I’d like to think I could still make something out of it one day, especially with nearly a million people still following me. That’s not bad. You can of course check out my account and follow me here if you’d like. Pinnings are slim these days but they still happen.