I Hate Being Right

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Back in January when Pinterest was the talk of the town (it kind of still is) I wrote this:

“With Pinterest it really wouldn’t be hard for an affiliate to take a merchant datafeed, write some sort of auto-pin script, and flood Pinterest with thousands or even millions of pins. It wouldn’t take long before Pinterest becomes useless.” 

That was from my post “Can Pinterest and Affiliates Have a Happy Marriage

Then this morning I was reading on about an affiliate who is making over a grand a day using some automatic pinning scripts and Amazon. Basically he is posting thousands of products from Amazon with his affiliate links and then repinning and liking from multiple accounts to push the items to the top of the listings and on to the popular items.

You can see kind of what he is doing in this article on Total Pinterest and read more of the interview with him on Daily Dot.

So when I predicted some affiliate somewhere would start using some sort of automated script to flood Pinterest I was correct. But in no way am I surprised. If there is money to be made some affiliate somewhere will figure out how to do it. It has happened with other sites before and it will happen again.

In some ways it makes me mad when affiliates do things like this and the public equates “affiliate” with “spammer”. Just this morning I was having a conversation with a web developer for a large retailer who said something to the effect of “I have seem some affiliate sites and they just post some amazon links and spam the page everywhere”. I can’t remember the exact words but something to that effect. The sad part is that is the public perception of what an affiliate does assuming someone even knows the term affiliate.

But there is also another side of me that is jealous of this guy who came up with these scripts. I kinda wish I would have figured out how to do it months ago. And I am guessing most other affiliates out there had a flash of “dang, why didn’t I think of that” when they read this article as well. That is part of the problem though.

It does get so tempting sometimes to tread into murky waters when there is money involved. It will usually involve breaking some terms of service or at least breaking the intent of some terms or an agreement. It will sometimes involve some sort of deception of the consumer or breaking of consumer trust. All in all it will probably be something that would be deemed “unethical” but usually not illegal.

I don’t think there is any way to get around the fact that there will always be people that end up giving the word “affiliate” a bad name. Rebranding the industry to something like “performance marketing” isn’t the answer and I don’t think there is an effective way to properly educate the world on all the issues that are in play.

Maybe we will have to think of it like they way used car salesmen are thought of. The common perception is they are a bunch of cheats and will do and say anything to make the sale. But the truth of the matter is it is a multi-billion dollar business and while there are some crooked used car salesmen there are also many, many more who are legitimate salesmen just trying to put food on the table for their families and really do want to help their customers.

Affiliate marketing could be one of those industries that always has a black eye but I know for a fact that some of the best people I have ever met are in the affiliate marketing industry and I would trust them completely. So yeah, there are some people who give this industry a bad name but there are many more people who do great things for this industry, for their customers, for their families, for charity, and for society everyday.


  1. Nice write-up, Joe. I know where you're coming from. I think most people running businesses face ethical questions from time to time and sometimes choose money over what may be best for society as a whole. I wonder if the very competitive and measurable nature of affiliate marketing makes it a space where it's particularly tempting (and profitable) to push the limits.

    • Joe Sousa says:

      I think the fact that it is very measurable and also very scalable makes it very attractive. Reading the interview with this guy he saw that he could make $20 or so manually pinning for a few hours. That isn't a long term strategy but if you can automate that and do it a few thousand times and see pretty much instant results it can be hard to resist.

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