The only pictures I post on my blog are either mine or book covers that are designed to advertise the book I’m reviewing. I know pictures are a draw for people, and I hope my covers do that when I don’t have picture-specific content. It wouldn’t make sense for me to take someone else’s picture for an illustration, though I can see purchasing use rights if I’m trying to demonstrate a concept because pictures can help solidify it in the minds of the readers.
However, every Friday, I link to articles I think deserve more attention. It’s old-fashion word of mouth but to a larger audience. I have no problem sending traffic away from my site to places I think might be interesting to those who come to visit my online home. While I don’t use pictures to do so, if I did, the point would be the same as the inclusion of the picture on the site I’m linking to…to draw people in and encourage them to go read the article.
Not every type of link works best with a simple description. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words, and that visual representation will encourage a click more than any lengthy explanation.
Enter Pinterest, a site that allows you to provide a bookmark to articles, blog posts, or websites, representing them with images to catch the eye of potential readers. It seems like a great idea, but has been complicated by the question of copyright. There is a difference between driving traffic with a text link or with an image used to enliven the article or blog post. At first, that wasn’t clear, but it’s becoming more and more so, limiting the use of a service like Pinterest, especially when they discourage using it as a sales tool, but at the same time the only site you can link to without risk is your own.
Here’s where the Call to Action comes in.
The Internet has opened us to a whole new conceptualization of word of mouth. Instead of passing a book, an article, or whatever, to a friend and hoping they pass it along to another, the Internet lets people share their interests, the discovery of good information sources, something that fascinates them, etc. with people across the globe in the same instant. This has its downsides when you’re complaining about your boss, or revealing intimate secrets, but as far as sharing something useful, it’s a wonderful tool. But here’s the kicker. It’s not just useful for the person who shares the information. It’s wonderful for the person whose article, blog, or whatever is shared.
What is the most important part of having a site? I doubt many would quibble with “readers” as the answer. If you wanted a private space, a diary or journal is a better bet than publishing online. So, anything that drives traffic to your site, especially without you having to put out any extra effort, is a good thing.
And sites like Pinterest serve to drive traffic. If an image catches a person’s eye, they’ll click down to see more.
Since joining Pinterest, I’ve gone to food blogs, quilting blogs, travel sites, and more that I otherwise would not have run across. I’ve read articles about people’s experiences in foreign countries, and checked out books I might not have noticed. This is not only good for me, but for the sites I’ve been to. Sometimes it’s because I passed the information to someone else who could take advantage of the site, sometimes because I purchased something myself. That’s the point of putting something up on the Web. To be seen, to be shared, to be noticed in a swamp of information that only gets bigger by the moment.
So, how do we deal with the issues of copyright and the concept of taking someone else’s work even if it serves to advertise that person’s site?
I haven’t put it in play yet, because I’m still figuring out the wording, but I’m going to add a use statement to my site regarding Pinterest, etc. Sure, it’s not the responsibility of the site owner to ensure readers respect their copyright, but I ask you to consider the consequences of people who are inclined to share your content with others but decide the risk is too high. Make the unique forms of word of mouth possible and easy for your readers. Whether you ask them not to post on Pinterest, whether you flag specific images for Pinterest (like your header), or whether you tell them to have at it, the point is to make it clear. Encourage your readers to enjoy your site and share it in the ways you find appropriate rather than making them hesitate and worry.
So, do you have a statement of use for your site? If you do, please link to it to help others figure this out (including me) and if you do not, is there anything you think should be included.
P.S. As of this moment, I have removed my inspiration and food boards which were composed largely of repinned images, and am contacting the sites for my sewing and quilting boards for permission. If they do not give me permission, I will remove those boards as well, leaving only my books and the books I review. It was not an easy decision, especially to lose the collection of inspirations, but with the TOS making both the original pinner and all repinners responsible for getting the permission, the effort was not worth it. For the sewing and quilting, this is a good way to remind myself of the projects I want to tackle (the visual makes it more likely I’ll actually do them) so it’s worth the time.