Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Are You There, Pinterest? It's Me, Maddie.

Pinterest has been through a lot since their meteoric rise to popularity this year. Last week, they revised their rules to cover a gaping hole in their TOS in response to copyright concerns. This week, they added a clause to forbid pinning anything that "creates a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement or physical or mental illness to yourself, to any other person, or to any animal." This comes in the wake of public outcry against pro-eating disorder communities and Tumblr's move last month to ban content that promotes self-harm, including pro-ED content.

Here's the problem: Pinterest is still saturated with pro-anorexic content. A search for the keyword "thinspo" (a term used by the pro-ED community to describe images that provide inspiration to continue eating disorder behaviors) turns up endless images of jutting collarbones, stick-thin legs, and concave stomachs. I know from years of experience in content moderation: Don't ban something if you don't have a plan in place to remove it.

But worse than these issues themselves is that Pinterest's team has remained eerily silent. I am particularly surprised that Pinterest's community manager is nowhere to be found. In fact, as the CM of a user-generated content site myself, I saw the copyright debacle coming and reached out to her via LinkedIn. About a week later, everyone was talking about it. I didn't take offense at her lack of response; she must be busy. But doing what?

This is the real problem with Pinterest, the one they're going to have to solve or sink. We all make mistakes, as individuals and as companies. Pinterest hasn't made any mistakes from which they can't recover. I've read a lot of criticism of the company, but I haven't read anything that indicates people aren't ready to forgive and forget. But when you make a mistake, you need to reach out to people and invite them to do so. Admit you're not infallible, and use that point to relate to your users, rather than remaining silent and risking a loss of brand trust.

2 comments:

Matt Hirschfelt said...

"But when you make a mistake, you need to reach out to people and invite them to do so. Admit you're not infallible, and use that point to relate to your users, rather than remaining silent and risking a loss of brand trust."

That's definitely an important point and something that I did wrong when I first started in Community Management. At times I felt I needed to preserve the image that "I'm right even if I'm wrong." However, that was probably the worst thing I could have done and only drove the wedge further between the company and the community. It took awhile to repair that connection and its still pretty fragile because of that initial brash position I took.

Maddie Ruud said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Matt. I think it's a common misconception, the idea that accepting responsibility makes us weaker brands. It makes us more human, and therefore more emotionally accessible... But only when handled properly.