Wedding Chicks has responded (located at bottom of article).
Advertising utilizing social media has been an uphill trend for those of us in the photography profession, but when does it become unscrupulous for a company to charge photographers for more exposure using their social media sites? When the social media sites say it's against their terms of service, apparently. Wedding Chicks, a popular wedding blog, is doing just that to wedding photographers on Pinterest and other social media sites.
I was going through our Fstoppers Facebook group when I noticed a very irate post about the wedding photography blog charging photographers money to post their photos and information on their social media sites. The poster was Dina Douglass of Andrena Photography, a very influential wedding photographer based out of Los Angeles, who was named one of the top wedding photographers in the world by American Photo Magazine in 2011. So, of course this caught my attention right away.
Her complaint was the fact that Wedding Chicks is charging photographers to have their content posted onto their social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. For their Pinterest social media account they are charging photographers $100 to pin three photos onto their account and $150 to pin five images, as shown on their advertisement below.
"When I discovered that Wedding Chicks was offering to pin images to their Pinterest page for a fee, I was disappointed as it reminded me of the slippery slope that we’ve been on as an industry. Generous photographer contributions are the foundation for wedding blog businesses. Pinning images for a fee seems to take advantage of photographer generosity. I have to wonder where this is going to end." -Dina Douglass
It's not just Pinterest that they're charging money for though. If you want to be featured on their Facebook page without buying any actual space on their blog, that will cost you too. For example if you want a simple social media package it will cost you $200 for two pins on their Pinterest account, one Facebook post on their Facebook page and one tweet on their Twitter timeline. The prices go up with the more social interaction you request. You can see their social media packages on their media kit.
Now you might be wondering why this is news at all. You see it across social media platforms everyday. Companies that charge advertisers to have their content on their social media sites is nothing new. The reason this is causing such an uproar in the wedding photography community is because of two issues. First and most importantly it is against Pinterest's and Facebook's Terms of Service (Facebook) or Acceptable Use Policy (Pinterest) for any persons or companies to charge for third party advertisements. Twitter seems to be vague when it comes to their position on third party advertising. Second because blogs like Wedding Chicks have been built on photographer content. So to say that they are now charging you to give them content to post on their social media is absurd.
I reached out to Pinterest about their Acceptable Use Policy and how it deals with situations like the one with Wedding Chicks. I asked them, "If a blog charges a photographer $150 to have 5 of their (the photographer's) photos pinned onto the blog's Pinterest account/board is that a breach of your ToS?" Annie Ta from Pinterest responded quickly, "It's a violation of our AUP to pay [charge] directly for Pins as per this section: http://about.pinterest.com/use/#compensates-pinning."
So, the argument on whether it's okay for Wedding Chicks and blogs like them to charge people to post on their social media (Facebook and Pinterest) is a moot one. The answer is a simple "no." Nonetheless, the debate did reach to Facebook and Pinterest where photographers around the country shared their disgust for the blog's business practices.
Wedding Chicks took to Twitter to defend their advertising model.
It's one thing to charge someone for a sponsored post on your blog and then out of courtesy plug that sponsored post on Facebook or Pinterest, but you simply cannot charge directly for those posts or pins. Wedding Chicks is under the impression that it's providing a service to their vendors when in actuality they're performing a disservice to photographers. As blogs we thrive on content provided by photographers, especially wedding blogs that are built on the backs of the imagery that wedding photographers provide. So, to charge a photographer for content that the photographer under normal circumstances provides to them to help keep their blog fresh, engaging and read-worthy is beyond absurd, and in my opinion, an insult to photographers everywhere.
You as wedding photographers help keep wedding blogs in business. If it wasn't for your imagery on their sites, no one would bother to take a second glance at them. Now am I saying all advertising with them is wrong? Absolutely not. If you want to be featured on their blog (and not invited to be featured) then sure they can charge you for the exposure. There's no rule against that. If a company wants to put advertising space on a blog, there's nothing wrong with that either (although there are people who would argue that point). As a potential bride I don't know how much trust I can have with a wedding blog (not a directory like WeddingWire.com) that charges to have photographers featured on their website and does not just feature photographers based on talent alone.
"I'd like to see wedding blogs adopt a set of standard practices that ensure fair treatment for contributors. At a minimum, I strongly believe photographer credits should be posted directly on photographs. This practice would ensure that the creator's identification would stay with their work, even if the photos are re-shared on other web sites, blogs or social media. Most wedding blogs don't allow on-image credit and this practice does a huge disservice to photographers seeking to protect their work.
I'd also like to see wedding blogs adopt content ethics that are more in line with journalistic standards. To that end, I'd suggest that wedding blogs that employ pay-to-play marketing identify paid content as “paid” or “sponsored.” This kind of authentic transparency would do a great service to both their readership and their contributors. While many photographers enjoy the enhanced visibility that wedding blogs provide, the pendulum has swung so far in favor of the wedding blogs that many photographers feel they consistently end up with the short end of the stick."- Dina Douglass
As a blogger for Fstoppers I couldn't agree more with Dina. How do you feel about wedding blogs like Wedding Chicks breaking social media terms of service so that they can charge you to provide them with content?
Wedding Chicks' response to Rebecca Britt:
"Firstly, we wanted to let you know that any of our Valentine's Day promotional pin packages, that have been purchased alone and part of a larger advertising package, have been refunded and issued an apology.
We apologize breaking from the Pinterest Terms of Service. We had no intention on doing that and have tried to rectify the situation.
There also seems to be a confusion around submissions/features and advertising. Every wedding, styled shoot, bouquet recipe and diy project that you see on our homepage is featured at no cost. I see that you have our media kit, so you know what we do consider to be advertising. The above homepage features are not part of that."