Monetizing the Pinners: Pinterest Makes Push for Ad Dollars with “Promoted Pins”

Following a familiar path set by other social networks, Pinterest this week announced the testing of its first ad product, called “promoted pins.” With promoted pins, businesses will be able to pay to have pins show at the top of search results and category feeds. Whenever a large service such as Pinterest announces the end ad-free times, there is potential for customer backlash. CEO Ben Silbermann promises the ads will be “tasteful” and “transparent” with no “flashy banners” or other pop-up type ads. The pins will be based strictly on relevancy to users’ interest, their searches, and whom they follow.

Currently, the ad format is in beta. If successful, we can expect a fast rollout of the live product. The viability of promoted pins will be extremely important to Pinterest. The three-year-old company is at a tipping point where it has scaled to 70 million users, but has yet to turn that user attention into revenue. A successful ad product would undoubtedly boost Pinterest into the inner circle of social marketing channels among the company of Facebook and Twitter.

“Promoted pins are a natural progression for Pinterest because they need to make money,” said Dani Klein, director of social media strategy and insights at M80. “If they follow the system that has been polished by Facebook and Twitter, there’s no reason for it not to work for Pinterest. Ads are an accepted part of other social networks, so the atmosphere is right for Pinterest to make this move.”

Why Pinterest Ads Will be More Effective than Twitter’s or Facebook’s

Pinterest may not have as many users as Facebook or Twitter, but it represents an exciting opportunity for marketers because of who
uses the site and how they use it. According to Pew Research Center, the average Pinterest users are 25-54-year-old females in households making at least $50,000. More importantly, social shoppers from Pinterest spend between $80 and $100 more than their counterparts from Facebook or Twitter.

The nature of Pinterest means users reveal what products they are interested in buying. A GroupM Next survey of 250 Pinterest users found that 7 out of 10 users want a friend to look at their Pinterest page when shopping for their birthday present, rather than any other social network.

While promoted pins are the first “official” paid ad product Pinterest is launching, these pins are not the only way a brand can pay to get their brand in front of the well-spending Pinterest user. Third-party sites, such as Pinbooster, offer brands a more organic approach to generating traffic using Pinterest. Pinbooster identifies top influencers on Pinterest and buckets them by various categories and interests. These influencers are made available to brands for “sponsored” or “endorsed” content pins; much in the same
way brands have utilized celebrity spokespersons in other channels for decades.

Once fully launched, promoted pins will provide another effective tool for brands to communicate to the growing Pinterest user base. Combined with previous tools such as price drop notification, Pinterest is a powerful, visual platform for marketers to reach consumers online.

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