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Pinterest Self-Serve Ads Are Coming: Are You Ready?

Pinterest is expanding their Promoted Pins tool to offer a DIY pay-per-click social ads option to businesses of all sizes. The highly visual social network has been experimenting with Promoted Pins since September 2013, but until now, only select major retailers were able to participate.

The DIY Promoted Pins platform is now being tested by a small number of US businesses and Pinterest plans to continue to open it up as they get feedback and make improvements.

Whether you get in early or wait for the full launch, there's much to be learned today so you're ready when your time comes!

So just what are Promoted Pins and should you use them to promote your business? Let's check it out:

What Are Promoted Pins?

Promoted Pins in Pinterest

When Pinterest first introduced Promoted Pins last fall, they promised they would be 3 things:

  • Tasteful
  • Transparent
  • Relevant

This is Pinterest's first (and so far, only) paid social ads product. They appear much the same as regular pins, but have a "Promoted" label and an info box to explain to consumers that what they are seeing is paid advertising, in keeping with federal advertising regulations.

Why Use Promoted Pins?

Testing began in October 2013, when a handful of major retailers like Target were given access to test the new ad format.

With this latest announcement that a self-serve platform is in the works, Pinterest is inviting smaller businesses to try it out.

Example Promoted Pins

Fashion retailer Vineyard Vines is along those with access to the self-serve Promoted Pins platform.  They're already active pinners, with over 27,000 followers, 24 boards and 1,155 pins. What this new Promoted Pins platform will allow them to do is choose to promote specific pins, paying for these as ads on a cost-per-click basis.

Think Facebook Promoted Posts for Pinterest.

However, there's a major difference, thanks to the way Pinterest operates. While Facebook ads show up either in-stream in the Newsfeed or in the right sidebar, ads on Pinterest so far show up in two places:

  • In the Category feed
  • In Pinterest Search results

There's something to be said about the level of intent of consumers already searching for specific information or types of products.

Is It Worth Advertising on Pinterest At All?

Of course, this is another one of those platforms that each business will have to test out to see if it makes sense and shows an ROI for them. However, we do know a few things about Pinterest that point to it as a viable option for at least a portion of your ad spend.

Pinterest experienced 58% YoY growth in social shares in 2013, making it the fastest growing sharing channel – and it shows no signs of slowing down. In Q4 2013, Pinterest outpaced email as the third most popular sharing channel overall.

As of May 2013, over 30 billion pins had been posted to the network and while Pinterest doesn't release user numbers, third-party analysts estimate there are about 40 million monthly active users.

Of course, to make it a viable advertising channel, we need to see some influence on online and offline purchases. A recent Javelin report showed that the average order value from a Pinterest referral to an online retailer was a whopping 126% greater than that of a Facebook referral. The AOV of a Pinterest user was $123.50, compared to $54.64 from a Facebook user.

Research shows that Pinterest influences sales in other ways, as well, from product discovery to consideration and offline sales. Over forty percent of Pinterest users do 'reverse showrooming;' they discover products on Pinterest and then go buy them in a store. And when do they buy? See MCNG's infographic:

Reverse Showrooming











VisionCritical research also points to Pinterest as the network most likely to drive spontaneous purchasing. Their insights into just who uses Pinterest and how might also help guide your decision to give it a try:

  • 83% of users are female.
  • 66% follow cooking and dining topics.
  • 63% follow DIY and crafts topics.
  • 59% follow health topics.
  • 45% follow fashion.
  • 33% follow tech.

Clearly, Pinterest users aren't only interested in cookies and birthday party ideas.

Promoted Pins Strategy

If you want to give Promoted Pins a go, use these tips to create and test more effective, engaging pins:

1. Learn from early adopters.


Follow brands like Shutterfly, Nicole Miller, Ziploc and Lululemon, which are all active businesses on Pinterest, but also among the early ads testers.

Check out their pins – the images, the messages, the format – and how they're received by their audiences. See if you can see any of their Promoted Pins in relevant searches or product categories. This is all free, public information and there's much to be learned from the experiences of others!

2. Know your audience…

And whether you're likely to find them on Pinterest, as well as how they may interact with your brand. Users are overwhelmingly female and studies show that moms share Pinterest content 3x more than the average user. Once you're active in the channel and have your own insights to build on, you'll be able to more precisely identify your own influencers. As you're just getting started though, macro-level insights can help guide your way.

3. Crowdsource and encourage user-generated content.

This can help ease the burden of having to come up with your own fresh, unique creative constantly, but also has huge benefits as far as getting your audience engaged and involved. Share images of real people using your products. Showcase unique uses that people may not have thought of. Ask your followers to send in their visual tips for using your product. This mix of UGC and branded content can be refreshing and help kickstart engagement.

4. Focus on the lifestyle, not the product.

I haven't seen any early test results yet, but I'll be really surprised if simple product pictures are great performers as Promoted Pins. Get creative! Would you rather see a picture of a boat sitting in a showroom, or a picture of a happy family out on the lake spending time together? Think about your images and the message they send to consumers. Is it "Look at what we've got!" or "Look at what you could be doing right now."  There's a massive difference.

5. Be transparent and responsive.

If you're paying to promote a pin but not answering comments or questions on it, you're throwing your money away. Promoted Pins are ads, but they're still pins. People expect a response if they communicate with your brand via social media, so don't be a broadcaster.

Sign Up to Try Promoted Pins

The DIY or self-serve platform for Promoted Pins is currently waitlisted, so you can add your name and get a notification when it's open to you. Sign up on the Pinterest Ads website here.

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