One of the hardest phases in the life of a successful social network is monetization. It's kind of like the pupa stage of a butterfly: there's a lot of crazy effort going on to make sure things come out beautifully, and no one really knows if it worked until the very end. Pinterest, however, seems to be getting through that particular transition with relative ease, as evidenced by their announcement that they had recently broken 60 million buyable pins.
What's remarkable, and a testament to the skillful management of the new project, is that, according to George Slefo in Advertising Age, the effort on buyable pins only began in June. (Pinterest only began real monetization efforts early this year.) Another sign of success is not only the wide variety of retailers and companies with buyable pins, but also how big some of the names are. The list includes Bloomingdale's, Wayfair, DVF, Steven Alan, and more.
Many of these merchants and companies have come through Pinterest's integration of the e-commerce platforms Magento, IBM Commerce, and Bigcommerce. These monetization efforts will allow Pinterest to continue to compete with other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, that have added purchasing capabilities.
Pinterest is in a strange position. It is a social network unlike the other big names in the industry whose content is based on, well, being social. Facebook and Twitter are about people talking to each other with some products mixed in, while Pinterest is largely about the sharing and trading of products (or images of products really) with some social mixed in. (I'm on Pinterest, and I don't think I've ever actually communicated with another user.) And while its 100 million user count lags behind the big boys, Pinterest's user base is very engaged and active.
However, it is the product-based approach that may allow Pinterest to monetize quckly and successfully, if only for the obvious reason that merchants interested in advertising on Pinterest know for a fact that the network's users are on the site to see sellable products. The rest is just ad targeting. Pinterest doesn't have that "interrupting the conversation" effect that ads and purchase suggestions have on other social networks. You were there to look for dresses anyway, so it isn't that out of place when DVF has a few pin suggestions for you.
It is still worth noting that while buyable pins have been expanding, the 60 million number is still a small part of the 50 billion pins already on Pinterest. Currently, buyable pins are only available on Apple products (iPad and iPhone) but will be expanding to Android and desktop users in the near future.