Pinterest: A Viable Ad Platform for Marketers?

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By Vlad Vidaeff

Pinterest is viewed by many as an up-and-coming social media platform.  Over the past several years, platforms with a visual focus have had the most success: Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat to name a few.  While the folks at Pinterest have focused their efforts on increasing the popularity of the platform, 2016 brings a new focus.  Developing Pinterest in a viable ad platform that will one day be able to compete with the likes of Facebook.  This blog will discuss Pinterest’s strategy surrounding their Promoted Pins and what the future might be for the direction of the platform.

Pinterest’s Promoted Pins have been around for a while but they have been limited to an exclusive list of companies.  Promoted pins are like regular Pins but a company pays to extend their reach.  As a result, they perform better than organic Pins.  The concept is similar to a promoted post on Facebook.  Pinterest allows you to purchase Promoted Pins to meet several marketing goals: (1) awareness; (2) engagement; and/or (3) traffic.  Promoted Pins focused on awareness allow you to introduce your brand to the audience that is most desirable to your business.  However, these Pins are only available to Fortune 500 advertisers with a minimum monthly spend.  With Promoted Pins focused on engagement, you only pay for each engagement (a closeup, repin, or click) on your Pin.  Lastly, with Promoted Pins focused on increasing traffic, you only pay for clicks to your website.  These different types of Promoted Pins give you the flexibility to use Pinterest advertising in a way that matches your advertising goals.

In January of 2016, Pinterest took a big step forward by opening up Promoted Pins to all U.S. businesses.  Prior to this announcement, two groups of marketers have found the most success on Pinterest: consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retailers.  Ian Schafer, founder and chairman of an ad agency that represents many clients in the CPG industry stated, “It’s not easy to find a platform with Pinterest’s reach or influence.”  Pinterest may be increasing its efforts at the right time as ad spending on social media is expected to reach $10.4 billion in 2016.

Success stories from large corporations are readily apparent.  Walgreens more than tripled their referral traffic from Pinterest.  Bank of America reached six million unique Pinners in less than five months and saw a doubling of engagement on their Promoted Pins.  Other retailers such as Macy’s and Banana Republic have a history of using Promoted Pins.  Part of what makes Pinterest intriguing is summed up nicely by eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson, “Pinterest has a lot of potential because, of any of the social media properties, it’s got the strongest connection to what people are actually doing and buying which advertisers really appreciate.”  Given Pinterest’s popularity in the areas of recipes, fashion, and home design, this is no surprise.  Pinterest often serves as inspiration before a purchase takes place.   The door is now open for small and mid-sized businesses to add Pinterest advertising to their digital media spend.  It will be interesting to see how their efforts will compare to those of the Fortune 500 companies which have already blazed a trail.


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