The relationship between social networks and advertising is a something out of bygone days. Months, if not years, of cautious courtship typically precede any kind of commitment, and even when the two parties have stated their intentions, there’s plenty of discretion and restraint.
Pinterest is the latest social network to wed paid ads, and the story is much the same. The site launched four years ago, but it wasn’t until late last year that it introduced Promoted Pins. “Remember we’re still just testing things out right now,” Pinterest wrote on its blog. “We’ll be listening closely to what you have to say, and will continue to keep you posted about how things go.”
Brands had already begun to explore the site’s marketing potential on their own, and Pinterest did everything it could to help. Branded Pinterest pages, which Pinterest has promoted to initiate consumers, give marketers access to the social network’s 70 million worldwide users and 1,090 visitors per minute. Elle, Etsy, Four Seasons, Sephora, Sony Electronics, and others have migrated visual content from catalogues, sites, and marketing materials to their Pinterest boards.
The experiments seem to have gone well, because the site is now preparing to launch a more formal ad sales effort. “We’re encouraged by our initial results,” Pinterest tells ClickZ. “In Q2, we’ll be partnering with a select group of businesses to show our first paid Promoted Pins. We’re working with a small group of businesses because we want to work closely with brands to better understand what they want and need from our monetization solutions.”
The plan, the company says, is to make the ads available to a broader segment of marketers later this year. For now, Promoted Pins are expected to maintain the same design as those used in Pinterest’s initial test.
Integrating paid placements into site content to mimic the look and feel of organic posts seems to be the strategy of choice for social sites that deal in visual content. Tumblr’s ads can be classified as native due to their similarity to user posts. The same might be said of Sponsored Stories on Facebook.
Now that Pinterest is getting more serious about ads, it’s time for media buyers to prepare for this next wave of social media marketing. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Post content that provides value to Pinterest’s users. Take a cue from Pinterest’s Rich Pins and feature recipes, consumer reviews, online galleries, or white papers. Include product usage ideas, quotes from happy customers, or a phrase that speaks to your product’s usefulness in the context of lifestyle. In its pins, Better Homes and Gardens routinely offers DIY concepts with succinct instructions. Consumers can get further details when they click.
- Include a call to action. While this can take the form of a command, brands are often better off leveraging Pinterest’s strength as a visual network by posting photographs of customers using their products. This kind of imagery will help consumers to visualize your offerings in action and acts as a visual incentive.
- Focus on quality. Pinterest users have come to expect interesting, engaging photographs. If this is important for branded pins, it’s absolutely vital to the promoted variety. Back in September, when Promoted Pins first appeared, Pinterest advised brands to keep their content “tasteful;” the idea is to blend in with the site, not to scream advertising pop-up style. Pinterest also recommends that images are at least 600 pixels wide (the minimal size for pinning is 100 by 200 pixels).
- Create thematic boards designed for different audience segments. Target multiple audiences with relevant content, and let Pinterest content trends guide your posting decisions. Following the trends will give you a good sense of what users are currently interested in, and help you to plan your Promoted Pins accordingly.
- Extend your reach. In addition to adding a Pin It button to the product pages on your brand or e-commerce site, drive traffic by promoting your most popular pins by email as well as through other owned media.