Pinning trailblazers Pinterest are forging into unchartered terrain: that of paid advertising.
The company announced experiments with "Promoted Pins" in late 2013, and are set to roll out the platform more widely in the second quarter of this year.
The Promoted Pin will drop seamlessly into the current Pinterest interface with a small Promoted Pin icon designating the paid content. The advertising takes the same format as current content, allowing for minimal disruption to the flow of consumption.
The company is mum about initial advertisers or expected costs, but the initial tests apparently proved positive.
Four Seasons was one of the first brands to test Promoted Pins late last year, which saw results with its in-the-wild testing of the new paid product. The company's initial test advertised an uber-luxe $70,000 private jet and hotel package to Bora Bora, and was repinned over 9,000 times. Four Seasons also received 500 requests for a brochure on that luxe package.
The true test will come from Pinterest's ability to deftly connect the right content with the right user for increased engagement and conversion for advertisers.
For travel marketers eager for a new advertising venue, the addition of Promoted Pins is welcome news. Hospitality is one of the most active industries on social media, with Pinterest being an especially popular platform to share content on for travel and hospitality businesses.
Current Pinterest strategies can now be complemented with a paid boost, similar to other social networks, providing a new reason to invest time in the platform. The paid boost is especially useful for a visually-rich industry like travel, which can promote specific destination deals via captivating pins.
There are already plenty of hotels on Pinterest who might be eager to showcase different room categories, property amenities or special events and activities in the destination via Promoted Pins. Check out this revealing rundown of social accounts of hotel brands:
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On a side note: Google's reliance on Google+ information in search has clearly tipped the balance into that network's favor![/caption]
For marketers in general, this is a new way to advertise, as Promoted Pins focus exclusively on visual content.
This isn't an AdWords or text update promotion; the content must fit the platform and thus has organic visual appeal. The ability to target placement for this content within certain searches or pages will likely be a boon to the many advertisers seeing great engagement from Pinterest.
In fact, latest stats show that 20% of web referrals on e-commerce sites come from Pinterest, and 26% come from Pinterest on mobile - this is a phenomenal position for the smaller social network, which should be boosted by the ability to purchase Promoted Pins within the platform.
In regards to traffic, Pinterest is showing strength, especially against Twitter. The company is only second to the Facebook beast, according to these figures from the last quarter of 2013:
Demographic data is also a useful tool for any marketer considering whether or not to slice off some digital marketing dollars for Pinterest in the next fiscal year budget.
The platform is dominated by females 18-44, which means that any visual content should be considered for this market.
And even though specific details are not known about the actual ad product, there will most likely be the ability to target by age and gender - creating some unique positioning opportunities when targeted to the smaller male community of pinners.
No word yet from Pinterest on when the advertising platform will be live for mainstream marketers.
NB: Pinterest image courtesy Shutterstock.