Millions of users and an explosive growth period later, Pinterest is ready to test out its next plan for making money: advertising. Yes, promoted pins are making their way to the social media site.
In a blog post and email to users, Pinterest co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann explained how the team is “going to start experimenting with promoting certain pins from a select group of businesses”. In a similar way to how Facebook advertisers can pay for sponsored stories and Twitter users can promote tweets, Pinterest will begin surfacing promoted pins in search results and its category feeds.
Silbermann stressed that Pinterest will not be making money from advertisers who participate in the trial, and that the team is working to present users with ads that are relevant, tasteful and in a format which makes it clear that what they’re seeing isn’t organic content. “Nobody’s paying for anything yet,” said Silbermann. “We want to see how things go and, more than anything, hear what you think.”
Pinterest’s latest tentative steps into monetising its popular digital scrapbooking-slash-curation site come after a blogger discovered the team was using affiliate links through partner Skimlinks last year, which saw it making a percentage profit when users clicked through to the source link of a pin and purchased an item. While some commentators acknowledged it was a smart move (especially for a social network site which is responsible for a massive percentage of referral traffic), the Pinterest team did come under fire for not sharing the facts about how it makes money with its users. The latest messages around the move into advertising are all about transparency and user feedback — Silbermann openly explains how the promoted pins will work and how they will be used to make sure that Pinterest is still around in the years to come.
Since the site launched in 2010, Pinterest has gradually been adding features to help brands and strengthen its ecommerce link. From its initial steps to add a price banner to any pin which included a dollar amount in the description to the more recent introduction of analytics functionality to help users track campaigns and growth, the team has been working on showing potential advertisers and brands that it can be a valuable addition to their digital strategy. It has also previously formed partnerships with online retailers from Etsy to Sony to make pins “more useful” by adding more information to specific types of pins, including product pricing and availability.