Pinterest Wants to Be “Here to Stay”; Announces Sponsored Pins

If you're a Pinterest user, you probably received an email last week from Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann announcing the social network's intentions to experiment with advertiser-sponsored pins.

From the announcement now live on Pinterest's blog:

Pinterest is where you keep your wishlists, vacation plans, dream home ideas, and other things you want to do soon and in the future.

That’s why for us, it’s so important that Pinterest is a service that will be here to stay. To help make sure it does, we’re going to start experimenting with promoting certain pins from a select group of businesses.

I know some of you may be thinking, “Oh great…here come the banner ads.” But we’re determined to not let that happen. 

Pinterest promises that pins will be tasteful, transparent (always clearly marked as sponsored), and relevant to pinners. Pinterest no doubt has an impressive array of data on all its users, including search history, topics of interest (aggregated from pins and board categories of interest), and content trending among friends-of-friends, so I'm interested to see how they'll use this data to find the perfect sponsored pins.

Where Are These Sponsored Pins?
So far, no sponsored pins have ended up in my own feed. I actually refreshed several times over the past few days to snoop out some examples of these elusive pin ads, but no dice. From reading the comments on Silbermann's blog, it seems some pinners aren't a big fan of the "We thought you might like" approach, occasionally complaining that the algorithm is showing them irrelevant images and forging a barrier between them and their organic feed content.

Additionally, a Google search for "Pinterest+we+thought+you+might+like" resulted in this user-generated someecard:

Is this disdain across-the-board? I'd be interested to hear from other Pinterest users who have actually seen these pins in their feeds.

Does Advertising on Pinterest "Feel" Wrong?
I haven't experienced them in my own account yet, so I can't vouch for their propriety, nor how they "feel." Pinterest is a social network about feelings for many users—feelings of hope, of inspiration, of striving for a better "me"—so I wonder if advertising can ever feel native enough on this network, or if it'll always feel like an impostor in a user's private space. Pinterest is all about private dreams and wishes; that's why they created Secret Boards last year.

Next-Gen Sponsored Pins
In future monetizing efforts, Pinterest should take a page out of the Facebook-book and pursue advertising based on pins your friends like. I also actually wouldn't mind having a couple different Pinterest feeds: one with pins from people I just follow on Pinterest because they're good content curators, and another with pins from people I actually know in real life. Unlike Facebook (where users primarily friend those in their real-life personal networks), Pinterest users follow strangers from across the globe as long as their pins are worthy.

I also don't mind the suggestion in Silbermann's post to suggest pins based on search results. I also couldn't find any examples of this when performing searches on the site; I searched popular terms like "Halloween," "wedding," "recipe," and "fitness," and no "We thought you might like" pins ever surfaced. If used sparingly, this could be a great alternative to Google search ads for brands.

Brands looking to reach the Pinterest audience don't have to open their wallets to do so, however. Check out ExactTarget's Pinterest page for an example of how we curate marketing content for our fellow pinners.

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  • stephaniefrasco

    Are promoted pins live yet? I haven’t seen them in my feed yet either. Also I signed up for them and haven’t heard back yet.

    • Heike Baird

      Hey Stephanie ~ As far as I can tell from my reading, sponsored/promoted pins are being tested on a small amount of users and from a small amount of companies. No companies are paying for them yet while they’re in the experimentation phase, and they haven’t scaled to full rollout across Pinterest’s entire user base. Happy pinning!

      • stephaniefrasco

        Thanks. :)

        • Heike Baird

          NP! Hope you get a chance to try them out soon!

  • Chantal

    Seen a few so far, gave them all thumbs down because I hate it! But then, there are more things I hate about Pinterest. Boards from complete strangers, appearing on my feed. And I don’t even follow them! I only want to see my own pins and those of my friends’ boards I follow. That’s what I use Pinterest for, not to see utterly uninteresting pins (to me at least) from people I don’t know.