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Pinterest Marketing for the Holidays

How Brands Should Use Pinterest for the Holidays

When I first started experimenting with Pinterest in 2010, I was inspired to plan, shop, and get organized. I also saw quite a few missed opportunities. The early days of Pinterest featured a lot of broken links, 404 Errors, and links to blog posts that took up to 10 seconds to load. Here I was, an eager shopper with my credit card balancing on my laptop keyboard, unable to locate the product I was ready to purchase.

Fast forward six years and Pinterest has really grown up. The platform has evolved from a lookbook of sorts to a natural extension of e-commerce sites. Pinterest convinced brands who before saw social media as just a ‘brand awareness play’ that it could be much more than that. Pinterest is a platform that directly drives conversions when done right.

With the holidays underway, now is an ideal time for brands to ramp up Pinterest marketing to meet Q4 goals. Pinterest is a platform for planners (say that five times fast), so it’s likely users are going to be flocking to the site this holiday season to search for gifts, decorations, and the perfect holiday party outfit. Before you dive in, check out our tips to get you ready to market on Pinterest. We’ll cover design best practices, search intent, audience demographics, and the Pinterest customer decision journey.

Ask and you shall discover

Pinterest is both an “answer engine” and a “discovery engine.” Brittany Richter from iProspect spoke about this on a recent webinar held by AdWeek. While I may search for ‘Vince Sweaters’ and get the answer I’m looking for: a display of this season’s fall sweater line by Vince, I may also stumble upon a similar-looking sweater from a different brand at a significantly lower price point. Hence the ‘discovery’ aspect.

Pinterest screenshot

These are the results displayed on my Pinterest account when searching ‘Vince sweater.’

Pinterest screenshot

While most of the results from the search “Vince sweaters” displayed Vince sweaters (typically a $250 price point), there was a Promoted Pin from Azbro with a similar looking sweater for $20.99.

Pinterest screenshot

The Pin drives directly to the product page on Azbro’s website. Talk about a direct path to purchase.

A place where brands fit in

Unlike all other social media platforms, Pinterest is a welcome place for brands. While a well-produced ad can get positive feedback on Facebook or Instagram, a lot of what brands put into those platforms is invasive and unwanted.

Not unlike the other platforms, Pinterest ads must be done right to serve their purpose. But the majority of content on Pinterest comes from brands, and users take no issue with it. This is because users are typically searching pinterest with intent. But more on this later. First, we’re going to jump into some Promoted Pin hits and misses.

Fit in without blending in

Just like on Facebook, your Homepage on Pinterest is tailored to your specific taste and behavior. A typical mix of content on my Homepage these days can feature home decor, fall fashion, beauty tips, and dogs. The screenshot below features all of these in both organic and promoted posts.

Screenshot from Pinterest
Promoted Pins from Casper and Honest Beauty fit into the feed seamlessly.

The two Promoted Pins in this screen grab, from Casper and Honest Beauty, fit into my Pinterest dashboard seamlessly as far as aesthetic. While Casper’s ad is a product feature, the imagery is simple and stylized to fit happily into my feed.

Honest Beauty takes a less direct route with their ad by providing a free skincare trial instead of featuring products in their advertisement. Rather than using copy like ‘free offer’ or ‘get free skincare products,’ the Pin asks the user to choose their skin type. This content is fit for Pinterest because it’s personalized to the user.

When it comes to advertising on Pinterest, it’s not a matter of blending in. Of course you don’t want a user to scroll past your ad. The ideal ad doesn’t look like branded content but also is relevant, eye catching, and visually pleasing. Casper and Honest Beauty do this successfully with their two ads.

A quick note on sizing

We wouldn’t want to give you advice on aesthetic without mentioning image sizing. The optimal image size for a Pin is 600px wide x 900px high. Since Pins are organized into columns, vertical Pins take up more space, and the 600 x 900 size is ideal so that the Pin doesn’t get cut off. Feel free to download our social media ad sizes cheat sheet to keep this and other ad image sizes on hand whenever you need them.

Be careful to avoid over-branding

The above two examples feature Pinterest-friendly products. Mattresses, while not exactly glamorous, are products Pinterest users may need. While a user may not search Pinterest directly for a new mattress, Casper knew people who are planning to move or redo a room on Pinterest will likely be looking for a new mattress as well.

Beauty products and makeup tutorials are often among top searched topics on Pinterest, so Honest Beauty was able to advertise their brand without displaying a product shot and getting lost in the clutter.

Pillsbury also is a Pinterest-friendly brand, as people constantly visit the site to search for recipes. The screenshot below shows an ad from Pillsbury that doesn’t look much like the other content in my feed. This is the invasiveness we referenced earlier. There’s no need to slap a logo on a Pin to get noticed. In fact, eyes are likely to glaze over when encountering a large logo on Pinterest.

Pinterest screenshot
The Pillsbury ad doesn’t quite fit in with the pictured feed’s organic content.

In this case, the ad could have done without the logo, label, and copy. It’s important that people know content is coming from your brand, but be careful not to over-brand. We think the photograph linking to the Thanksgiving pie recipe page on the Pillsbury website would have sufficed.

Circling back on search intent

Earlier we mentioned search intent, which we consider Pinterest’s greatest advantage over other social media platforms when it comes to brands. We covered the topic with our earlier example of Vince sweaters. If you work for a company that makes sweaters, your ad will be relevant to people looking for fall fashion, fresh outfit inspiration, and searching specifically for sweaters. The common theme here is that people are searching with intent. In other words, at the end of their web searching sesh, they’ll likely purchase a sweater.

This is why branded content on Pinterest has such a huge advantage over that on other platforms. It removes the hurdle of convincing people they may need your product and goes right to the easy part: showcasing why your product is the best. Search intent is simple enough to understand, but the trick is to keep it top-of-mind when creating ads.

Search intent fail

The example below shows a Pinterest ad fail. Tiny Tea did a great job producing unobtrusive imagery. The photograph of a woman in a slouchy sweater holding a mug fits nicely with the rest of my feed.

Pinterest screenshot
Pinterest Homepage search results for ‘comfy sweater’.

The issue here lies with intent. I searched for ‘comfy sweater’ on Pinterest and scrolled through organic and branded content looking at tons of sweaters. Upon clicking through one of the Promoted Pins though, I was taken to Tiny Tea’s website. If a user is searching for sweaters, there’s no reason they’d be interested in tea. Aside from not being relevant to my search, the ad ended up being a source of frustration during my experience.

This seems like common sense, but is a mistake made by brands quite often. It’s possible that a user would buy a pair of jeans rather than a sweater when searching for a sweater. But tea is a big jump. Tiny Tea should focus on ‘holiday beverages’ and ‘detox drinks’ to capitalize on their users’ search intent.

Video ads

Pinterest debuted video ads in August. The ads have sound, providing a great opportunity for tutorials. More importantly, though, Pinners have the ability to purchase directly from the Pin with six Buyable Pins beneath each video. According to Pinterest, 67% of Pinners say the new video ads have inspired them to take action.

As is common with premature advertising opportunities, Pinterest’s video ads come at a high price point. But the great news is that Pinterest is making it easier for brands to market and for users to purchase on the platform. We predict that the cost will lower when Pinterest focuses on making video ads more mainstream.

A little about the audience

Most people know that Pinterest is made up of a mostly female, mostly young adult audience. We’re throwing in some demographic information here because the stats have evolved over the past couple years, and we want to emphasize the importance of focusing on your audience when creating ads.

Last month, Pinterest announced on it’s blog that the platform has over 150 million monthly active users. Also according to Pinterest, over 40% of people who join Pinterest are men — up 70% from October of last year. More people, more men, and more users in countries outside the U.S. means a lot of new opportunity.

Mini infographic from Pinterest.
In October, Pinterest reported 150 million monthly active users. Image via Pinterest blog.

Looking beyond the numbers, it’s important to know the types of people who are using Pinterest. Pinners are planners, creators, organizers, idea makers, and shoppers. Think on this when creating advertisements on Pinterest. Your ad should in some way inspire, delight, or make a Pinner’s life easier.

The Pinterest customer journey

Pinterest is extremely advanced in its ability to target people at different points of the buyer journey. An advertiser can target people in the awareness stage (CPM), the intent stage (CPE – cost per engagement), and the conversion stage (CPC). Check out the different targeting tactics Pinterest makes available for different stages of the buyer journey below.

Awareness stage

  • People are attracted through two paths in the awareness phase of the funnel: keywords and interests
  • Keywords are used to reach shoppers in Search and Related Pins
  • Interests are used to reach shoppers in their Home and Category Feeds

Intent stage

  • Advertisers have the ability to target audiences on Pinterest. You can target site visitors, CRM contacts, Actalikes, etc. to capture people in the intent phase of the purchase funnel

Conversion stage

  • Buyable Pins (including video Pins) target users with intent to purchase

Chart from eMarketer

Pinterest users visit the site in different phases of the buyer journey and advertisers are able to deploy different tactics on Pinterest to capture their customers at every stage.

Going beyond social KPIs

One of the most important parts of an ad campaign is measurement and optimization. Your efforts on Pinterest (and all social channels) should always tie back to your business objectives, so it’s important to look beyond the typical social KPIs. Sure, getting a lot of shares is something to celebrate, but did anyone actually click through? How many conversions did your ad drive?

Like on Facebook, Pinterest has conversion reporting. A user can create a tag then add it to their site to track website conversions from Pinterest. The platform also has cross-device reporting, which is useful to track where users are engaging and converting (i.e. a customer may interact with a Pin on mobile and purchase that item on desktop).

With your proper tracking in place, and business objectives defined, you’re able to properly measure the effectiveness of a campaign. A helpful piece of advice is to keep your budget somewhat fluid to give you the ability to make adjustments to drive optimal performance.

Let’s get going

By now you know enough about Pinterest audience demographics, design best practices, and customer targeting to launch a successful campaign.


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