When Lorina Daiana from Pin Perfect Studios tried Pinterest ads for the first time, she didn’t think much of it — until they started outperforming a fashion influencer client’s Instagram account in website referrals.
She was only spending an hour a month pinning paid posts for that client.
“Huh, there’s something there,” Daiana thought. “Maybe we should look into this more.”
She transitioned other clients to Pinterest and noticed that for every single one, she could put in less effort and advertising budget for the same number of website referrals.
Was it a gold rush? Or fool’s gold?
Daiana had heard other social media and SEO experts call Pinterest a joke. Its ad manager was certainly new. Pinterest launched its first ad product, Promoted Pins, in 2014 — late compared to Facebook Ads, which launched in 2007, and Google AdWords, which launched in 2000.
Pinterest’s ad product has matured, though. Around the start of the pandemic, Pinterest’s monthly active users jumped from 367 million to 416 million, according to Pinterest data — a 13% QoQ jump.
During the pandemic, Pinterest’s monthly active users jumped from 367 million to 416 million, according to Pinterest data — a 13% QoQ jump.
Other marketers started to change their tune, Daiana noticed.
These days, Daiana doesn’t have to convince clients to give Pinterest a try. They come to her already wanting Pinterest campaigns.
How does building out a campaign in Pinterest ads manager work, exactly? Not like ad-buying on Facebook and Google. Pinterest has its own rulebook — and it’s more search-oriented than you might think.
We spoke to four experts on Pinterest ads to find out what formats are available, who’s making the best ads right now, and how brands can start building Pinterest campaigns that perform.
- Lorina Daiana, Pinterest marketing expert and founder of Pin Perfect Studios
- Mike Bittarelli, head of growth at Quince
- Tomara Watkins, principal at Chaptr Agency
- Dan Ben-Nun, growth marketer and founder of Adspace
Pinterest isn’t the cheapest, but it has a valuable audience
In 2020, when a presidential election and the coronavirus pandemic drove Facebook CPMs through the roof, Watkins started looking for new paid digital marketing channels for her clients.
She tried Pinterest ad campaigns and saw a spike in traffic, but soon realized she needed to adjust her mindset — and marketing strategy.
“The cost of that traffic wasn’t that much less than what Facebook was,” she said. And Pinterest users were taking longer to purchase than Facebook users did.
As Watkins learned, Pinterest and Facebook ads behave very differently:
- Pinterest is best at lead-generation, and has been minimally-impacted by the privacy-first web.
- Facebook is a stronger sales-closer, and iOS 14.5 has really hurt its attribution.
Pinterest knows its users are slower to shop.
Compared to other social platforms’ users, Pinterest users are more likely to consider a purchase for a week before buying.
On TikTok and Snap, traffic is cheaper, and conversions might come quicker. But Pinterest has something they don’t: a user base that skews older and more affluent.
Pinterest users know what they want (and they can afford it)
Here’s what the Pinterest demographic looks like, according to internal Pinterest data:
- Women: Pinterest confirms that 60% of its global audience is women.
- High earners: Almost half of the US population with an annual household income over $100,000 is on Pinterest.
- DIY-ers: Pinterest says 85% of its users turn to the website before starting a new project.
- Shoppers: Pinterest users are 90% more likely than people on other platforms to say they’re “always shopping.”
- Boomers and Gen X-ers: Almost 40% of Pinterest users are between the ages of 50-64, according to Pew Research Center data.
They also have a trait marketers love: clear intent.
“People use Facebook and Instagram and Google to search for any variety of different things or browse any variety of different content,” Ben-Nun said.
But almost all Pinterest users come to the platform for DIY tips, fashion, beauty, or home decor ideas — so marketers can target them more effectively.
They’re worth targeting, too. Compared to social media users who don’t use Pinterest, Pinterest users:
- Spend more: They tend to spend 2x more per month than social media users who don’t use Pinterest, and they spend 6% more per order.
- Add to cart more often: They add 85% more items to their shopping carts than social media users who don’t use Pinterest, so e-commerce brands can retarget them more easily.
As Pinterest puts it in one business page header, these folks “[s]hop slow, spend more.”
Pinterest’s audience is growing — and has a growing interest in cottagecore.
Since 2020, Pinterest’s audience has grown in new ways. Pinterest says the user base is getting younger, with more GenZ-ers every year, and more men on the platform. They’re looking for cottagecore fashion, life-skills, and date-night activities.
(Missed the boat on cottagecore? It’s an aesthetic that features antique books, forests, ribbons around braided hair, and lots of waving meadows and … cottages. Think Taylor Swift’s Folklore.)
These new users aren’t diluting advertisers’ potential. They’re creating new opportunities for brands outside of fashion and beauty to advertise — and adding lots of new keywords for brands to target. This is what Pinterest says the “new Pinners” are searching for more than ever before:
- Gender equality
- Mental health check in
- Indie room decor
- Modular kitchen ideas
- Artisan bread recipes
- Backyard seating areas
- Preschool math worksheets
The breadth of those keywords suggests that Pinterest could soon become a top-performing social advertising platform in new industries — like construction, healthcare and education.
The key to Pinterest? Patience.
Pinterest recommends advertisers focus on lead gen rather than hard-selling — and Watkins has had success with that strategy.
She recommends building an email form popup on every landing page you use for Pinterest ads. That way, even if Pinterest doesn’t directly drive a sale, “you can at least capture a lead from that,” she said — one you can nurture unimpeded by privacy restrictions.
Pinterest’s pricing may not make it cheaper than other platforms, but brands can use it to build long-term, one-to-one relationships with a valuable and growing audience.
5 signs your brand should use Pinterest ads
The experts we spoke to all started by recommending that brands specifically targeting women advertise on Pinterest. But they also mentioned that luxury brands, car companies and insurance companies can find good ROI there.
So... is Pinterest right for your brand? Here are five signs it is.
- You sell fashion, beauty, or home goods products. Ben-Nun said that when done well, Pinterest should quickly become “a major channel of acquisition” for these types of brands.
- Your Facebook ads are suffering after iOS 14.5. The privacy-first web has so far made a “miniscule” impact on Pinterest ads, Daiana said, because Pinterest is an organic search platform more than it is a social network.
- Your ads are performing on other platforms, but you want to diversify. Our experts all recommended optimizing Pinterest so it complements other high-performing channels and boosts underperforming ones. Diversifying 10-20% of an ad budget toward Pinterest can help brands see a boost in ROAS, Ben-Nun said.
- You want some more coaching on how to build successful ads. It’s easy to get one-on-one time with Pinterest ad support. “I schedule a meeting with them every other week,” Daiana said. Businesses can apply for consultations with Pinterest for ad support, actionable insights and campaign analysis.
- You want to reach a larger audience, faster. “Imagine trying to get 100 [thousand] impressions on Instagram in 2021,” Daiana said. “It would take a lot of money and ads to get that kind of exposure.” On Pinterest, that kind of reach is still possible, and Daiana said it’s not as expensive as on other social media platforms.
Pinterest advertising formats worth trying (with examples!)
Pinterest ads come in various prices, shapes and sizes (but most of them have a 2:3 aspect ratio). Which types of Pinterest ads suit your campaign best?
The main key to advertising on Pinterest: you’ll make the Pin and then promote it, not the other way around.
Below, the four main formats to consider.
The static ad
Best for: targeting shoppers at all stages of the funnel, but especially for brand awareness campaign objectives
The upside: When you pair a static ad with a longform content landing page, you get to extend the story you tell your audience, Watkins said.
The downside: There really isn’t one! Static pins are Pinterest’s bread and butter.
A good example: By creating a static pin that linked to a quiz, Philadelphia was able to collect user data and offer up personalized product recommendations.
Because we love tacos, often snack on cucumbers and “find bliss” while “strolling through the vines of a vast vineyard” (don’t knock it til you try it!) Philadelphia's quiz suggested we try whipped roasted red pepper and garlic cream cheese.
The will of the snack angels is our command! That quiz copywriter deserves a raise.
The video ad
Best for: tutorial ads and user generated content (UGC) ads targeted toward bottom-of-funnel audiences
The upside: “Video is queen,” Watkins said. “She just performs.” Since so much of Pinterest is made up of static images, video really stands out, Watkins said.
“Video is queen. She just performs.”
The downside: Some users find Pinterest video ads annoying. Daiana has actually turned off auto-play for ads on her personal Pinterest account. “I don't want to see anything move, as a user,” Daiana said.
Other users don’t want to hear anything move:
(A representative from Pinterest told MarketerHire that video ads no longer play with sound automatically on.)
Pro tip: Watkins recommends adding text overlays to promoted Pinterest video ads. Overlays are pretty native to Pinterest, so videos that feature text will feel organic on users’ home feeds.
A good example: This Covergirl video pin communicates a lot to users. Three things, to be exact:
- It’s vegan and cruelty-free, as the info overlay explains
- How to use the product, with the closeup video demo
- That influencers like it, thanks to the tagged influencer — Summer Fridays co-founder Marianna Hewitt, who has 1 million Instagram followers.
And it does it all in just a few seconds. That’s the power of video!
The carousel ad
Best for: social proof and UGC content targeting mid- to bottom-of-funnel shoppers
The upside: Carousel ads let you share more information in a single pin, so they’re commonly used for influencer promotion, demonstrating different product sizes and UGC tutorials. “Reviews definitely perform well,” Watkins said.
The downside: Not everyone will click through to view every slide in your carousel, so it’s important to put all the important information on early slides.
A good example: This Scotch tape carousel ad is a sponsored post on Pinterest influencer (Pinfluencer?) Kailo Chic’s page, showing a step-by-step bookmark-making tutorial.
The above showcases a use case for Scotch Tape, but it also feels native to Pinterest. It’s an aesthetically-pleasing DIY craft, something Pinterest users organically look for when they log on to the platform. It teaches users a new skill, so they’re more likely to save the pin to their account as they would a regular pin.
The shopping pin and collections ad
Best for: e-commerce brands targeting customers ready to make a purchase
The upside: It’s a convenient user experience to shop right in the Pinterest app — and this ad format is convenient for brands, too. Pinterest can automatically create ads from an existing product catalog. For more control, you can also manually select shopping pins you’ve already created to feature in collections ads.
Pro tip: Pinterest only lets you build collections ads if you’ve already made organic, shoppable pins for the items in your product catalog — but that’s pretty easy, according to Bittarelli. First, you must apply to create rich pins. Then, send a feed file to Pinterest through Shopify or another e-merchant, and Pinterest will automatically generate pins for up to 20 million products.
The downside: “The Google platform does more of the heavy lifting in terms of optimization than Pinterest,” Bittarelli said. While you can still create all the product groups and campaigns you’d need in Pinterest, Bittarelli said Google is a little more hands-off, and can deliver a higher ROAS.
A good example: This Fabletics collection ad allows users who are already looking for leggings to browse a rainbow of styles and price points without leaving the Pinterest app. For Fabletics, this advertising strategy has paid off — Fabletics said its Pinterest growth was tracking at 150% YoY in 2019.
4 tips for making Pinterest ads perform
Because Pinterest is a newer advertising platform, it has a few quirks that set it apart from other paid social channels. Our panel of experts gave us four tips for making the most out of Pinterest.
1. Optimize your metadata.
Pinterest was built as a discovery platform, and that shows in its ad-building structure. Basically, you must create an organic pin before you can promote it. And the regular pin will appear in the search engine even after you stop paying to promote it.
Getting your pins long-term organic search traction takes some technical talent, though — and Pinterest SEO requires a different skillset than paid social media marketing.
Specifically, you need to know how to “optimize the hell out of your alt-texts,” Watkins said.
“Optimize the hell out of your alt-texts.”
Pinterest offers 40+ metadata fields you can fill when building product pins. These are the six our panelists recommend paying most attention to when adding products to Pinterest for shopping pins and collections ads.
- Alt-text: Think of this as an image description. It identifies what’s in your images in a way that Pinterest’s algorithm can search.
- Title tag: “That’s probably the single biggest way that Pinterest determines your product relevance,” Bittarelli said.
- Product material and size: “If someone’s searching for cotton sheets, you want cotton as the material there so [Pinterest] knows,” Bittarelli said.
- Stock level: Pinterest can add a little tag to show whether or not your items are in stock. And as we know, that really matters to shoppers — especially around the holidays.
- Sale price: When you add sale price metadata to pins, Pinterest adds a little strikethrough on the bottom of the pin to signal a sale price.
Global trade item number (GTIN): Let’s say you sell KitchenAid products. Those are sold by a lot of different retailers — and the GTIN code tells Pinterest that your KitchenAids are the same brand as everyone else’s, and ensures they show up in relevant KitchenAid searches. “It was a huge difference … when we started adding those,” Bittarelli said.
In the above collection by Target, some of the metadata is visible to users. The “free shipping with $35.00+” tags, “popular” tag, and “sold out” tag all come from metadata from Target’s feed.
You might need an engineering team to help you make some of these changes, Bittarelli said. If you move your product feed to Pinterest manually, the data source ingestion process takes multiple steps. But Pinterest also has a Shopify integration, so Shopify merchants can more easily import their catalogs and automatically create shoppable pins.
2. Target for demographics or keywords, not both.
Pinterest’s Ad Manager will let you target keywords and demographics. In the beginning, Daiana made the mistake of targeting for both.
“I’d type in a list of like 150 keywords … and then I went into the demographics and I limited it to female only and all these other things,” she said. But eventually she realized, “if someone is searching for that keyword, it doesn't matter who they are.”
“If someone is searching for that keyword, it doesn't matter who they are.”
Daiana had been unnecessarily limiting her audience, and when she made the switch, she noticed an increase in site traffic from Pinterest.
Brands can set target keywords or target audiences based on four criteria:
- Audience targeting: Create lists of users who’ve engaged with your pins in the past for retargeting campaigns.
- Actalike audiences: Build lists of prospects who behave similarly to your top customers.
- Interest targeting: Reach people who are already searching for pins related to your brand.
- Demographics: Target customers based on demographic categories like gender, age, location, language and device type.
The ad manager in the business account also lets brands select placements for their ads, though Pinterest recommends targeting all placements to reach the maximum number of customers. Pinterest also offers an “expanded” targeting feature, which automatically targets people searching related keywords or with similar interests.
Pro tip: If you only target men or women, you miss out on a swathe of users with other genders. In 2015, Pinterest widened its gender identification options. Now, users can even use an emoji as their gender if they’d like.i As of July 2021, an estimated 4.4% of users were registered as something other than “female” or “male.”
3. Take trends from TikTok, but stay native to Pinterest.
Our experts said they’ve noticed a lot more UGC in ads on Pinterest — perhaps due to TikTok’s influence.
Watkins’ favorite TikTok trend that’s translated to Pinterest is the #passthebrush challenge, the before-and-after makeup trend where users tap the camera with a makeup brush. “They come out and they’ve used your products and now they look like Beyoncé,” she said.
If you go the TikTok trend route on Pinterest, follow these three tips from Watkins to make sure your content still feels native to Pinterest:
- Don’t go over 15 seconds. “That might seem really quick,” Watkins said, “but you’re just trying to tease them into ultimately clicking through to your website and then you let your website close the sale.” Watkins almost always uses a product page as the landing page for a video ad.
- Add captions. Pinterest “isn’t a platform like TikTok and Instagram, where your sound might be on,” Watkins said. “Do captions so that you visually add context, and you can also guide the user through what they’re seeing.”
- Make sure your talent reflects your audience. “If you’re selling skincare, maybe you want to show a 25-year-old,” Watkins said, “but you also probably want to show a 45-year-old because she’s also spending money and has more disposable income.” Think about showing a variety of bodies in your products, like in this Bombas static ad.
4. Set long attribution windows.
Pinterest is investing seriously in social shopping. But for now, the platform is best for driving app installs, email-sign ups, and other upper-funnel conversions.
“What I always say is that Pinterest is not a closer of the sale,” Watkins said. “It’s great to bring that traffic … but from what I’ve seen, if you’re doing last-click type of attribution, it’s going to be very difficult for you to attribute that sale to Pinterest.”
“It’s great to bring that traffic … [but] if you’re doing last-click type of attribution, it’s going to be very difficult for you to attribute that sale to Pinterest.”
Pinterest requires a longer conversion window than, say, Facebook, with its standard seven-day click and one-day view window. Daiana uses a 30-day click and 30-day view conversion window on Pinterest.
Pinterest representatives also recommended that Daiana wait 14 days before making any changes to her ads — a lot longer than she’s used to waiting on other platforms.
Start working on Pinterest ads before it gets crowded
Pinterest is still a relatively new platform, and the experts we spoke to sounded like they were in on a secret the rest of the marketing world hadn’t quite caught on to yet.
But Daiana warns: “the top dogs are now tipped off to it.”
Philadelphia is advertising on Pinterest — which means even Kraft Heinz, its parent company and the third-largest food and beverage company in America, is hip to the Pinterest ad ecosystem.
The good news: MarketerHire has ruthlessly vetted paid social media experts who can help your brand succeed on Pinterest. Try MarketerHire today.