What Are Pinterest's Marketing Interests?

joel meek pinterestPinterest is one of those up-and-comers in the world of social advertising.

The image-based social network doesn’t divulge audience numbers, but comScore pegs it at around 60 million monthly active users (MAUs).

Of course, that’s not quite the volume of Twitter’s 271 million MAUs or Facebook’s 1.3 billion, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at, especially as activity on branded Pinterest pages affect in-store merchandising and promotional decisions. Just ask Nordstrom or Vineyard Vines.

There’s a marked difference in how Pinterest works with marketers. Both Facebook and Twitter have invested so heavily in advertising and marketing products – CRM matching programs, retargeting, video, trusted partner programs and ecommerce tools – that it’s fair to say they’re each building internal ad and marketing tech stacks, designed to extract value from consumer activities within each social network’s walled garden.

“A lot of sites want to keep you on the service for as long as possible,” said Joel Meek, head of Pinterest’s online sales and operations. “We want to take you off of Pinterest, go on that trip, redo your living room or get the clothes for the party you’re going to. We want to see a lot of action.”

Pinterest views itself as a discovery portal, through which consumers might find inspiration to travel, create or buy products they weren’t actively considering. From there, Pinterest tries to direct those users away from its own platform to the branded sites where they can purchase.

This goal informs Pinterest’s current marketing product build-out, from an analytics and reporting dashboard released in late August to Promoted Pins, a paid media unit still in beta (there’s no timeline for a general release).

Meek spoke with AdExchanger.


AdExchanger: Pinterest’s value proposition to marketers as a discovery tool means you’re focusing a lot on search.

JOEL MEEK: We did a launch called "Guided Search" a few months ago. That’s different than traditional search, and it’s focused on exploring by adding and subtracting keywords to home in what you’re looking for. You might do a search for Creole recipes, and we’ll provide some suggestions around spicy Creole recipes or spicy chicken Creole recipes. The results let you zoom in or out based on what we provide, so it’s much more of an exploration.

[Traditional] search is awesome when you’ve got a specific question with a single, actual specific answer, like “What’s the temperature in New York today?” But there are questions that don’t have one answer, like “What do you want to make for dinner tonight?” or “How do you want to redo your living room or man cave?” The answer for you is different than the answer for me.

Do you have recommendations?

We have related pins where, based on what you’ve pinned on Pinterest, we can provide other things you might like. In our weekly editorial emails, we constantly send suggestions, which is a very interesting data science challenge.

Beyond the discovery aspect, Pinterest also emphasizes the benefit pinning has for marketers.

The main activity on the site is pinning. You pin to a board, which is a collection of images organized around a theme. For a marketer, that’s really compelling insight into how people hope to use the product, and we found it’s helpful in reshaping their product and marketing strategies based upon how users engage with their content.

When you save the content, it not only gets saved to your account, but shared to everyone who’s following you. It gets found in our search engines and in our feeds that people can peruse. There’s not just one way to get discovered on Pinterest. We’ve found the half-life of content on Pinterest is much longer than other services. It’s very common that partners pin something months ago and still see it getting repinned and traffic sent to their websites.

Why is that?

Part of it is the way content gets spread throughout Pinterest and resurfaced over a long period of time. I don’t think there’s a time aspect to these pins, so content can be more timeless.

And every pin has a link that points back to the website where that content came from.

Do you have an attribution component for when consumers don’t immediately purchase?

We don’t have that today. Obviously, to your point, people don’t always go straight to the site and buy things. That’s something we’re looking at, to understand the full behavior that happens. Anecdotally, when we talk to our partners, and they’re creating organic content or promoted pin content, they hear in their stores that product get mentioned or see a lift in their sales, even if it doesn’t track directly back.

We haven’t put the data scientists yet on it.

Is that a priority?

One of our main goals is the measurement, because it translates into insight and helps create better experiences. The big [measurement tool] launch we did two weeks ago was in that vein and it was a huge upgrade from what we had before. Before, we could just track analytics from your website. Now you can track analytics from your actual profile and from your audience. We’re adding more things like that. Attribution is one of those things on the list.

With measurements, you’re obviously tracking pins, repins, impressions – how about click-through rates and actions?

With click-throughs, that’s just an encapsulation of clicks and impressions.

And actions? Like someone clicked through and bought a backpack?

We don’t have that ability to track that today, but partners with analytics on their site track it. And we share data back and forth. The business themselves will have something like Omniture on their site, track the conversions on their site and share that back with us.

Does Pinterest have APIs you can plug into a marketing automation or CRM system?

No. There are a very small number of partners we’re working with on some analytic data API end points. We don’t have a program at this point.

That seems like it could be powerful.

We have this thing called the Business Insights API, which is how we give general data from Pinterest to third parties like Curelate, Tailwind, Hootsuite, Salesforce and all those guys. They’re taking the data and presenting it to their brands, their customers. We’ve just started that process. It’s in alpha and there are six or seven partners. They’re aggregating a bunch of social media platforms.

What sort of segmentation do you provide?

We offer geo, gender and device. We have a CPC offering that’s keyword-based targeting. It’s in our Guided Search product, and our CPM offering is in our Category Pages.

Are you expanding those segments?

Right now, we’ve got plenty enough just in search and category. We’re not, for example, offering Promoted Pins on a user’s home feed.

Is that because it might detract from the user experience?

Our No. 1 focus for Promoted Pins is making sure the experience is really good. So far, the results are encouraging. Pinners pin them just like it’s normal content, and we want to be super thoughtful about that.

Consumers are sometimes wary when marketing and social media mix. Is that an issue?

Pinners expect content from businesses. It’s a very natural and essential part of the service.

We’ve got hundreds of thousands of businesses on the site and thousands are signing up every day. Eighty percent of Pinterest businesses have less than 10 employees, and a third of those businesses are sole proprietors – one-, maybe two-person companies focused on design or photography. Those were some of our earliest adopters.

What are the revenue splits between small businesses and large enterprises?

We don’t share anything on revenue right now. Our No. 1 goal is around learning with the Promoted Pin offering, figuring out what partners care about, how they want to measure the campaigns, how they want to measure the results and what sort of creative works to drive performance.

How do SMB needs differ from large business needs?

I’ve worked on small businesses for seven years, even before Pinterest. I’ve consistently heard small businesses don’t have a lot of time or money and often you’re talking to the owner. So the value proposition has to be super compelling, where you’re seeing easy return.

We’ve created a self-service platform where any small business can sign up in 45 seconds. And we try to educate them about what is Pinterest and how it works for business. We realize self-service alone is insufficient for small businesses.

What are your priorities for the next year? What don’t you have now that you plan to develop in the immediate future?

The obvious first thing is our Promoted Pin offering. We’re slowly rolling in more partners every single week. We’re trying to learn about different types of partners and what they want with this product. The second thing is nailing this business experience for new partners. How do we keep those businesses as active as possible?

Is there a release date for Promoted Pins?

No.

What do you need to learn before you’re comfortable rolling it out?

It comes back to what I mentioned: What’s important to them, how do they track results?

One thing we’ve been working with partners very carefully is around their creative. We have a guy whose full-time job is educating the market on what type of creative works well on Pinterest. We’ve done these creative workshops where we bring in the client team to figure out what works. There are some general best practices from that – images that are really high-res, descriptions with good calls to action – those are some general best practices.

For instance?

There’s a client, Vineyard Vines, who found that with men’s apparel, images without headshots on Pinterest do better than images with headshots. They’ve taken that back to the content on their website.

With women, they’ve found in-context works better than a product shot with a white background. So a woman eating a lobster roll in Martha’s Vineyard with the clothes on does better than the standard product shot.

These are some of the things we’re trying to work with our partners and learn about.

Do you have partnerships with guys like Datalogix or Nielsen Catalina to make offline-online connections clearer?

We’re starting to chat with them, but it’s definitely on our radar.

 

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