Pinterest Pins its Hopes on Profitability


In less than four years, Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann has grown his online scrapbooking site into a pervasive social media tool used by one-fifth of online adults in the US.

That’s all well and good, but now Pinterest, like the many other social startups out there, is faced with turning a profit—a delicate dance on a content-rich site. Still, analysts project that the market will be worth $500 million in 2016, with the site valued at $3.8 billion. 

The value of Pinterest to retailers grew exponentially in 2013, largely due to the addition of Rich Pins, piloted last spring, that enable brands to deploy product pins, place pins, article pins, movie pins and recipe pins. But it’s the product pin that holds the promise for marketers as they let retailers attach real-time pricing, inventory availability and a “Buy this” link to product images, capitalizing on the instant gratification psychology prevalent on the web.[more]

So far, brands beta-testing Promoted Pins include Disney, Nordstrom, Four Seasons, Hellmann’s and Tresemme.

“Rich pins enable new kinds of marketing campaigns that we haven’t had before,” said Jason Goldberg, vp of strategy at Razorfish. “Usually, social is a fire-and-forget thing: If 1,000 people like us on Facebook, there isn’t a whole lot you can do with those 1,000 people; but now with rich pins and the notification emails, I can start doing clever things, like artificially changing the price for a product with the most rich pins.” 

Much like Nordstrom, Target created a shopping experience based on its trending Pinterest products called the Awesome Shop that “provides a curated shopping experience with Target products that are trending on Pinterest and that have top guest reviews on,” said Katie Boylan, a Target spokesperson. “The new site is designed for discovery and inspiration, and we’re excited to see how our guests respond.” According to data, Target saw a 70 percent increase in visits to its site from Pinterest after creating rich pins for its products.

As for what brands want from Pinterest most? “To have their products or services discovered,” said Silbermann. “With every new media type, whether it was Google, where you have text ads, or Facebook, which is more social advertising, or folks like Twitter, it takes people time to figure out, hey, what’s my voice in this medium?”

Newest to the game is Pinterest’s “Personalized for You” function, which curates a Pinterest board based on user’s pinning activity and interests, with pins size-reflective of the amount pinned on that topic—based less on who or what you follow and more about what you like. 

Silbermann can only hope that Pinterest’s further journey into the ad world goes smoother than other social startups like Instagram, whose sponsored posts caught some backlash when first introduced. In the end, the ‘clicks’ were worth it and the community chatter has died down, but the ad-form is still a controversial one—just ask Facebook


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