How Brands Can Use Promoted Pins

Pinterest Interview with Joanne Bradford

Hi everyone, I thought you might like to see this great interview Bloomberg TV did with Joanne Bradford – Pinterest’s Director of Partnerships. In the interview she answers the following questions:

What have you learned about what works and what doesn’t work?

 Are there any kinds of brands that do well on Pinterest versus others?

 Right now the promoted pins are visible when I search, will I ever see a promoted Pin right when I log onto Pinterest?

 Why should I pay for a promoted pin on Pinterest instead of a sponsored story on Facebook or a promoted tweet on Twitter?

 What’s it like working with Ben Silbermann?

She also explains what the current brands running promoted pins are learning. Those brands include:

Which brands are advertising on Pinterest

The most exciting thing in the interview as Joanne’s discussion of how Pinterest plans to roll out advertising products to serve the smaller brands at a pricepoint that will work for them. That’s exciting!

I hope you enjoy the interview!


Pinterest Founder Discusses The Problem Of Discovery Online

In this insightful video Pintererest Founder Ben Silbermann discusses the “unsolved problems” on the Internet, including the “problem of online discovery”.

In this inspiring speech Ben also talks about 3 parts of the Pinterest strategy…

  • Inspiring
  • Discovering
  • Useability

Great insights!

Can Pinterest Monetize With A Recommendation Engine?

Pinterest just revealed an advertising methodology that they are testing, have you seen it?

This week Pinterest confirmed the look & feel of their new advertising method. Lots of bloggers reported on it, but I haven’t seen any thoughtful commentary yet.

So, here is mine…

And before we jump in, to be clear, they are just starting to test this stuff – so it’s really just their first “at-bat”. They are going to modify their monetization strategy a thousand times before it works well, (I’m sure). With that said, here is their screenshot of what it looks like, (from their blog post).

Julies Outdoor Supply Not Real?

(Okay, wait, total side note – I cannot find any company named “Julie’s Outdoor Supply” on Pinterest, or online. Am I missing something in my search method? I hope it wasn’t fabricated. This isn’t that big a deal, but I thought I’d mention it.)


A Recommendation Engine? No Thanks, I already Built Mine

Based on what I’ve read/seen – the Pinterest team is operating on the idea that their algorithm can determine what you “might like” based on what you’ve previously pinned (or maybe who you follow and/or the boards you follow)…then promote those types of pins in your feed.

In other words, a recommendation engine, or a “recommender system”, as it’s called in Wikipedia. This is similar to how Netflix serves me recommendations, or Pandora, Amazon, etc. There is no doubt it works on those sites. But there is a huge different between Pinterest and those sites, (I’ll explain that in further detail below)…

The Big Problem Is…

I already built my recommendation engine on Pinterest. Every user has. How did we do it? The recommendation engine that is already baked into Pinterest is called “following” people. I’m following people I want to get ideas from – those ideas show up in my feed.

My feed is the way I like it (thank you) and it is constantly serving me up “recommended items” that I gladly accept because I’ve fine-tuned the algorithm myself by following and unfollowing people and boards. In fact, I took the last two years to customize my recommendation engine. I’m following people, and boards because I want to discover things based on what they do, who they are, where they live, and tons of other subtle and complex reasons.

If they are a brand, then I’ve opted in to follow them and see their pins at my choosing. Psychologically, that “opt-in” element makes it okay for them to market to me. I accept it gladly.

This is my social recommendation engine algorithm. It rocks. It’s customized for me. It’s perfect. It’s part of the Pinterest magic – the power of the site.

CRE Versus SRE

It seems the plan is that Pinterest’s commercial recommendation engine (and the promoted pins it offers up) will replace (or partially replace) my social recommendation engine and the pins it offers up. So a substantial portion of what I see in Pinterest will be tied to the Pinterest monetization strategy and revenue goals, not my social connections. I guess we could call it CRE versus SRE, (for those who like acronyms)…

The Commercial Recommendation Engine versus the Social Recommendation Engine.

I don’t think a CRE is a winning monetization strategy on Pinterest…Here is my anecdotal proof, from the Pinterest blog comments, (you can see all of them here):

pinterest advertising feedback

The Big Difference Between Netflix & Pinterest:

So why won’t a commercial recommendation engine work on Pinterest, (as the basis of an advertising method), if it works so well on Amazon, Pandora, and Netflix?  There are two reason:

  1. Those sites aren’t social networks.
  2. Those sites don’t already have any other recommendation engine installed and running.

Let me explain…

I don’t follow people on Netflix and watch what they watch. That wouldn’t be something I’d enjoy. I don’t follow people on Amazon and buy what they buy. Again, that wouldn’t be something I’d find helpful. Those aren’t social networks.

So, the recommendation engine on those sites perform a function that is not already available.

Here’s the big aha… On Amazon, (and Netflix), in exchange for the recommendation engine function being provided to me, I’m willing to accept the fact that it has some commercial intent. So I want a recommendation engine on those sites, (for sure), and the only one available is provided by the company for commercial reasons. And I say, that’s cool. I know Amazon wants me to buy another book, which is why they are recommending it, and I’m okay with that. The tool is valuable enough to accept this commercial aspect.

Alternatively, Pinterest and Facebook are both trying to do this same thing right now…

They are trying to supplant social recommendations, (already organically delivered through the social connections on the site), and replace them with commercial recommendations, in order to make money. But I already have a perfect recommendation engine. I have my social recommendation engine.

Their commercial (unwanted) service (which is not perfect) is being forced into the user experience to replace the (socially delivered / trusted) and wanted service.

That is not a winning idea.

Most people won’t accept this type of win/lose proposition for very long before getting very annoyed and beginning the search for alternatives. And just because TV stations got away with it for forty years, doesn’t mean that it will work on a social network. And just because it works on Amazon doesn’t mean it will work on a social network for revenue stream purposes.

In any industry, if you build a (three-party) monetization model by forcing consumers to be subjected to advertising content they don’t like – eventually – those participants will find a purer alternative. An alternative that doesn’t annoy them.

The Missing Objective:

I realize Ben & the Pinterest Team are working hard to get this right based on their stated objectives for the advertising program. I truly trust their intentions, and I think they will get it right. Their goals include being Tasteful, Transparent, Relevant, and having ads Improve Based On Feedback. Those are all good goals. However, I believe they need to add one additional goal to their list of objectives to really get it right:

Helpful … their ads need to be helpful.

A Costco membership is helpful, I gladly pay. Priceline is helpful, I gladly use it. Amazon’s recommendation engine is helpful, I gladly buy an extra book. Google search results are helpful, I gladly glance to the right to see if a paid ad is a better option than an organic search result.

Filling my Pinterest feed with commercial content is not helpful.

Helpful businesses build long-term competitive advantage and brand loyalty. Facebook, (according to my teenagers), is already over. We all know it’s in decline, but we’re too afraid to say it.

I truly hope Pinterest doesn’t take a (very bad) play from Facebook’s playbook. Stop and reboot with a new concept.

I know, I’ve already blogged about an alternative concept, here and here, so I apologize for repeating it again, but there are better options than an Adwords styled system. I’m sure they’re harder to figure out, but it could be done.

Whatever happens, it will be fun to watch!

Pinterest’s Promoted Pins – First Look?

Last week when Ben Silberman announced that Pinterest would start experimenting with promoted pins – I started looking for them. I think I just found one, but I’m not 100% sure. (Correct me if you think I’m wrong).

First, here is what Ben said in the announcement post,

Silberman quote2

And here is what I found when I searched for shoes compared to searching for watches or jackets. Did I find a Promoted Pin? I think so!


Why is this such a big deal? That’s easy. Monetization. But the coolest part is the care and class the Pinterest team is using to monetize. It’s truly fantastic that they are being super sensitive to do it in a way that is non-obtrusive. I first wrote my thoughts about how they could/should monetize back in April of last year with my “Open Letter To Tim Kendall”. Bottomline, I suggested they should attempt to be loved like priceline, not tolerated like Adwords & FB Ads. It’s not an easy thing to do.

Can Pinterest roll out a monetization strategy that actually serves users and strengthen our love and respect for the site?

So far – so good!


J. Crew and Pinterest Powered Predictive Production

J. Crew just did something revolutionary with Pinterest.

Have you heard about it?

Let me explain it using our small business as the example. And allow me to explain the problem thoroughly, so you understand how revolutionary the break-through is.

The Problem:

Our business is 80% digital goods & 20% physical goods. Right now we’re trying to grow the physical product sales, so I’m doing my best to learn how to make that happen.

Even though we’re a small company – and most of our revenue is from digital goods – I can’t afford to have a lot of physical inventory backing up and sitting on the shelves.  We manage this by doing our own sewing with our small team of 20 sewers. Still, I often notice things that aren’t selling well – and I wonder:

  1. Why didn’t those do as well as the darker denim version?
  2. How am I going to get rid of these slower sellers without lowering the price and damaging our pricing power?
  3. How can we get better at predicting what will sell – so I can make more of the winners and avoid over-producing the losers?

So  our “Perfect World” is simple:

  1. The designers design what’s in popular demand.
  2. The sewers sew an amount that we can sell quickly.
  3. The price & promotion work well – and customers see the item, and say “yes to the dress”.

But what really happens is this:

  1. The designers design things that are popular, but also a few things that are less popular.
  2. The sewers make an even amount of each since we don’t know which will be “really popular” and which won’t.
  3. The less popular items sit on the shelf – and I have a problem – I paid the sewers & designers a lot of money to work on those items, but I’m not making my money back.

The growing inventory costs can kill you. To cope – most retailers give the unsold items away to charity at an industrial scale for distribution oversees (yes, I used to work at World Vision  – they receive hundreds of millions of dollars of Gift-In-Kind donations).

Revolution Time:

Now let’s look at this same process and insert the J. Crew revolution…

  1. The J. Crew designers design things that are popular, but also a few things that are less popular (like everyone else).
  2. (This is my assumption, since J. Crew isn’t talking about it) They make a small amount of the physical items – say enough to be super conservative & not have inventory problems.
  3. They publish their catalog on Pinterest & (this is the revolutionary part) use the customer response to all the items to predict the future sales.
  4. (Again, my assumption) with this information they can scale production for the “really popular” and throttle back production for the “less popular”.

Inventory nightmare avoided (maybe not entirely, but this has got to help a lot).

Benefits Of Pinterest Powered Predictive Production:

In addition to making more of the truly popular items and making less of what you won’t be able to sell profitably (and therefore must hold in warehouses and eventually right off and donate), with this Pinterest Powered Predictive Production (give me a shout out for coining that phrase) retailers can:

  1. Raise the prices for the really popular items so they can maximize earnings.
  2. Feature the popular items on display in the front of their stores – winning the walk-by prospective customer.
  3. Feature the popular items more prominently in their paper/offline catalogs and ads.
  4. They have less inventory to right off since they used Pinterest to help predict which items would sell the best.

This is a real break-through…it will be interesting to see how other retailers follow the J. Crew lead. Here’s a nice graphic to pin 🙂

pinterest powered predictive production

Ps. We first wrote about the idea of creating a product catalog on Pinterest back in May of 2012, you can see that original post here.

All the best on your Pinterest Marketing efforts!

Jason Miles

Author of (the bestselling) Pinterest Power

Using Pinterest For PR (Lessons From The Boston Marathon)

Using Pinterest for PR

Have you ever thought about the difference between Pinterest & the other social media sites – as it relates to Public Relations?

I had the honor of speaking to an East Coast PR Society group recently, and of course the events in Boston were top of mind for people. As I was preparing to present I asked myself the question,

Is Pinterest Useful For PR Work? “

There are two types of emergencies – A “rapid onset emergency” is one that, as the name suggests, comes about rapidly. A “Slow onset emergency” is one that develops over a much more gradual timeframe.

So as examples:

Boston Marathon: Rapid-Onset Emergency

North Korea Conflict: Slow Onset Emergency

I’m sure you get the idea.

So as a PR person, the question we wonder about is how best would we use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube or Instagram in these types of situations.

Here are my observations & analysis as it relates to Pinterest & the other social sites:

1. Not Real-Time Focused: Whereas Twitter, Facebook & Instagram are built for real-time sharing, Pinterest is not. Most users pinning items in Pinterest related to the Boston event are items like “Pray For Boston” type memes – not minute by minute accounts of the situation.

2. Slow Search Algorithm Speed: In Twitter the Hashtag “BostonMarathon” went from something like 2,600 mentions on Twitter to over 288,000 (per almost immediately. And although you can search hashtags in Pinterest, when you search for that Hashtag in Pinterest (less than 24 hours after the bombing) there are no images presented associated with the event even though they’ve been uploaded. Several days later that was still true. Their search algorithm just isn’t refreshed rapidly enough (or something – I’m not a hacker so I don’t know exactly how to express this, but I know it’s true).

But fast forward one month and the boston marathon is out of the news cycle and is turning into a historical. Now ask yourself the question,

Which social media site has the best information about the Boston Marathon Bombing?”

Clearly it will be Pinterest. Look in Pinterest for Boston Marathon & choose the “Pinboards” option and you’ll see lots of curated content related to the issue. Here’s a screenshot:


Screen shot 2013-05-17 at 6.15.35 AM

The information is:

  • Thorough
  • Easy to find
  • A mix of both images and video

PR professionals should consider how Pinterest can be integrated with their work. If you’re in the business of providing information and resources as emergencies occur – then Pinterest should play a part in your media mix.



Award Winning Email Marketing Strategy

2012 Constant Contact All Star AwardI hope you don’t mind this post is off topic a bit for my usual Pinterest focus…but let me ask you…

Do you need to grow your sales? Do you use email marketing?

You should! We started using email marketing in the fall of 2009 with 125 email addresses, now we have over 25,000. Trust me when I tell you – sending an email to 25,000 raving fans can generate some strong sales.

And a few weeks ago we were told that Liberty Jane Clothing won the Constant Contact 2012 All-Star Award for our use of their Facebook Integration Tool. You can see the results here. The reason we won (we think) is that in January we added 2,395 new subscribers to our primary newsletter list – most of them came via Facebook. Most slow months we add 700+ names, many times twice that many.

According to the Constant Contact Team adding that many new subscribers in one month is fairly rare.

I know you’re thinking that I suck at email marketing for my work here at marketing On Pinterest. I rarely send emails out. Fair enough. But email marketing is about two things:

  1. Acquiring New Names Effectively.
  2. Marketing To Them Effectively.

We’ve seen huge gains in our primary business using email marketing because we do both of these things well.

And how did we learn this stuff?

Mainly from hearing Bob Bly do a webinar on effective email marketing. And as it happens – that webinar can be embedded – so I thought I’d share it.

All the best on your email marketing journey!

Is Pinterest Preparing For Ads?

Does Pinterest’s New Look Set The Stage For Advertisements?

Have you been playing around with the new Pinterest look like we have? You can read about their redesign here. Their stated goal was to tighten up the navigation – read their thinking about that here.

They even outline “What’s coming soon” and it doesn’t include any statement like, “Hey – were about to introduce Ads”. But if you look at their design modifications – then you could see how advertising could be easily introduced. Let’s look at the before and after – and I’ll show you what I mean:

The Old Look:

Note: I added the Red Arrow!
Note: I added the Red Arrow!

Note the un-optimized space in the right hand column. That area needed a clean up. Also note how the user name “Lauren Jacobson” has a lot of prominence in the header section of the pin. Now look at those 2 areas on the same pin in the “New Look” format…

The New Look:

This is the new look of the same pin.
This is the new look of the same pin.

Note the improvements to the 2 spaces. Interesting how in the header section – the user has been “de-emphasized”. and a nice big chunk of real-estate has been left un-used – to the right of “website” and to the left of “Share”…Also notice how the right hand column has been utilized by bringing content up from below the pin. Also note – the “Other Pins From Flickr” box is a handy 280-ish by 240-ish. And when you focus just on the 9 image thumbnails – that space is roughly 225X225. See where I’m headed with this? …

(Warning: Pure Speculation follows…)

The New Look With An Imaginary Ad:

Note: I made this in photoshop for illustrative purposes - it is not from Pinterest directly...
Note: I made this in photoshop for illustrative purposes – it is not from Pinterest directly…

Note (again) … I made this in Photoshop – I did not find it on Pinterest. But you could easily see how an ad related to the pin could easily be added in the right hand column. One could also be added to the top header section I suppose.

Could they have a better monetization team? … Given the fact that Ben Silberman worked at Google on the display Ad team before founding Pinterest – it stands to reason that this hypothetical future step would not be hard for them to engineer. Of course using their own advertising back-end – similar to Adwords or Facebook’s Advertising platform, (we use them both at Liberty Jane Clothing and love them and we’d use the Pinterest Advertising Platform as well). Especially since last year they hired Facebook’s monetization guru – Tim Kendall. Read my open letter to him about how an alternative to the traditional display ad system could be used.

Is it all going to happen as I’m speculating here? Probably not – but eventually Pinterest will monetize.

What do you think?

Ps. Hey, don’t forget to…

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About Jason Miles Marketing On Pinterest