We run a Pinterest contest recently to gain an understanding of advertising on Pinterest.

In case you had missed it, Pinterest introduced paid advertising to their UK audience in April this year (2016). Shortly after it was introduced we decided to run a contest on Pinterest using paid advertising to promote it.  We had three aims for this – develop the brand, trial Pinterest advertising and get some real life examples for our forthcoming Pinterest E-Learning course. The experience taught us some valuable lessons and here we share them with you.

Back in May, we wrote a blog post on how to set up your advertising on Pinterest. If you haven’t already done so, hop on over to that one and have a read. In summary, though, Pinterest advertising works in a similar way to sponsored Facebook posts. You can sponsor a pin from your boards to boost its reach and select either to increase engagement or drive traffic to your website.

The Setup Process

Being familiar with Facebook advertising we found the step by step set up of a Pinterest promoted pin to be fairly straight forward. The bit that is likely to catch people out is the fact that if you want to sponsor a pin, it must already be pinned to one of your boards, you cannot upload it whilst creating the advert. You set the budget at the start or the end of the process and it can be changed before you launch the campaign.


This is the vital bit for ensuring the success of your promoted pin. The better you can target your advert, the more cost-effective it will be. Think about it, you will get more success from putting your advert in front of a smaller number of interested individuals rather than a larger number of people that are not interested in your offering.

This is an area where we could perhaps have spent a bit more time for our own sponsored pin. You can currently target by Locations, Languages, Devices, Gender and Interests. We targeted our promoted pin to a UK, English-speaking audience of both genders. This contest was partly an experiment with Pinterest advertising so we chose the audience segmentation like this to give us enough reach but keep the cost per click down. Pinterest does indicate the kind of Cost Per Click bid that you will need to enter and we went for a midpoint in this range. 

If we ran a repeat campaign we would spend more time on the targeting of interests. 

As Pinterest grows, the data that it holds on what people pin and interact with grows and users are better able to target their desired audience. There is quite a narrow range of interests to which a campaign can be targeted so we decided to try and rely on targeting keywords. 

This was probably a mistake as the keywords used in a promoted pin are aimed at capturing search traffic on Pinterest and they, therefore, need to be terms that people actually search Pinterest for. This is where the audience on Pinterest needs to be considered carefully. People search for subject names on other social platforms. Searches on Pinterest are slightly different in that people search for specific objects, designs and colours so bear this in mind if you choose keywords for your pins. The range of interests that you can pick from when setting up your campaign will undoubtedly grow as Pinterest continues to attract more and more users.

Tip 1: Our advice would be to look at the interests that you can target with Pinterest promoted pins before you create your pin – tailor the pin to the interests that are available rather than trying to target a pin that you have already created. You will get your pin in front of a greater audience but you will need to ensure that it is still relevant to them if you wish to achieve engagement or increased website traffic.

Visual advertising

Our Pinterest contest was a bit of an experiment and we weren’t expecting a fantastic response because of the time that we took to devise and promote the campaign (very little). We were guilty of treating Pinterest advertising as the same as advertising on other social networks and it is not. The audience on Pinterest is creative and visual. If your pin is not visually interesting it will not even be noticed and will be dismissed quickly. The Pinterest audience is also short of time and less likely to read details – so competitions need to be quick and easy to enter or they just won’t bother.

We created images to promote our Pinterest contest across our social media channels.

Tip 2: To run a more successful campaign we should have created a contest that was quicker and easier to enter than ours was and it should have been based around the “warm” colours of the most often repinned images – reds and oranges.


Here is where Pinterest differs from many of the other social networks. It takes a pin 3.5 months to get 50% of its engagement. Compare this to the average lifespan of a post on Facebook or Twitter and you will instantly see that you should be thinking of Pinterest as the long game. We ran our contest for just a short time and really, in Pinterest terms, we didn’t give our pin long enough to get noticed.

Tip 3: Be prepared to allow the advert to run for longer than on other social channels.

Analytics and Success Measurement

The analytics from which you can interpret the success of your paid advertising are presented nicely and are fairly straightforward to understand but they are a bit limited. As the paid advertising model becomes more established on Pinterest we would expect to see much more detail become available in the on-screen analytics though it is possible to export the data to a spreadsheet to manipulate it as you wish.

We achieved some impressions and clicks which ultimately led to contest entries and some positive feedback on Twitter.

The tweet we received from the winner of our Pinterest contest.

With a bit more planning of the campaign and more consideration of the audience we were targeting, we would probably have done a few things differently.   

This was an experiment that has confirmed a few things that we suspected about Pinterest advertising and well worth us doing. 

The overriding lesson that can be taken from our experience is that you need to understand the audience on Pinterest, realise that they behave a bit differently to those users on Twitter and Facebook and tailor your advertising with this in mind.

Tip 4: Have a go with Pinterest ads, you will learn from the experience 🙂

Improve your Pinterest marketing with our Pinterest for Business Online Course.