The success of Pinterest has crept up on the media industry. Launched in 2010, Pinterest now boasts 10m UK monthly users and the platform has recently launched its UK ad offering. Unless you’re a Pinterest enthusiast, it might not be obvious how the site can form such a valuable element of a campaign strategy. However, Pinterest offers a strong opportunity for brands, particularly those in the travel and retail sectors.

Back in 2012 Pinterest was widely celebrated for overtaking Facebook in driving a larger volume of social referral traffic to brands’ websites (Econsultancy 2012). However, direct comparisons of Pinterest to other social networks undervalues the huge potential that this unique platform has on offer.

Pinterest provides a surplus of inspirational imagery similar to an Instagram feed. But research from Shopify (2015) found that 93% of users plan purchases when on Pinterest, so it’s clear that there is a deeper motivation for consumers than simply seeking inspiration. In the US, the platform has already moved more directly into e-commerce by introducing a ‘Buy’ button feature, so that users can click straight through to external platforms to make a purchase.

As a visual bookmarking tool, Pinterest allows people to save, share and curate products and ideas onto ‘Pinboards’ without copying and pasting links from multiple sites. This removal of disruptions allows users to stay in a relaxed mind-set while browsing products – an attractive audience for advertisers to target.

The introduction of Pinterest’s ‘promoted pins’ this month represents a step-up for advertisers on the platform. The search functionality of promoted pins means that ads are presented to users actively searching for related terms, allowing a real-time response to these signals of intent. Unlike Google, these pins are driven by the social engagement within the platform; if your pin is re-pinned it will continue to gain exposure after the paid-promotion has stopped, through valuable and authentic social endorsements. In addition to this, by working with influencers on the platform, brands can further extend the engagement and life of the pin.

This is a particularly attractive prospect for advertisers because Pinterest’s top categories – including DIY, travel and weddings – are need-based. These categories align with ‘strong indicators of intent’, where searches are made during key moments when users are intending to make a purchase. Presence at this final ‘research stage’ of the consumer purchase journey is a valuable opportunity to connect at a time when your brand has maximum relevance.

Despite its 10m+ users and strong offering for brands, the main challenge still facing UK Pinterest is the general belief that the platform is niche, however the introduction of promoted pins will likely change this. Due to the platform’s unique characteristics, Pinterest requires its own strategy with input from both social media and PPC specialists. Whilst Pinterest isn’t likely to outperform PPC anytime soon in terms of short-term KPIs, brands that invest strategically to embrace the unique functionalities offered by Pinterest will see a long-term benefit.