What marketers need to know about advertising on Pinterest and Instagram

The launch of promoted posts and pins on Instagram and Pinterest has seen an explosion of interest from marketers. For brands, the value of visual social media via mobile is obvious – a single image will take up the full screen of a mobile phone, and thus capture a user’s attention in a way that mobile banner ads (taking up only a fraction of the screen) cannot. These platforms therefore offer a great opportunity for engagement with a hard-to-reach younger demographic.

However, too many advertisers are approaching these image-led networks as very similar propositions. In fact, they are different on a fundamental level, which brands need to be aware of to use them effectively.

In terms of functionality, Instagram is first and foremost a social network and Pinterest is a search engine. Instagram is primarily used for entertainment; users visit the app and scroll through the content, looking at photos posted by friends or celebrities, when they have a spare 10 minutes to kill. Pinterest, on the other hand, is more like Google in the sense that it is used predominately as a discovery platform. Users visit the platform with intent, and more often than not for items to view and then purchase.

These differences in product should be considered by brands looking to use visual media to reach potential customers. In particular, the different purposes of these platforms affect the type of audience and their mindset.

Consumers usually visit Instagram with the purpose of connecting with friends, influencers and brands; it caters for this by making it easy for users to upload and share pictures. As a result, Instagram is often best suited to lifestyle and fashion brands that target younger consumers. Global Web Index research shows that 70 per cent of its users are aged 16-34. Instagram is therefore best used for storytelling and as a brand awareness tool.

People frequent Pinterest to discover a subject or type of product. It therefore works well for high-interest categories, which consumers are passionate about, such as interior design and cooking – demonstrated in its higher user base of millennial females which makes up 57% of its audience (Global Web Index). This is further cemented by the fact that the platform was quick off the mark to introduce buyable pins, where users can buy directly through the platform. This proved a savvy move with 83% of active Pinterest users having bought a product online within the last month.

At Performics, we explored the potential of Pinterest to provide customers with in-depth content with Nestle’s Nescafe Azera, which became a partner of the platform’s launch of Promoted Pins here in the UK. Coffee is considered a specialist topic; people get excited about learning about different beans, brewing techniques and brands. By using the new Promoted Pins feature we were able to reach customers who were passionate about coffee, creating strong engagement rates at a very competitive cost per engagement.

It does seem that in the longer term, Facebook will want to create more conversion from its ad formats on Instagram as a way to entice brands to invest. The launch of carousel ads last year and the ability to click through to purchase from images does push it towards becoming an e-commerce platform. Yet fundamentally, this is not why people visit the platform.

As consumer appetite for visuals grows, so does the opportunity for brands. As a result, we are starting to see other players make a play for this space; Snapchat for example is starting to team up with brands like Burberry to offer exclusive clips and imagery of its latest fashion ranges through its platform.

When looking to use Instagram, Pinterest, or even Snapchat, marketers also need to also consider the level of sophistication of these platforms. Instagram has the weight of Facebook behind it and benefits from Facebook’s self-service platform that is far more established. Pinterest, while boasting the benefit of a clearer conversion funnel is still a new advertising medium and at the moment brands should be applying trial and error to get the best results.

Jon King is managing director of Performics UK (part of Publicis Media group)

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