Pinterest's ongoing experiment with new ad formats went even further today: The social network announced that "promoted pins" are now being tested by a small group of paying advertisers in the search and category feeds.
What's a promoted pin? It's an ad unit that looks just like a regular user's pin except—you guessed it—a brand paid for its placement. Like a promoted tweet on Twitter, the goal is to create a less intrusive alternative to traditional banner advertisements—something CEO and cofounder Ben Silbermann has been a vocal opponent of.
Today's testers includes a range of companies from different industries: ABC Family, Old Navy, General Mills, lululemon athletic, Ziploc, and a few others. "These brands will help us test promoted pins to make sure they’re tasteful, transparent, relevant, and improved based on pinner feedback," writes Pinterest head of partnerships Joanne Bradford in a blog post. "Brands help people find inspiration and discover things they care about, whether it’s ideas for dinner, places to go, or gifts to buy. We hope promoted pins give businesses of all sizes a chance to connect with more pinners."
Pinterest first started experimenting with promoted pins last October, though at the time it didn't charge brands for them. Pinterest just put a bunch of them up to gauge user reaction. The results were largely positive: Users called the ads "subtle" and generally well-executed. The paid pins didn't clutter up the browsing experience. Encouraged, Pinterest is now pushing forward with pins that brands are paying actual money for. "We're just trying to preserve the authenticity," Silbermann told Fast Company in 2012. "Pinterest is a young platform."
It's young, yes, and still growing. A recent study by RJ Metrics, a software analysis platform, found that 84% of women using Pinterest are still pinning in their fourth year. Pinterest recently completed a $225 million round of funding, and the company is valued at $3.8 billion.