Research Briefing: Pinterest pitches itself to marketers to build clout among platforms

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Welcome to the Digiday+ Research Briefing, your weekly curation of media and marketing research insights. Digiday+ members have access to the research below. 

In this edition, we examine how Pinterest is pitching itself to advertisers, despite receiving less investment from marketers than other social platforms, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.

Less than one-third of marketers use Pinterest

Pinterest has always seen itself as a platform that can effectively target and engage users at various stages of the marketing funnel but now it really wants marketers to do the same. Pinterest’s main pitch deck for 2023, which has been making the rounds since April, begins by boldly touting the platform’s mission: “To bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love.” It also highlights that nine out of 10 users say that Pinterest is an online oasis. 

“Users inherently trust the content on Pinterest, thus a brand’s presence alone on the platform positions their messaging in higher regard in comparison to other social platforms,” said Jenny Lewis, director of social media investment at Basis Technologies, who has around a single digit percentage of clients that buy ads on Pinterest. 

While marketers’ messaging may be held in a higher regard when positioned on Pinterest, Digiday+ Research survey results found that less than one-third of marketers (30%) say their companies use Pinterest for marketing. That is according to data from Digiday’s CMO Strategies report on marketers’ use of social media platforms.

Platforms with lower marketer usage — like Pinterest and X (formerly Twitter), which came in just ahead of Pinterest with a usage rate of 35% — tend to focus on users engaging with each other rather than on brand marketing. Pinterest does offer paid tools for marketing, but its strategy differs in comparison to top platforms like Instagram. Brand-owned Pinterest boards typically repost user-generated content and allow marketers to target consumers in a more organic way, with users coming to the site for inspiration and then being redirected to the product source. Pinterest’s recent pitch deck emphasizing its user engagement capabilities, therefore, tracks with its overall marketing approach.

However, while platforms that focus on user engagement play important roles for brands, like offering consumer inspiration and product discovery, marketers may not rely on them for performance marketing. In fact, clickthrough rates and engagement were marketers’ top measurements of success for ads placed on Pinterest, with 32% and 26% of Digiday survey respondents selecting each metric respectively. Conversely, commerce and sales came in well behind that at 18% of respondents and conversions at 8% of respondents.

Pinterest was also on the low end of marketers’ 2023 budget allocation, with only 6% of respondents saying their companies devote the largest portions of their marketing budgets to Pinterest. By comparison, well over three-quarters of respondents (83%) said Instagram takes the largest portion of their companies’ budgets.

Marketers likely would devote more of their budgets to Pinterest if brands felt they could reach more consumers through the platform. Digiday+ Research’s survey found that Pinterest’s main barrier to increased adoption is lack of scale, with 67% of marketer respondents saying lack of scale is the biggest challenge they face on the platform. 

At last count, Pinterest’s user base was around 465 million in the second quarter, up from the 445 million global monthly active users shared in the pitch deck. For context, Instagram had over 2 billion monthly active users at the start of the year. Simply put, Pinterest is growing, albeit slowly. That’s something it will need to address if its pitch — and subsequent ad business — are to amount to something more.

Key findings:

  • Less than one-third of marketer respondents (30%) said their companies use Pinterest for marketing. Platforms with lower marketer use, like Pinterest and X, focus more on audiences engaging with each other rather than brand marketing.
  • Clickthrough rates and engagement were marketers’ top measurements of success for ads placed on Pinterest, with 32% and 26% of respondents selecting each metric respectively. Pinterest’s main barrier to increased adoption was lack of scale, with 67% of respondents saying that is the biggest challenge they face on the platform. 

Read more about marketers’ spending on social platforms

Brands, retailers increase their investments in Instagram

While Pinterest is making a concerted effort to woo marketers with its recent pitch deck, other social platforms, like Instagram, are already finding themselves on the receiving end of marketers’ investments in 2023. In fact, brands and retailers are actually upping their investments — both ad spend and content creation — in Instagram in 2023. That’s according to Digiday+ Research surveys of over 100 brand and retailer professionals in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Digiday’s surveys found that brands and retailers are increasing their ad spend on Instagram this year. Nearly three-quarters of brand and retailer pros (72%) told Digiday this year that their brands purchased advertising on Instagram in the past month, up from just under two-thirds (64%) last year.

Digiday’s surveys also found that brands and retailers are investing more in original content for Instagram than they were last year. Two-thirds of brand and retailer pros (66%) said this year that they invest a moderate amount or a lot in creating original content for Instagram, up from 56% last year.

In particular, there was a notable jump in the percentage of brands and retailers who said they spend a lot on original content for Instagram. One-third of brand and retailer pros (33%) said this year that they invest a lot in creating original content for Instagram, compared with just 16% last year. Although that 33% is still short of the 40% who said the same in 2021.

It is worth noting that this year, Digiday’s surveys found that there was an almost even division among the brands and retailers who said they spend a lot, a moderate amount and a little on creating original content for Instagram. Thirty-three percent of brand and retailer pros said they spend a lot on original content for the platform, 33% said they spend a moderate amount and 30% said they spend a little.

Clearly, brands and retailers are finding that Instagram is a platform worth investing in when it comes to their marketing spend, whether it’s putting their resources toward creating original content for the platform or buying advertising there.

Key findings:

  • Brands’ and retailers’ increased investments in Instagram make sense when we look at how brand and retailer pros said the platform is acting as a revenue driver this year. Nearly three-quarters of brand and retailer pros (71%) told Digiday this year that Instagram is a valuable or extremely valuable revenue driver. That’s up from slightly more than half (52%) last year.
  • Similarly to how brands and retailers said they view Instagram as a revenue driver this year, the increase in the platform’s value to branding was due mostly to the “extremely valuable” category. This year, nearly two-thirds of brand and retailer pros (63%) told Digiday that Instagram is extremely valuable for branding. Last year, less than one-quarter (24%) said the same.

Read more on brands’ and retailers’ Instagram investments

See research from all Digiday Media Brands:

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Modern Retail+ Research

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