They are starting out by promoting certain pins from a select group of partners. For this first test, Pinterest will promote a few pins in search and category feeds to get a feel for how they work and use what they learn to figure out what kind of products and tools they should build down the road to you get the most out of Pinterest.
The promoted pins work just like regular pins, only they have a special “promoted” label, along with a link to learn more about what that means. Pinterest say “We’re still just testing things out right now, so we’d really like to hear what you think. We’ll be listening closely to what you have to say and will continue to keep you posted about how things go“.
The real success of Pinterest however will be if they can promote pins to people that are actually interested in them. Pinterest will doubtless use retargeting technology and you’ll suddenly start to see pins for a product you recently viewed on another website. We would also expect Pinterest to add conversion tracking for their advertisers so that they can measure success rates of their promoted pins.
(Retargeting works when a potential buyer visits your website, a cookie is dropped on their computer and then later when they’re browsing the web they can be served adverts from you. You then know your ads are being seen by people who are interested in your brand having previously visited your website. If you suddenly see ads for a site you’ve visited it’s no accident… now you know how it works!)
Promoted pins on Pinterest was really inevitable, you can already pay to have adverts and posts promoted on Facebook or sponsored tweets on twitter. In reality they rarely get too much in the way for regular users of the sites and people tend to accept that when a site is free to use there’ll be a few adverts to pay the bills.