The image-focused social network says it will open its Promoted Pins advertising product to all marketers on Jan. 1.

After eight months testing the native advertising unit Pinterest calls “Promoted Pins” with retailers such as Banana Republic, LuLuLemon Athletica Inc. and Target Corp. The image-focused social network says it is finally ready to take its first major step toward competing with Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for marketers’ advertising dollars.

On Thursday, Jan. 1, Pinterest will open up its Promoted Pins ad unit to all advertisers.

“Millions of people use Pinterest every day to save the inspiration and things they need to carry out plans and pursue their interests,” writes Joanne Bradford, Pinterest’s head of partnerships, in a blog post. “This is a huge, unmatched opportunity for marketers today—while some platforms look to the past or present, only Pinterest focuses on the future.

The social network says its Promoted Posts tests have shown the ads performed just as well, and occasionally better, than organic pins. For example, brands involved in the tests had a roughly 30% jump in earned media—that is, users who saw a Promoted Pin who then saved that pin to one of their boards—from their campaigns. Organic pins are repinned an average of 11 times, and Promoted Pins had the same, and sometimes better, engagement rates.

Pinterest’s rollout of a native advertising unit—in which marketers pay to promote products and posts that appear much like other posts that a platform’s users see—shows it has been keeping a close watch on other social network’s advertising experiments. In particular, Facebook’s advertising offerings have evolved from a business built largely on display ads not unlike Google Inc.’s paid search ads to one in which the ads blend into its overall platform. Twitter, Tumblr and shopping-focused social network Polyvore have also followed similar paths.

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For now, marketers have to work with a Pinterest advertising rep to buy Promoted Pins. Pinterest, which has also been testing self-service Promoted Pins that enables advertisers to  make the ad buys on their own, says those self-service marketers are also seeing “major gains in traffic and impressions.” However, it adds that it is making tweaks to the product before it rolls that offering out to all businesses. 

Pinterest also says it plans to make major upgrades to Promoted Pins, including developing new brand ad formats and more advanced targeting. 

“We’re committed to making Pinterest the best place for you to inspire your customers and see measurable results from your marketing,” writes Bradford.

 

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