Last week Pinterest announced the latest step in its move towards monetisation with the launch of new business pages.

The new pages offer verification – similar to Twitter’s verified accounts – as well as easier access to new buttons and widgets. 

Pinterest has also created a dedicated site for businesses, which contains best practices, case studies and documentation.

Businesses have been using the social network for some time now, and we’ve previously highlighted six brands making good use of Pinterest as well as looking at stats that suggest it drives more sales than Facebook.

However this is the first time that Pinterest has officially welcomed brands to its platform.

So what do the new pages means for brands using the network, and how will the business pages develop over the next 12 months? To find out more, I spoke to three social media experts…

1. Do you currently advise your clients to build a presence on Pinterest? Why?

Henry Elliss, digital marketing director at Tamar

Pinterest is currently considered to be a useful part of the social mix for most of our clients, though admittedly we would never push it as the ‘core’ of a campaign – at least not until it’s proven its mettle in more tangible way. 

All the talk of Pinterest being a major traffic driver for retail brands that we’ve seen coming out in the past six to nine months have shown the potential of Pinterest, but it needs to cross-over more permanently from “potential fad” to “long term social network” in order to become a pillar of brands’ strategies.

There are definitely signs of it heading that way at the moment though, so it’s clearly going to be a big part of the 2013 landscape.

Georgina Dunkley, client services director at Punch Communications

Yes, but only if the business is suited to the platform. For example, retailers and consumers brands with an e-commerce site that contains a large amount of product images are an obvious candidate for the platform.

Pinterest offers an additional channel for products to be showcased, it can be a driver for traffic to your site and is another social community in which to engage with customers and audiences.

That said, as Pinterest is so pictorially focused, it is essential that any brand utilising the platform ensures high quality imagery is used and properly tagged for SEO benefit e.g. image titles as these are used as the default description for pins.

Chris Harris, director at Harkable

Yes we do, if we feel it’s the right fit for the brand. It works really well for companies that have something to show, such as strong imagery to work with. But as well as uploading or contributing their own content, brands can use Pinterest to curate other people’s.

The simplicity of the platform makes it easy for audiences to engage with the brand and participate in promotions.

2. At this stage do the business pages offer any new features or benefits? Is there any added incentive for businesses to create an account?

Henry Elliss

There don’t currently seem to be any additional benefits offered – to be quite frank the launch seems to be a way for Pinterest to segment their users a little more clearly, presumably in order to allow them to target brands more easily when they eventually crack monetisation in a big way.

Georgina Dunkley, client services director, Punch Communications

It is still a little early to tell. The new features, predominantly verified websites, appear to be available for both businesses and individuals; however, the new widgets functionality for profiles and boards certainly seems to be beneficial for businesses.

The profile widget, for example, allows up to 30 pins to be displayed on a brand’s website; a valuable tool for any brand that is trying to increase their Pinterest followers.

The board widget is also useful, in that it allows for more targeted content to be created for users. In this case, up to 30 pins can be displayed from any specific board. These social signposts will then entice web visitors to become followers of the brand on Pinterest.

And the promise of upcoming business features that will “provide more powerful ways of reaching and understanding your audience on Pinterest” sounds like analytics – something we’ve been waiting for an announcement on for some time!

Chris Harris

Apart from verification there is no significant feature benefit for businesses right now, so this is clearly a move to convert existing business users using standard accounts to business accounts, allowing Pinterest to roll out additional features and messaging over time to different account types.

3. In your opinion, how are business pages likely to evolve over the next 12 months? 

Henry Elliss

If you assume they’re going to evolve in the same way other social networks have with their business offering, they’re going to need to offer promotion and analytics pretty quickly – analytics in particular will have to be a big focus in order to allow businesses to justify their efforts. 

The other major evolution will (one would assume) be the ability to promote pinned content from brands on the homepage, allowing brands to target users who don’t yet follow them more easily.

Georgina Dunkley

It is likely there will be greater distinction between business and individual profiles and like with Facebook, an introduction of profile admins, so additional existing users can manage the page.

We expect to see more features, perhaps extending the group board feature, and are confident it is only matter of time before we begin seeing promoted and sponsored pins.

Chris Harris

I’d like to see some basic analytics included on business accounts, some profile customisation to allow for a more exciting experience for fans, and features around messaging and moderation – both handy for running competitions.

4. Similarly, do the new business pages indicate that Pinterest is actually about to reveal that it has stumbled upon a business model?

Henry Elliss

That’s the logical assumption you’d have to make – otherwise, why bother to differentiate? 

If anything, launching something that encourages brands to declare their interest more openly raises brands’ expectations. Launching something like this and then maintaining the status quo for another year could be a site-killer, at least as far as potential investors are concerned.

Georgina Dunkley

Not necessarily, Pinterest has stated that the new business features have nothing to do with monetisation or a business model, it is simply to make the user experience better.

However, it would be naïve to think paid-for options would not be on the cards in the future (e.g. promoted pins).

Chris Harris

Pinterest still seems to be aiming for scale at the moment, but I assume there’ll come a point where its investors will want to see revenues.

I can’t see Pinterest adopting a paid-for model for brands, but it may look to adopt similar models to the likes of LinkedIn and YouTube offering paid packages that allow brands to buy media to promote Pinterest profiles and content.