Pinterest & Snapchat: 12 tips to dial in your visual ads

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, contributor Brad O'Brien offers tips to make the most of your advertising on Pinterest and Snapchat.

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holiday-retailer2016g-ss-1920By this point, we’ve all traded enough Facebook advertising Q4 tips (raising hand) to write a few books on the subject.

If you’re not using all the tools in Facebook’s ROI kit in the next few weeks through the busy holiday shopping season, you don’t have many excuses.

But what about for the newer social platforms that don’t have as many best practices in circulation? For retail clients especially, there’s still time to make hay in Q4 on Pinterest and Snapchat.


Pinterest is a cool combination of social engagement/proof and search intent. Since I last wrote about the platform in April, lots of new best practices have emerged.

Because keywords are such a big part of the platform, some unique optimization tactics open up, including:

  • Bucket your top-performing keywords into their own campaign to isolate them. This helps you try things like bidding higher on keywords that you know will perform.
  • Test keyword audiences against lookalike audiences to see which perform better. (For the record, one of our recent tests showed that CPC and CTR were better for keyword audiences, while conversion rate was better for lookalikes. But results vary by client.)

There are plenty of other more social-natured tips, too. Some of our favorites:

  • Exclude Custom Audiences from promoted pin targeting (this functions much like Facebook’s Custom Audience exclusions).
  • Let certain pins run organically for a while to build engagement before spending on them. When you start spending on new pins right away, it can take weeks before the pins spend money because there’s little traction with engagement.
  • You can create dark pins in the bulk editor; this lets you get specific more efficiently.
  • Leverage the new Pinterest pixels! They’re now in version 3, and they’re pretty darn handy for Creating Website Custom Audiences and retargeting audiences.
  • Pinterest description copy should be detailed, and it can be longer than what is generally used for social posts. We’ve found a sweet spot right around 240 characters, though of course we recommend testing.
  • Creative should have distinct text overlays with highlights, whether on the image or in a text box (e.g., “How to budget your money…” or “Create great dishes with these 100 recipes…”). Vertical aspect ratios (pins taller than they are wide) are still the best performers in my experience.

pinterest ads


Snapchat ads, of course, are the newest and arguably least known of the three. A few tips if you are considering Snapchat ads in Q4:

  • Try geo-fenced filters, a fun branding play that will only cost local businesses a few bucks to create a cheap, engaging experience for any store visitor. Create one that is fun and holiday-themed, and consider offering a discount at checkout for anyone who shows that they’ve used the filter. Use your other social platforms (like Facebook, Twitter) to cross-promote the Snapchat filter locally.
  • Snapchat is no longer just for teenagers. Popularity is growing most, especially in the 25–34 age group, which grew from 11.3 million to 15.8 million users in just the last year. With a broader demographic flocking to the platform, this makes it more compelling to many advertisers.
  • Snap ads have grown from only being seen in the Discover section of the platform to Stories, showing among the content of the users you are following. Further, some newer features of Snap ads allow the user to “swipe up” on the ad to see more; you can even direct them to articles, videos, app stores and mobile website experiences.
  • Having the sound on is a self-selected feature that most Snapchat users will opt into. This is because the bulk of the platform is actively creating and viewing video, and this naturally will lead to having your sound turned on to hear and be heard. Facebook video, conversely, has sound off on video by default, resulting in up to 85 percent of Facebook video being watched with the sound off.

By the time Q4 2017 rolls around, my (educated) guess is that Snapchat will have dozens of new features to share, and Pinterest will be a well-oiled holiday machine.

For now, our advice is the same as usual: Test any new features aggressively before diving in, but don’t be afraid to grab an opportunity before your competition.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Brad O'Brien
Brad O'Brien joined 3Q Digital as VP of Social after spending several years on the brand side at Provide Commerce & FTD companies. Brad has a strong background in Social, SEO, ecommerce, landing page and test optimizations, analytics, as well as production and promotion of digital content. Originally from New Jersey, Brad went to college in Virginia at James Madison University and received a degree in Marketing. He has called San Diego home for the last seven years, and also works out of San Diego. Brad enjoys surfing, being outdoors, music festivals, traveling, cooking, and spending time with his dog Duke.

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