Pinterest has already proven successful in driving sales for online retailers, particularly for women. The mostly (80%) female social network has a really smooth flow to a point of sale, which makes it uniquely valuable to marketers. In the new year, Pinterest announced its intention to roll out their advertising platform to the public, and all indications would suggest it will be a great success.
Firstly, as I said, Pinterest boards already convert well to sales. Ads will therefore feel very similar to users. Although there will likely be a design element identifying promoted pins, the interaction with images linked to sites will be very similar. If you think about how starkly ads and posts on Facebook differ, this is a non-trivial difference.
Secondly, Pinterest is a platform where people post about their aspirations, including things they would like to buy. A comparison that I think is on point is: if you've bought a new piece of clothing, you Instagram it; if you see something online that you love, you Pin it. This information is incredibly valuable to marketers, making it possible to target an audience that has actively expressed an interest in purchasing their product. No other platform is this powerful: Facebook, for example, can at best offer an audience of people interested in your product, which does not necessarily mean they want to buy it.
Finally, among women Pinterest has reached a percentage of the US market that outshines all but Facebook, with 42% of online adult women using the platform. That is more than Twitter, Linkedin, or Instagram. The platform is growing faster than most, too, with an increase from 21% to 28% of online adults on it from 2013 to 2014 (only Instagram did slightly better).
Pinterest is a large and growing platform with exciting prospects for marketers. However, the high ROI of their ads is doomed to decay. To steal a piece of wisdom from Andrew Chen, "over time, all marketing strategies result in shitty clickthrough rates", meaning that as a certain marketing channel is used more and more, its effectiveness decreases. Email marketing open rates, for example, decreased from 14% to 11.3% between 2007 and 2009.
Fortunately, there are ways to fight this law, and one such solution suggested by Andrew is to "discover the next untapped marketing channel". That is where Pinterest comes in. Given all I have said above I believe Pinterest ads will consistently be more valuable than other social ads, but the best results will come to those first out of the gate.