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Pinterest has seemingly been testing autoplay video ads forever, but most advertisers haven’t been able to get in on the fun. The video ads were limited to just a small number of big advertising firms and massive brands, while local businesses or small brands made do with picture-based ad formats.

That all changed this morning when Pinterest announced its Promoted Video ads are now officially available to everyone. Anyone can sign up and start running their own autoplay video ads on both search results and within users’ feeds.

Unlike other platforms like Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest is avoiding providing analytics for the ads through their own measurement systems. Instead, they are aiming to avoid potential conflicts of interest by partnering with third-party metrics companies Moat and Nielson.

“One of the unique differentiations for video on Pinterest was that it’s not only about inspiration, but it also helps people do things,” Mike Bidgoli, product lead at Pinterest, told AdWeek. “Obviously the format moved to autoplay, which made it easier for advertisers to be able to buy and measure the same way that they are with everything else. The overarching point is that we wanted video to have third-party measurement from the get-go.”

The company also says that carrying your existing video campaigns over to Pinterest is simple because they follow “the same creative standards as the rest of the industry.”

You can get started sharing your own video ads on Pinterest through their self-serve service, Pinterest Ads Manager.

Pinterest has become one of the most reliable social media sites for retailers and brands hoping to gain a following, so it should be no surprise it is also developing one of the most extensive advertising platforms.

Over the past year, the social network has expanded its ad platform in several ways, including partnering with Kenshoo and improving their visual search functions. Still, many have been hesitant about investing heavily in an ad service that isn’t run by Facebook or Google.

There are perhaps several reasons Pinterest’s ad service has seen relatively slow adoption by most online brands, but the biggest is probably the most simple: it’s different. Instead of following the established systems of the other big online ad platforms, Pinterest has strived to maintain the visual nature and originality that have been central to its entire service.

While this may make their ads less obnoxious and more cohesive with Pinterest’s normal content, it also creates a hurdle for advertisers who don’t understand exactly what is being offered or how the ad service works.

To help make everything clear, Croud put together a suitably visual guide explaining Pinterest’s platform, why marketers are using the platform, and what options are open to marketers of every level – from Fortune 500 to “mom and pop”. Find out what the deal is with Pinterest ads below or click the image to view the full-size version:

Source: Scott Beale/Flickr

Source: Scott Beale/Flickr

Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only social media platforms you can advertise. Smaller, more niche social networks like Reddit, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Tumblr have all gotten in on social advertising with innovative ad formats and placements. Now, two of those sites have both announced new ads on their networks that directly give back to their users.

Tumblr and Reddit have announced two separate plans for ads that will run on their networks and compensate users for allowing their blogs or content to be included.

In the case of Tumblr, the service is rolling out ads that will be shown across their blog network. Users can opt out of having the ads shown on their specific pages, but those who decide to be included can receive compensation just for allowing the ads.

Details on how much users will be paid and how have yet to be released, as Tumblr says they are “still working out the details of the partner program, but as soon as we have details to share, we’ll make announcements.”

While Tumblr says they will be outright paying users for participating, Reddit’s new ad service isn’t quite so direct.

With the launch of Promoted User Posts, brands can now take advantage of content being posted on the site by promoting it for more to see. This means you can spot a post organically shared on Reddit by a user and boost it to the front page or user feeds with the original poster’s permission.

However, instead of paying users for allowing their content to be used by brands for promotion, Reddit is opting to reward them with a lifetime of “Reddit Gold.” Reddit Gold is the site’s premium membership program which costs $29.99 a year and can be gifted to users by others.

“There are car enthusiasts on Reddit,” CEO and founder Steve Huffman told Ad Age. “Makeup addicts, people who discuss movies, books and video games where these commercial relationships are already developing with our users. It is not a stretch for the advertiser to come in here and engage with our audience.”

These innovative ads are a smart way to involve the communities that already exist on the social networks and make them feel invested in the ads they are seeing. It also presents an opportunity for brands to take advantage of things already being shared to better promote their brand and products.

“This isn’t traditional display advertising,” Huffman told Ad Age. “This is different and more personable. You have to bring your A game here and if you do, it works amazingly.”

Facebook Video has quickly grown to rival YouTube, so it is unsurprising that video ads have also become a major part of Facebook’s advertising platform. But, as more and more companies share their ads on Facebook, it is becoming significantly more difficult to stand out.

To help companies make the best ads possible for their platform and best engage their audience, Facebook took it upon itself to test out their video ads to see what is best in the eyes of consumers.

Facebook showed 965 video ads targeted to the United States and Europe to a panel of consumers in a way that mimicked Facebook News Feed on mobile and asked the participants to evaluate each ad based on four factors: first impressions, branding, messaging, and video features.

Let’s break down the biggest findings of the report:

Engage Users Fast Without Audio

The majority of marketers aren’t taking how users watch videos into account when they create their ads, according to the report. Despite the fact that videos play silently in the News Feed by default and many users watch without sound entirely, only 24% of the ads were comprehensible without ads.

Additionally, only 23% of these ads included brand messaging that was easy to understand within the first 10 seconds of video and less than half (46%) featured recognizable brand links.

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Brands that ensured their ads quickly established their messaging and were understandable without sound were drastically more popular among respondents than those who didn’t.

Keep Your Messaging Clear To Spark Engagement

Videos that were intended to create a conversation and succinctly communicated a brands’ message were also more liked by participants in the study.

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For more insights from Facebook’s study, read the report here.

social-media-graphicAt midnight tonight the world is stepping into the New Year and social media is already buzzing with excitement. As the hour approaches in every time zone, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will all be filled with updates from parties and celebrations from around the world. It is an appropriate way to ring in a new year that will almost certainly continue the global domination of social media.

The past year has seen record numbers for the most popular social media platforms of the moment, and even Facebook continues to grow their audience at a regular pace by reaching new demographics who have been hesitant to adapt to the new social age. But, social media could be notable for something new. This year could very possibly be the year ads on social media become a complete part of social media.

Of course, social media ads are far from new. Barely anyone can imagine their Facebook dashboard without the standard ad bar on the right side of the screen. But, the ad platforms used by the biggest social media sites have hit a turning point where they are growing into their own service. Facebook has greatly improved the customization of their ad service this year, and Twitter’s ad platform transformed from a ramshackle affair to a fully realized service. But what they have in store for 2014 looks to be even bigger.

Facebook is already testing a feature which will likely receive a lot of attention next year. It is natural that Facebook would eventually find a way to implement video advertising similar to the TV or YouTube ads we are all accustomed to, and their new video sharing function allows them an easy way to do just that.

As you’ve likely already noticed, Facebook allowed users to more easily share and see videos this year by remodeling the way they display videos in the News Feed. By setting the videos to autoplay silently when they shown on screen, the videos are automatically eye catching, without being intrusive. It sounds like the video ads they are testing follow almost exactly the same format, which is likely to see quick growth should it be implemented.

Meanwhile, John Lee from Search Engine Land recently discussed how Twitter filing for their IPO this year is a solid indicator that you can expect a closer attention to ads in the very near future. Simply put, now that Twitter is beholden to shareholders, there is going to be an increased emphasis on ad revenue and increased outreach.

Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only social media platforms to be increasingly show ads within their site. The more niche platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have also begun testing ad units within their platform which will bring a whole new style of advertising to social media. Both platforms have strict rules discerning what ads are allowed within their tests, and it seems they are aiming to implement ads while keeping their distinctive style.

To top it all off, 2014 could be the year Google+ finally sees some form of ads. While Google may keep delaying the decision to place advertising within Google+ until they finally find a larger audience, the recent announcement of +Post Ads being tested could be a sign that changes are on the way. +Post Ads are not advertisements themselves, strictly speaking. They are a way for brands to advertise notable Google+ posts across Google, but there is still the lingering question of when ads will actually appear in Google’s flavor of social media.

For brands looking to continue their online growth over the next year, the surge of social media advertising is good news and bad news. Improved advertising platforms offer a better variety of ways to market your brand or products in the most effective ways. But, as Facebook recently admitted, it also means the playing field is beginning to become a bit uneven. Increasing your outreach online may become costly in the future, which could be a deal breaker for many of the smaller businesses currently taking advantage of social media.