How to Use Pinterest & Instagram for PPC Research

One of my favorite tasks to undertake is research about a new industry, client or market. Of course, I utilize the search engines to their fullest extent. But I have found that there is a lot more information out there that can be gained from utilizing social in your efforts.

Here are some ways that I have found useful to gain insights about my clients’ industries, their competitors and more.


As an avid cook and crafter, Pinterest is hands down my favorite social media channel. As I wrote last spring, Pinterest is a much more personal channel than other social networks. Since people use this outlet to find ideas (and not generate “likes”), I think the channel as a whole is very different from its social competitors.

Search & Suggestion Function

Using the search bar will return results for similar query suggestions, people on Pinterest who are similar, and boards across the site that are related to your search.

Once you hit enter, Pinterest will also return popular additions and filters to add to your searches that are popular or related.

Google has a similar suggestion feature, but I find Pinterest’s feature to be superior due to the visual aspect. I like being able to see what the differences are between my client and their potential competiton as well as related blog posts that could help with background and understanding about services and products.

Browse Buyable Pins

In case you’ve missed it, Pinterest has been rolling out a lot of new features, but one of their first strides into the PPC world was with their introduction of buyable pins. Long story short, these pins are very similar to other shopping ads, but allow users the unique opportunity to make a purchase from your site without ever leaving the Pinterest app. Really cool.

Beside the search bar is a dropdown that is by default “All Pins.” You can also select “Buyable Pins” to filter for ads specificially offering products for purchase. Cha-ching – get ready to browse your potential competitors’ ads.


About 35% of U.S. adults currently use Instagram, which is quite different from Facebook, where 68% of U.S. adults are said to be hanging out in 2018, according to recent research from Pew Research Center. A whopping 64% of 18-29 year olds are on Instagram, with the 30-49 age group only having about a 40% usage rate. As you go up in age, there are even less users of Instagram, so it’s safe to say that users here are on the younger side. While they may not always be in your target audience, they might be providing you with valuable information through their postings on the platform.


These are used in the same ways that hashtags are used on Twitter. However, my opinion is that on Instagram, there is a bit more shelf life to the posts so hashtags can be more valuable.

You can search hashtags for any keyword and see the number of public posts associated.

You’ll be served “top posts” with the associated hashtag as well as the latest posts with this hashtag.

Depending on what you’re searching for, you can use hashtag searches to uncover:

  • Other associated hashtags and potential keywords.
  • Valuable lingo or terminology that is associated with the product or service.
  • How your audience interacts with and feels about your product or service.
  • Potential competitors.

Tagged Locations

An additional useful feature that Instagram offers that I have found myself leveraging is the tagged location feature.

If you know the location that you’re looking for posts from or about, you can search for it in the search bar.

You can also find this information listed with the post itself if you’re looking for specific locations.

Here are some ways that I have used location tagging in the past:

  • Identify how users interact with your brand and competitors.
  • Uncover avid fans, users or buyers of your product or service.
  • Identify competitors who, for whatever reason, may not be found as easily on Google or other channels.

These are my favorite ways to conduct PPC research outside of the normal search engines and PPC tools. There is a lot of information to be found in your own social media platforms, you just have to do some digging!

What social media channels do you use for PPC research? I’d love to hear in the comments.