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How to hijack popular brands on Pinterest for free publicity

Through a kink in Pinterest's collaboration option, it's easy to make inactive celebrities and brands appear to endorse your pinboards. 


Lauren Rae Orsini

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 22, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 9:04 pm CDT

Being passive on Pinterest isn’t just boring. It can compromise your online reputation.

Thanks to Pinterest’s collaboration option, you can add anyone you follow to a board as a moderator. That’s regardless of whether the second user follows you back or not. When you’re added as a board collaborator, the shared board pops up on your profile.

While most pinners use this feature responsibly, the possibilities for abuse are endless. If you’re trying to promote a board for your small business, for example, why not make an inactive celebrity or a big brand a collaborator? Then, your board will appear to anyone who checks out that celebrity profile.

On Pinterest’s Help page, the company notes: “Users who you add as contributors will receive an email notification. They can choose to remove themselves at any time.”

However, inactive users might not notice they were added.

Take Starbucks. As intrepid Pinchat contributer Sela Seigel observed, the brand’s account has been inactive and unmoderated for three weeks. Anyone who wants to can add Starbucks as a board collaborator, regardless of whether the board is topical or not.

Chicago Botanic Garden is currently milking that publicity. After adding Starbucks to its Great Garden Recipes board, it got prime real estate on the coffee chain’s profile—without any apparent link between vegetables and coffee. We have contacted the former for comment.


The Daily Dot found that users need neither permission nor a friend request confirmation to add a collaborator. We temporarily added Starbucks as a collaborator on our Linterest board—dedicated to New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin—and it popped up on the company’s profile:


Pinterest expert Kelly Lieberman agrees there are definitely some kinks in the collaborative boards.

“I do think you should have to ask someone before they are added to a group board,” Lieberman told the Daily Dot. “[There’ll be] issues going forward for brands and celebrities as they begin to use the network and more users realize that they can do this.”

Brands and celebrities, be vigilant. We can’t imagine it’ll be long before a user adds Starbucks to an “I Hate Coffee” board.

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*First Published: Feb 22, 2012, 12:45 pm CST