Social Media 101: Copycats Suck!
I’ve actually written about this before, but when T.I.C (Trendsetter-in-Chief) Nicole asked me to write some tips for newbies, this was still the first topic I wanted to cover. Because really, this is SUCH an issue. Intentionally, or not, copycats come in every shape, size, and degree in the blogosphere.
Spend 10 minutes on Facebook and 20 minutes on Twitter and you are overwhelmed with information. Daily, we find tips, ideas and issues that may get you think about a post for your site.
But where is the line between being inspired by a topic and basically stealing content from another blogger?
Take the controversy of the Time Magazine cover featuring the breastfeeding blogger that hit stands last spring. How many posts did you read about it? How many of these posts had original thoughts?
Here’s the thing: it’s news. It’s interesting, and it has people fired up, why not write about it? I know I covered it for one of the sites I write for that day as a news piece. Since I was reporting the facts, I tried to keep my opinions out of it. But as the week wore on, I saw hundred of posts on the picture – many of them saying the same things.
Hot topics and current events can be a great spark to your creative side – but I know I want to be able to provide a valuable informational source for my readers. I don’t want to repeat the same thing yet again and I also don’t want to be out there scraping content from other people’s sites or worse – “link baiting;” covering hot topics for no other reason than to get hits on your site.
When I write, I try hard to be professional and valuable. I want people to read what I wrote because I offer a unique voice – not because I’m jumping on a controversial bandwagon. I also want to make sure that no blogger will never think I’ve copied them, or scraped content from their site for my own gain. So I went ahead and put together a list of things I consider when writing.
As long as I feel I’ve covered these items, I can stand behind my posts, good or bad, as my own.
- If it’s a hot topic / current event, is MY point of view different from what others are saying and is my POV something that offers value to my readers that is different from the value of the original blog post? Basically, why am I feeling the need to write about it if it’s been written about before?
- If I am using a lot of information from other sources, am I quoting/linking back? And even if I do link back, am I still using someone else’s “intellectual property” – their ideas and their insight?
- Am I providing enough interest on the original post to encourage others to click through on the link (providing traffic for the original blogger) *good thing* or am I just copying what they are saying word for word, giving the reader no need to read the original article *bad thing*?
- Is it clear which information I have gathered from other sources, and which information/thoughts are coming from me? Have I used block quotes with interesting lines that I feel show why I was inspired by the original post and that will hopefully encourage click throughs to the other writers post?
- And lastly, if the author of the other blog posts reads my post, how do I think they will feel about it? Will the original author feel that I added a point of view that they didn’t think about or will they feel that I just plagiarized their thoughts and content?
We as bloggers have enough hurdles to jump on our road to journalistic integrity without stealing content from each other. Inspiration is all around us, and it’s wonderful to elaborate on what others are already expounding on, but it’s never okay to rip off someone else’s content by basically just republishing what they have already said. If you find an article or a post topic that inspires you to share the information, share the original post by tweeting, linking on Facebook or even by posting a small excerpt on your blog with a link to original blogger’s site.
The blogosphere has grown to where it is today based on community, and sharing other people’s posts is what continues to grow the industry and make our voice as powerful as it has become.
Disclosure: On occasion, contributors of The Trend Tribe receive products, compensation and/or services gratis or at discounted rates. This practice does not influence the contributor’s point of view or the outcome of the review. All descriptions are factual and accurately reflect the reviewers experience. The opinions are their own. Photos courtesy of Thomas Braestrup at meandthis.com.