Why copying social media content really is an unforgivable sin

You’re unique. Your brand is unique. So, your content should be unique, too.

But time and time again, I see people using content from other accounts – sometimes with the best intentions, but nearly always getting stung by the results.

Picture this. One morning, I was searching through Instagram to push engagement, and I felt a sudden sense of de ja vu. In front of me was a post that was almost identical to the one I had put up a few days ago.

That’s right: someone had started to ‘impersonate’ me, taking my layouts, styles, and content ideas and making their own versions of the posts I’d already produced.

Copying without permission is not okay. Fact.

That doesn’t mean you can’t share content you think is valuable. You just have to do it in the right way, that’s all.

Why share other people’s content in the first place?

Have you ever just looked at the plus sign on Instagram and sighed at the thought of trying to think of something to post? You’re not alone. Coming up with original ideas all the time is one of the biggest challenges of running a successful social media account for your business (although funnily enough, I’m great at coming up with concepts for my clients’ campaigns when I’m managing social media for others… funny how that works, isn’t it?)

The web is packed full of information. You can find value and interesting concepts in every corner you look at. You might even argue that whatever you come up with has probably already been done before. With that in mind, borrowing the odd piece of text here and there surely isn’t that bad, right?

Wrong. Taking other people's content from social media channels and repurposing it without their permission is, as the title of this blog post states, unforgivable. At least in my not-so-humble opinion.

@brock11johnson demonstrated this when he had to apologise on his feed for resharing content without permission. You can see the post here.

But why is it such a sin?

It’s disrespectful

Taking another user’s content and repurposing it for your own gain without their permission completely undermines their creativity and originality, not to mention the effort they’ve made to create the post in the first place. If you spent the time and energy crafting a bespoke, killer Instagram post, you’d be pretty annoyed if someone else just took it from you without so much as a nod to your work.

It’s unlawful

On social media channels, there are certain rules and regulations you need to follow. If you break these, you could get banned from using the platform, or even kicked off the app. In some regions, like the US, you can get sued for infringement for copying someone else’s content – especially over on Instagram now that content creators can get paid for Reels!

It doesn’t achieve anything

Social networks love original content. Real people adding real value to these platforms is what makes these communities great; it’s what keeps us coming back for more. Your followers, ambassadors and customers want you to post content that encompasses you or your brand. Better still, the social media algorithms will reward you for it.

How do you share content responsibly?

If you find something of value that is really worth sharing, Instagram will allow you to share it with your followers via stories.

If you want to put this content on your feed, you need to ask the account’s permission first. Simply DM them within the app to check if you can share. If they say yes, cool – you’re good to go.

Remember, you must always tag and give full credit to the creator. Now that influencers are common on all platforms, and many of them make their living from these sites, it’s more important than ever to reference them.

Stay safe

I haven’t heard from my little imitator since I called them out on their sinful ways. Perhaps they’ve stopped, or maybe they’ve found a different account to copy. Whatever’s happened, if they carry on, I’m sure they’ll be caught out again eventually! I was just glad that I managed to distance myself from them and their actions didn’t have too much of an impact on my brand or my business.

If you’ve got any more questions on sharing, repurposing, or crediting social media content, ask away. You can reach me here.


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