November 27, 2014

4 Ways To Fairly Use Other People’s Content

Whether it’s for our blog, newsletter, social media updates or something else, we’re all a little obsessed with content right now. And who can blame us? The search engines have been clear that it’s through our content that customers will find us, trust us, and buy from us.

caught stealing

So, just like that, we’ve all committed ourselves to producing pages and pages of content each week that we’re using to attract customers and promote our range of services. But what if you could reap the benefits of content without doing all the legwork to create original content all by yourself?

Well, you can.

Below are four ways to make use of other people’s already existing content. Things that add value to your user but that don’t steal or diminish what someone else has already created. Because while we all want to get more bang from our buck, we don’t want to steal other people’s content either.

1. Simplify It

If Apple were to announce today that the new iPhone would only come in the color lime green, do you know what would happen? We’d be inundated with blog posts written by all the greatest tech pundits about what the announcement meant. There would be posts about why that color was chosen and its significance, what such a color means to smart phone manufacturing, the history of the iPhone, and whether or not it was just another ploy from Apple, etc.

Pretty soon TechMeme would be filled with 500 blog+ posts all adding their own commentary to the same three details released. It would be a mad house. We know this because it happens every week in the tech sphere.

And I bet it happens in your corner of the world, too. Maybe a new law has been enacted that will change how your industry operates. Or a competitor has been outed for some controversial practices. Instead of being another voice in a sea of confusion, do your audience a service by breaking down what’s already out there, explaining what it means, and showing them how to find more information on the topic.

Help them understand what everyone else is saying in their posts and you’ll make your blog the one they trust and refer to.

2. Offer Round Ups

Don’t have time to whip out a blog post or a new article? Use content from the Web to offer a round up instead. Maybe it’s a roundup of news related to your niche, maybe it’s the ten best posts you’ve read about X or maybe it’s a list of fun things you simply want to share with your audience.

Either way, it allows you to share content without the burden of having to write it from scratch. It also encourages you to step outside your site and recognize others who are doing and saying great things. This makes your site more interesting to your readers, while also helping you to establish relationships with related bloggers for use in the future.

3. Use it For Commentary

One of the most difficult aspects of keeping fresh content on your site is that it’s pretty easy to run out of things to talk about. By aggregating content that others share on their blogs it provides new talking points on your own site. Maybe you agree with Joe X’s opinion on how women are treated in your industry. Or maybe you disagree with Jane Y about a new way to market your business online.

By keeping up to date and sharing what others are saying, it creates a new platform for you to express yourself.

And don’t go crazy thinking you need to write 400 words about a topic – you don’t. Just share the link that caught your eye, summarize the person’s point, and then agree or disagree with what they had to say. By sharing the content it gives you something easy to talk about and by adding your own insight to the mix you establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Win-win.

4. Curate It

All content moves fast, but it moves even faster in social media. How many tweets go by about a certain topic on any given day? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? If you can find a way to curate that content for your audience and make it more accessible you’re going to be providing them an enormous amount of value. And you’re going to do with without ever having to write something yourself.

There are tools out there dedicated to helping you become known as a great resource by making it easy to curate and share the information passed through social media channels. For example, Storify lets you tell stories by aggregating content from sources like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc, and put all of that related content into one stream, which can then be embedded onto your Web site.  Or you can use a site like Scoop.It to aggregate content from others in a magazine-type format and direct users there.

We’re all on the hunt for fresh content on our sites, blogs and in our newsletters. But that doesn’t mean we need to recreate the wheel each time we head to the keyboard. By finding ways to leverage and profit off content that others have already shared, it allows you to establish yourself as a resource, start new conversations, and act as a filter between your customer and the larger Web.


Caught Stealing Photo via Shutterstock

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Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

12 Reactions

  1. Thank you for this post. I have been using roundups after seeing them done so well here on SmallBizTrends.com. I did not know about the curation sites, so thank you for that info.

  2. Lisa: Thanks for your encouraging post! I have been using round-ups (mid-week wrap-up) for many years. I will take your tips into account when I will write my post before I take my summer break from blogging.

  3. As long as you’re acknowledging the original source, you’re quite safe.

  4. I agree with #1, but I think your example misses the mark. Creating content that takes a simple announcement (the color of the iPhone) and adds layers of underlying meaning or interpretation doesn’t simplify anything. Those 500+ blog posts will often times conflict in their interpretation and act to “muddy the water”, not clarify it. I would say the more appropriate example is when someone looks through the SEC filings of a public company, pulls out relevant information (like a large write-off) and what that means to someone who isn’t an accountant or financial analyst.

  5. Great tips Lisa! I definitely plan on using them as I amp up my online content presence over the next few months!

  6. Very helpful tips Lisa, Thanks. Will definitely utilize them on my blog.

  7. Lisa, you always put out fantastic content, anywhere I see your name pop up. Thanks!

  8. Curation in my point is most promising…as we not only share the best content..but we share with our own views and opinion on the topic….

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