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Shamelessly Sharing Other People’s Content for Personal Gain

Content and digital strategy and marketing blog

It’s 9:15am, shortly after I’ve scheduled a tweet to go out. My phone buzzes once, then twice. I flip it over to see retweet alerts. “Nice,” I think. I’m no Guy Kawasaki, but I like knowing I can strike a chord with people once in a while. I flip my phone back over and go back to work.

15 minutes later, it buzzes again several times. Is my wife excitedly texting me about some new development in Dr. Who? I take a look. Nope. More retweets. And even if she had texted me that morning, her messages might have gotten lost among a modest, but consistent stream of retweets, favorites and plus ones.

The best part? The thing I tweeted wasn’t even my own.

It was a clever graphic from a designer I had seen the night before on Facebook. It struck an emotional chord with me, so I saved it. I liked it so much, I put it into a tweet the next day. Here it is:

As you can see, the creator properly credited themselves right on the graphic, so there are no ethical question marks about who created what. But that’s the beautiful part. My followers didn’t care if I created it. They retweeted it simply because they liked it. And that’s the beginning of the answer to a common question that keeps plenty of marketing people up at night

“Content marketing is great, but how are we ever going to generate enough content?”

You’ve decided to do content marketing and planned on meeting a certain cadence, whether it’s blogging or social media. If you’re having heartburn about filling in all those little boxes in your content calendar with real posts, it’s possible you’ve overcommitted, but that’s a post for another day. Today, I’m going to help you fill in some of those holes in your calendar while reducing your overall effort. How?

We’re going to steal content like cat burglars at a jewelry convention.

Perhaps “stealing” is too strong a word. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable with “repurposing.” Either way, you’d be amazed how hard some other people’s content can work for you.

And let’s clear the air. I’m not talking about plagiarizing – that’s not cool.

Forget originality

Here’s the first part of the secret. People have created tons of content about the very subject you want to cover. Graphics, quotes, memes, you name it—someone’s made it already. And unless the creator of a given piece of shareable content is a major direct competitor of yours, you’ve just found more fodder to fill in your content calendar between the few high quality pieces of original content you know you can reasonably produce.

Don’t believe me? There are entire income-generating websites based on the concept of re-packaging and sharing other people’s content. Cool Material is a great example.

It’s a men’s gear and lifestyle blog. Are they out there trend hunting the streets of Williamsburg with kombucha in hand? Nope. They let others sites do that. They follow a limited number of sites with relevant content, then they compile and share what they find. With that simple formula, they’ve created a significant media property that now has a store, the market power to partner with companies to create exclusive products and the audience to command a premium for sponsored content slots (third party content generated just for you is a whole separate discussion).

Focus on relevance

The value Cool Material brings to the equation is in how they choose and package the content they share—what some might call content curation. They’re able to curate others’ content to such great effect because they have such a good understanding of their audience. They’ve not only gone to the lengths to hire people that understand their audience, but they are presumably using analytics and social listening to continuously improve on what they share. Sharing doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. You can bring some marketing science to the party.

Listen to your audience

Have you gotten your content sharing efforts up and running? Excellent. But don’t stop there. If you’re regularly sharing others’ content, use any kind of metrics and analytics available to see what’s getting the most traction. As you begin to understand what resonates most with your audience, you can hone your content sharing for greater and greater effectiveness.

Bonus tip: You can use the intel from content sharing to inform what kind of original content you create, too.

Source appropriately

When you realize the size of the content gold mine that’s out there waiting to be pilfered, you may start to get greedy thoughts. “What if I not only shared all this content, but what if people actually thought I created it, too!?” It’s common to think about hiding your sources when you first start flirting with sharing other people’s content.

Resist the temptation.

If your audience finds out you’re passing off others’ content as your own, they can turn against you in a hurry and you can lose your following overnight. Oh, and if the original content creators find out, they might come after you in the court of public perception—or even a court of laws and damages and stuff.

Don’t forget to make your own

With all this third party content to share, you can lose track of your own content creation efforts. Remember, sharing other people’s content is a strategy to help you fill out your calendar and deliver value to your audience IN ADDITION TO your original content creation. Know how much you can create, figure out how much you should share, and divvy up your time accordingly.

So, let’s recap

If you want to get your content engine revved up without spending a fortune on original content creation, remember these 5 things:

  1. Forget originality
  2. Focus on relevance
  3. Listen to your audience
  4. Source appropriately
  5. Don’t forget to make your own

Bonus tip: Use sharing to inform original content creation

Hal Werner
Hal Werner
Hal Werner is a Dallas-area content strategist, digital marketer and idea man that loves bringing distinctive flavor and customer insight to every project.