How to share other people’s content – without breaking copyright!

You CAN share other people's content without infringing on their copyright - this post explains how to repost content the right way.

Would you ever take someone else’s content and share it on your own social media channels? If your answer is NO, then you’re missing out on some top-notch content for your followers! There are many ways to share other people’s content without infringing on their copyright. You just need to know how to do it the right way.

As a blogger, I am no stranger to copyright infringements. Many people still believe that just because they found a picture on Google or because they link back to your blog it’s OK to take my photos off my page and use them on their own website. News flash: it’s not!

But I have also received many messages from businesses asking if it’s OK to share a link to my blog post on their social media. And my answer is always the same: of course, go ahead, no need to ask actually.

What this has shown me is that people seem to be confused over:
what is OK to share from others and what isn’t,
when they need to ask for permission and when they could have saved themselves an email,
how to correctly attribute credit and when monetary compensation might be more appropriate.

This post is here to clear all of this up!

We will look at three types of sharing other people’s content:

  1. Sharing other people’s images or words from their website on your website. Let’s call this website-to-website sharing for ease.
  2. Sharing other people’s images or words from their website on your social media. So, that’s website-to-social sharing.
  3. Sharing other people’s images or words from their social media on your social media. You guessed it, social-to-social sharing.

Each type of sharing follows a different rule of thumb when it comes to doing it correctly and without breaking copyright laws.

But first, let’s talk about the why…

Why share other people’s content?

Many businesses stay away from sharing other people’s content out of fear that their actions could be interpreted as theft. If they are lucky, they might get an upset email from the content creator in question. Worst case, a seize-and-desist letter from their attorneys.

So, why even bother?

Because sometimes other people have found the perfect words or visuals to express what your brand is all about! Why re-invent the wheel, if you can just jump on someone else’s truck?

Sharing other people’s content has so many benefits.

  • It takes the pressure off you to create outstanding content by yourself. You can share stunning pictures of your brand, product or service without having to become a professional photographer (or hire one).
  • It allows you to show how other people perceive your brand, product or service. People who actually use your offerings will capture 100% genuine images.
  • It increases the engagement on individual posts. Because, if shared right, your followers will be able to relate to the original content creator right away.
  • It encourages people to talk more about your brand online. Especially if you use a branded hashtag to find other people’s content for sharing.

Don’t miss out on those opportunities just because you’re not sure what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Next up: 11 Tips for More Engaging Social Media Posts

Website-to-website sharing

In 99% of cases, using someone else’s images or written texts on your own website requires you to pay that person for their work. You cannot simply save a picture from a website and upload it to your own site, even if you name the photographer and link back to their website – this is against copyright law.

There are some grey areas, such as embedding someone’s Instagram post on your website (for example, in a blog post), but if your intentions are genuine, you should not be operating in these grey areas.

If you want to feature the top Instagrammers or bloggers in your niche, send them an official request for image material. Most will be delighted for the feature and will send you a few of their best pictures for use in the article.

If you just want their image without talking about them as content creators, it’s a clear sign that you should pay for the right to use the images.

If you feel like you have a genuine reason to share someone else’s work on your website, send them an email to discuss it (don’t just DM them on social media). Here are some tips to get it right:

  • Make the effort to find out their name and address them personally.
  • Be upfront about what you intend to do with their content.
  • Be open about your budget (or lack thereof) and think about how the content creator can be compensated for their work.
  • Expect that they might not accept anything but monetary compensation though. And that’s OK too.

Website-to-social sharing

It is important to distinguish what type of content you want to take from someone’s website and share it to your social media.

Sharing Images

For images, follow the above advice and ask for permission. You should offer compensation for the use of images taken by someone else.

Top tip: Unless you have an established relationship with the content creator, I highly recommend sending an email, rather than just a direct message on social. See above for email tips.

Sharing Blogposts

If you want to share someone else’s blog post to your social media, there is no need to ask for permission. Share ahead!

Since you are sharing a link to a blog post, you are not lifting any content off someone else’s website. It cannot be misinterpreted as your content, but it’s easy to track the original creator.

And why not tag the blogger or writer in your copy, so they get notified about you sharing their content?! Sharing is caring.

Social-to-social sharing

Sharing content from someone else’s channels to your own account is the most beneficial way of content sharing and encourages engagement with your brand.

But just because a picture is publicly available on social media, does not give you the right to re-publish it on your own accounts. Copy right does still apply!

Let’s work with an example:

Let’s say, a recent customer has shared pictures of your product or service on their social media. Maybe they showed how they use it, what it looked like upon delivery or the result they have achieved with it – either way, you’ve hit the marketing jackpot! Of course, you’d like to share these pictures with your own audience to show what a real-life customer thinks about you. How do you go about this the right way?

First, let’s distinguish between two ways to share other people’s content: “direct sharing” and “reposting”. The difference lies in the way credit is given.

Direct Sharing

Some social media platforms allow you to share content in ways that retain information about the original creator. This is the easiest way to share other people’s content.

  • The Facebook “Share” button
  • Re-tweeting and quote-tweeting on Twitter
  • Sharing someone else’s Instagram post in your Instagram Stories via the paper plane icon

Since the original creator (i.e. the copyright owner) is automatically credited, you do not have to ask for permission to share their content.

However, this does not work in all situations (for example, if a profile is set to private) and is not always the most efficient way to build your brand on social media. A post containing “shared content” might have limited reach or direct your followers away from your profile which limits their interaction with you. 

That’s where the second way of sharing comes in…

Reposting

If you want to repost someone else’s pictures, you must ask for permission and credit must be added manually. Depending on the circumstances and your relationship, a professional content creator might still also for monetary compensation.

The most common case of this is reposting someone else’s Instagram post to your Instagram grid.

Here are a few tips for sharing someone else’s content in this way:

  • Always ask for permission to repost someone else’s image, even if they used your branded hashtag, took a photo of your product/service or tagged you in it. You need to get explicit permission to re-use the image.

Top tip: To ask for permission, send a direct message on Instagram quoting the link to the image you’d like to share and leave a comment on the image too, so your message doesn’t get overlooked in message requests.

  • Tag the original content creator in the caption and on the image (applicable on Instagram).
  • Go the extra mile. If you re-posted someone’s Instagram but also want to share it on Twitter or Facebook, look up & tag the person’s public profiles on these platforms too.
  • Ask for the original image file or use a repost app like Reposta (Android) or Repost (iOS). Do not screenshot the image on your phone as this will result in a low-quality picture.

Are you smashing your Instagram goals? Learn how to run an Instagram Audit!

How to find images to repost?

It is very easy to find images to repost on Instagram by searching relevant hashtags and location tags.

Branded Hashtags

If sharing content from customers, clients or fans of your brand is part of your regular social media strategy, consider introducing a branded hashtag.

Branded hashtags, such as Sweaty Betty’s #iamasweatybetty or VisitScotland’s #OnlyInScotland, can create communities among fans of a particular brand. These hashtags are used frequently and with enthusiasm. Fans of the brands use them to connect with others who love the brand or share similar experiences.

For the brands, these community-oriented hashtags provide a continuous flow of fresh user-generated content which they can repost on a regular basis.

You will find that many brands actively encourage their followers to use their branded hashtags. It’s a very efficient way to find content suitable for reposting in the future.

Top tip: Set aside one day a week and share your favourite posts using your branded hashtag in your Instagram Stories. Don’t forget to tag the people whose pictures you’re sharing, so they can share your Stories to their own in turn!

Are you still not sure when it’s OK to share someone else’s content? Drop your questions below!


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