Great web content attracts people to your company, but not everyone wants to put in the work. So what’s the next best thing? Steal it. Sadly, behavior historically relegated to anonymous internet trolls is now spilling into LinkedIn—a business platform where people should know better. LinkedIn content thieves are playing a dangerous game.
As a content creator, writer, podcaster and emerging tech PR communications guy, I have produced a lot of content. It has been great for my company, resulting in a fair amount of traffic from organic search. I’ve led my clients and their teams to do the same. I’m fairly used to being ripped off, copied and not credited. Whether it’s laziness and deception, it doesn’t end well for the thieves.
If web content thieves are caught stealing or copying content online, it’s fairly easy to report them to Google, and if Google determines you’re guilty, they have been known to downrank your content significantly. I’ve seen it happen.
One of my earlier clients had their content ripped off, and a few months after reporting them to Google, their website went from Rank #1 on Page #1 to page #10. That’s an internet death sentence. But what about LinkedIn? If you’re not caught does it do any damage? Actually. Yes.
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Top Two Trends Amongst LinkedIn Content Thieves
The two most popular stolen pieces LinkedIn content thieves are passing around today are the WW2 Plane Bullet diagram post about survivor bias, and Sephora’s color-coded basket post.
The stories are all remarkably similar, with no original angles or stories and at the time of writing this, no one I can find gives credit to the original photographer. In the screen captures below you will notice the content actually does quite well every time it is repeated, but there’s a problem.
The WW2 Plane Bullet Post
The Sephora Basket Post
Why LinkedIn Content Backfires
At first, it seems like stealing content is a great LinkedIn strategy. The people posting recycled content from everyone else seem to get quite a few likes and comments, and they didn’t even have to spend time creating the content. Whether done in ignorance, or laziness, however, it will likely backfire.
The fact is, great content spreads and as it does, it attracts new people, new connections and new interest in the poster and their brand. Normally this is good and what everyone strives for, but when it’s not original content, the attention can be volatile. All it takes is for one person to see the post from two different people (and they will), tanking your reputation. If they leave a comment, pointing out the copies content matters get worse.
As soon as one person points out the content isn’t yours and isn’t original, everyone who liked or interacted with the stolen post is instantly alerted of your sneaky content caper. Even if you delete the post, it’s too late because LinkedIn sends the actual comment to everyone’s notification page—perhaps with a push alert!
All the previous positive interaction is negated in an instant, putting your reputation on the line.
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How To Avoid Getting Your Content Stolen on LinkedIn
If you’re not a thief and are creating original content, there are no perfect solutions, but there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
Search LinkedIn & The Web Manually
Because most LinkedIn content thieves are lazy and unoriginal you can simply search terms in the LinkedIn search bar every month. This is how I found the posts above. You can set Google Alerts for your content to see if anyone bleeds onto the open web. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step.
The other thing you can do is leave watermarks or logos on your original images. While it can’t prevent everyone, it will prevent the bulk of people who don’t have Photoshop and can’t erase your branding. Obviously, they can still use your content, but at least you will be credited.
Use Google Image Search
Finding the source image on Google search, you can “see similar images” on the internet. This is a great way to see if anyone has used that same image anywhere else on the web. If they have, it is likely to show up here.
Dear LinkedIn Content Thieves
I get it, we make mistakes and it’s possible some self-labeled marketing person told you to do this. But now, you need to act: stealing people’s content and intellectual property is not only morally wrong, but it may also be illegal. Ignorance doesn’t remove you from the ugly group of LinkedIn content thieves.
If you’re a LinkedIn content thief, there is still hope. Before someone calls you out and destroys your credibility you still have time to erase your post. Do it right now. Then go out and create your own original content that is uniquely you. If it’s good, you will be the one being ripped off.