Steve Jobs Quote

Many people are very concerned about their content being stolen on the Internet. And often they’re justified in their concern — if you put your content anywhere the public can see it, it is possible for someone to reuse it and claim it’s their own. If this damages your business, then you should not only do what you can to protect your content by copyrighting it, but also pursue legal channels when it seems that an infringement has taken place. (NOTE: I AM NOT A LAWYER)

But some people get so concerned about this, they sometimes shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to capitalizing on their content being sharable. Let me explain what I mean by “sharable” — today’s Internet not only allows, but encourages, people to post things they find funny or inspirational to their social media profile or blogs/websites. This can be images or videos or even snippets of text. Social media makes this easy. You may have heard the word “meme” — it describes something sharable that has really taken off and that people often mimic.

And this is a huge opportunity. When you’re creating your web platform, and populating it with images and videos and text, think about making that content sharable, and also about how you can attribute it back to you. Videos can have links back to the source, images can have watermarks or logos embedded in them. Text is more tricky, but you can ask for attribution and make sure it’s easy for people to know how to refer back to you.

And this applies not only to those concerned about content pilfering, but also to anyone who will have a photo or video gallery of their work. I have two stories to help illustrate this point:

  1. Landscape Designer: Recently I was looking at the online portfolio of a landscape designer as some research. I use Pinterest to keep track of inspirational ideas, and also designers I may want to work with or recommend to others. Her online portfolio images were built into her website using Flash. Not only is this bad because Flash can’t be viewed on mobile devices, but I can’t post any of her images on my Pinterest board. If, instead, her images were on her website with her company name and URL embedded in them, I could have shared one of them via Pinterest and not only would I be able to loop back to her to work with her, but if someone shares that image via my Pinterest board, they’ll know where it came from and can contact her to work with her too. To let you know how powerful that can be, one of my own photographs of landscape inspiration has been shared over 1200 times, and all I had to do was post it once.
  2. Artist/Illustrator: In chatting with an artist & illustrator about a new website, she mentioned that one of her biggest concerns is that the work that she does that’s featured on other websites is never attributed back to her because her website isn’t the source of those images. Instead, she’s posted images of her art and illustration work to various social media sites and other community sites, and when it’s shared from there, there’s no way for people to loop back to her if they want to hire her for work. If she added a watermark or name/logo overlay on her images, and made them available on her own website rather than other people’s websites, then each time they’re shared, people can either click on them and be linked back to her website where she can encourage them to become customers, or will at least know where to go to find out more about her work.

Every social media site works differently when it comes to exactly what can be done via linking back to the source of the media, but this is why you want to take a multi-pronged approach. Here’s a cheat sheet for what to do:

  1. Make sure your images and videos are presented in a way that they can be shared. Don’t use Flash or another technology that disables basic things like the ability to link to a particular image.
  2. Add social media sharing functionality to your site. If your site is image-heavy, you can add a plugin that adds a share feature to every image if you want. The same goes for videos.
  3. Make sure to watermark your images & videos. Your watermark can be your logo & URL, or just your name & URL. Make sure that, if someone was looking at that image completely out of context, they’d know where to go to learn more about you.
  4. Create your content with the idea that you *want* it to be shared. What kinds of things can you create for your website that encourage people to share them? Maybe it’s big, beautiful images of landscapes. Maybe it’s inspirational quotes. Maybe it’s how-to videos. Whatever you decide to do, don’t add content to your site with the idea that you’re trying to prevent people from sharing it.

It’s a losing battle to think that you’ll be able to protect everything you put out into the world, but if you think about what you might gain by encouraging people to share what you do, you can grow your business in ways you might not have even anticipated. Happy sharing.