How To Avoid Brand Shaming By Not Stealing Online Content

A strange thing happened at Twitter today. Driven by the need to be ahead in content creation and be seen as experts, many jump into the online world dishing out awesome pieces of content (the right thing to do!) but sometimes in ways that are not entirely respectful. Original content requires time, patience and effort. There are no free lunches. Whether it’s visual content or writing, if it’s available on social media (like this blog today) or on Google, it does not mean that it can be used without citations and attributions. Growing up in India, unfortunately, this happened all too often. In college many copied dissertations from the Internet without being aware the fact that using content without citations amounts to theft. In Europe, things are not any different and far too many managers in companies have wanted to use content without giving the original creator the credit for it (especially when used for commercial purposes). This has led me to believe that it’s not really about which culture one is from, but a matter of let’s do this quick and we are lazy. In this post, I seek to address the audience that wishes to avoid brand shaming by not stealing online content.

How to avoid brand shaming by not stealing online content

Meanwhile, today morning at Twitter, I saw this. I was dreading to imagine if this had been in fact a brand (and that’s not uncommon either). Meanwhile the said Twitter account was deleted and so was her LinkedIn post. In her now deleted posts she exclaimed that she almost had the right to use the images since she found them on Google search. So horrifying!

How to avoid brand shaming by not stealing online content

A great brand manager I respect once quoted Jeff Bezoz and said:

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person, you earn reputation by trying to do hard things well”

No matter if you’re trying to build a personal brand or a company presence, it is most important not to think of the Internet as a source of information that you can merely copy from without crediting the people who’ve spent hours behind the original creation. That brings down your own reputation and only represents a poorly managed brand. You will immediately lose customer trust.

How to Avoid Brand Shaming By Not Stealing Online Content

1. Images and Content on the Internet require attribution and permission
Unless you are a thief. And as a Brand you really don’t want to be one.

a) This means clearly spoken:  Images and text found on Google search, Image search, Bing search, Facebook search, Twitter search or any search that you use are NOT free.

b) It may have zero cost to you, but you are expected to ask the original creator (when they do not have a creative commons license published), with a creative commons license please credit using name, attribution link of the site where you found it and any other relevant data

c) Some sites and creators provide you with an embed code that already gives the correct attribution parameters making your life easy. Infographics, logos etc. come with such codes. It’s a simple copy paste from then on. See as an example on our page here

How to avoid brand shaming by not stealing online content

d) If you use text, be sure to first rephrase it in your own words and then cite the author and site link with it. In case you use a quote verbatim, all these of course apply. All your text can not be verbatim because that is a copy then. Copying from eight different sources verbatim makes you a monkey. It’s NOT allowed and appears exceptionally unprofessional. You are not helping your brand here. If you translate into a different language you STILL need to attribute to the main author name, site link because you are using someone else’s ideas.

e) If you take someone’s quote from a public Twitter account, always say via @abc. If you are retweeting the same text say RT, if you changed anything in the original text/tweet say MT (modified tweet)

f) You should NOT use text or images from a friend’s or acquaintance’s private social media accounts without their permission. That’s just blasphemy and depending on the country you live in, they may be able to sue you.

g) Some images/ text have a creative commons license but can not be modified or used for commercial usage. In case you are unsure, ASK the original creator.

2. It’s your responsibility to train people who are creating content for your brand

3. Create original content and if you can’t hire someone who will help. There is help, and hope.

More questions or tips? Write to us at connect at brandanew dot co or share in the comments!


Upasna Kakroo

Upasna co-founded Brandanew in 2014 for the sheer love of storytelling and authentic connections. She has been blogging and documenting digital stories since 2003.