For most people, one of the most difficult aspects of producing a successful content marketing campaign is producing content, and it’s not difficult to figure out why – producing content is hard! Whether you’re tasked with composing short, witty, and interesting social media posts or longer, more comprehensive blog posts, consistently producing quality written content over a long period of time is extremely difficult. Luckily, aside from outsourcing your content to a third party, there are ways you can gain inspiration from other social media accounts and blogs online, especially ones that are produced by other businesses and organizations in your industry, and even sometimes from your competitors. However, there are rules that must be followed in order to keep your inspiration from turning into stealing the words and ideas of others, which is commonly known as plagiarism.

The Consequences Of Plagiarizing

It is likely that you were first introduced to the concept of plagiarism in grade or middle school, likely around the same time you were first issued a writing assignment. We are all taught that it is wrong to copy the work of others, especially to lift whole paragraphs of text verbatim from another source. Yet plagiarism also involves the theft of original ideas, even if the words describing those ideas are rearranged or changed. The consequences of plagiarizing the work of others can involve the threat of civil litigation and the very real risk of public humiliation when your actions are exposed. This makes it very important to learn the right way to gain inspiration from others without stepping over the line and plagiarizing their work. Here are three keys to avoiding copying the works of others.

Don’t Take Shortcuts: Read As Much As You Can

There is one simple way to avoid inadvertently copying the works of others: simply read and follow as many different sources of industry news as possible on a consistent basis. Although we all know plagiarizing the work of others is wrong, the temptation to copy others is strongest when you are facing a deadline and rush to quickly find inspiration online. Instead, create a list of industry news sites and blogs that you find interesting and read them on a daily or weekly basis. Not only will you have a much wider and deeper exposure to what’s happening in your industry, but you won’t be creativity limited by only reading one or two articles or posts before attempting to compose an original post of your own. It’s important to remember that copying the original idea or concept of another writer is still considered plagiarism, even if you change around the words you use to describe it. Yet limiting your exposure to other writers and sources of news constrains your own ability to determine if an idea or inspiration is original or not.

Cite Your Sources!

There’s nothing wrong with discovering a great new idea or concept online and wanting to share it with others. The World Wide Web was designed specifically to facilitate the sharing of information, and just about every service you use online, from email to social media, is designed to allow you to share the links and posts of others. However, you must ensure that when you are sharing an original idea or concept online that you cite the original author and source. You cannot give the impression that you are the original author or creator, either inadvertently or intentionally. Don’t take shortcuts when posting an idea or concept that belongs to someone else, even if you are constrained in some way, such as with Twitter’s 140 character limit. Always include a link to the original article or source, and if a link is broken or unavailable, always credit the original author or source by name.

Expand On A Common Concept Or Idea

Not all ideas and concepts, and certainly not all social media and blog posts, are original or unique. Unless you are part of an industry that relies on original research and experimentation, it’s very likely that many ideas and concepts you read about are actually common knowledge or are otherwise unoriginal in some way. However, simply reposting a common bit of wisdom or knowledge may not be technically plagiarism, but it’s still uninteresting and may be unappealing to your readers. Instead, you can take a common piece of knowledge or wisdom and expand on it in an original way, simply by applying your own knowledge, experience, and expertise in order to make it interesting and appealing to your readers. This can be done by writing about a personal experience or by expanding a simple concept or idea into a more comprehensive or encompassing essay.