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Build a Badass Business: Episode #51: Blogging Etiquette Part 1
Coming to you from the city by the bay, this is Build a Badass Business with Diane Sanfilippo. Diane is a New York Times bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. She’s here to teach you how to grow and develop a successful business you love, and how to create raving fans along the way. Here she is, your host: Diane Sanfilippo.
Diane Sanfilippo: Welcome back to the show you guys. Today I’m going to be doing part 1 of at least a 2 part, if not more, if I think of some more parts to do on this topic. Part 1 of business/blogging etiquette.
So, this really is relevant, mostly to just blogging or if you have a website, etc. I’m just going to go through 5 points right now, and if something comes up in the meantime while I’m going through these 5 points, I’ll expand on it. Otherwise, we’ll save it for part 2 or part 3, and so on.
So, for those of you who are bloggers or have a website, etc. the first thing I want you guys to keep in mind when it comes to etiquette is: Ask for permission before you ask for forgiveness. Typically, in life, I kind of go the other way around. I’ll do something, and then if I feel like I need to ask for forgiveness from someone, I’ll ask for forgiveness. I am just a little bit bold and just do things, and don’t worry too much about the permission. I worry about the consequences later; and so on.
But in this case, you really don’t want to piss people off, basically. It’s not polite, it’s not; honestly it’s not acceptable, and it puts you in a really bad position if you start off what you’re doing by making people mad because you haven’t asked for permission before you share something, before you do something with the content that they’ve created.
Now, I don’t mean this in the sake of; you can’t share by regramming; you can’t share by reposting. Clicking a share button from somebody’s original post on Facebook, regramming it from Instagram, making sure there’s a credit to their account, very visibly at the top of the regram, or clicking from within their website to pin something, or to share it from their website. That’s totally legit; that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking here about writing someone’s recipe on your website, and then saying that this is from this person, and you link back to their blog or you link to their book. It may seem, in the moment, like you’re doing something to help promote them, but what you’re really doing is stealing content. You’re stealing content at that moment, because if somebody were to search in Google for a recipe, like the one you just shared, there’s a chance that your website is going to come up and not theirs. It’s not a big chance, if they’re somebody who has a pretty good following, has a website that has been around for a long time, is working on SEOs, search engine optimization; chances are, their website will show up for the recipe before yours.
But if you go to rewrite a recipe, for example, that is in their book, it’s not already published on their blog, and you share that content, you’re stealing content. That’s legitimately stealing content. And in this situation, not knowing that you’re stealing is actually not an excuse or a reason. Somebody could take legal action on you for sharing copyrighted or trademarked content. So keep that in mind. I think it’s definitely a delicate topic and a delicate area when you’re first starting out, because you feel like you don’t have your own content to share, but it’s not an excuse. You need to write something, or create something that is original.
And obviously if you do want to share something, send an email to that blogger, or that author. Just send an email! Everybody has a way to contact them through their website. Whether it’s a direct email or form, what have you. Send them an email, be polite, be gracious, don’t be rude, or don’t make an assumption that because you want to share something you’re doing them a favor. It’s just not a good way to go about things; it’s not a good way for you to present yourself and introduce yourself.
Alright, so that was point one; ask for permission before you have to ask for forgiveness, or you’re potentially dealing with legal action at that point.
Number two; when in doubt, don’t. If you’re not sure how to do something, or what to do about it, don’t do it. If you’re not sure if what you’re doing is right, or appropriate, don’t do it. This kind of ties into the first point, but it’s still a separate point. If you feel like you’re not sure if using some picture on your website is ok; don’t. So when in doubt, don’t. That’s a pretty clear-cut one, but when you’re getting into business matters, it’s definitely a situation where you don’t want to set yourself up to have legal problems, honestly. And there’s a lot that can happen. You guys have no idea; you think that just because you’re small potatoes somebody is not going to have their lawyer send you a letter, and it’s not true. And unfortunately, it becomes really scary when you’re new if somebody’s attorney sends you a cease and desist letter.
Nobody wants to have to send that letter, but if we try to contact somebody for sharing content or ripping off a trademark or something; if we contact them and they’re not responsive, or they don’t understand what to do to take down what they’ve done, and then they get another follow-up letter that’s this legal jargon cease and desist. I think that’s scary, and I don’t want for people to have to deal with that; so don’t let that be you. When in doubt; don’t.
Point three; if you saw it, and you tweaked it and put it on your site, it’s not yours. There’s a difference between being inspired by something, and then a few weeks later you create something similar. Maybe that’s ok; you definitely cannot have some recipe open and you change how much salt goes in, or you tweaked; you add chocolate chips to it. That doesn’t make it yours. You’re not original in doing that. Probably the biggest place this is going to happen, honestly, are baked goods. I don’t make a lot of baked goods, personally, so this doesn’t happen a lot for me, where I’m like; oh, was I inspired to make that by someone else?
But I think a lot of people are looking at other recipes, other blogger’s recipes, and I’m talking especially within the same community. So, it’s a little different if you look at a basic, let’s just say, and you guys know I don’t know anything about baking, so you look at a red velvet cake from, like Paula Dean, and you’re a paleo, grain-free, gluten-free blogger, and you’re just seeing what goes in the traditional version of a cake but you’re going to modify that pretty extensively to make it work without regular wheat flour. I personally think that’s a different situation than looking at another paleo gluten-free, grain-free blogger’s website. Inevitably, you’re probably going to be stealing their recipe. Again, even if you tweak it by one tablespoon here and there.
And I don’t know for sure that back in my early days that I was clear on how that worked. I don’t know for sure, but that’s why I’m sharing this with you guys, because if you’re just starting, this is how it works. You can’t do that. Technically when it comes to recipes, the ingredient list cannot be copyrighted, so let’s just say for example somebody is making a 3-ingredient flourless peanut butter cookie. Right? I’ve seen recipes for this all over the place, and it includes peanut butter, egg, and sugar. Some kind of sugar. You can’t copyright what’s written there in terms of those 3 ingredients because, again, there are probably a lot of recipes that are just, the ingredients don’t change. It’s the same stuff all the time.
But what can be copyrighted and what is copyrighted and protected that way is the process that’s written out. So at the absolute least; god forbid you looked at someone’s recipe and you didn’t change it enough; you sure as heck better not be copying and pasting the process that they wrote out, that they took time to write out of how to make the thing. Even if the ingredients are really similar, you cannot be taking their process. That is what takes the most time to do, it’s very difficult, it takes a lot of experience and training and practice to get writing a recipe correct. Many people put recipes on a blog that are not written correctly.
Anyway, long story short, that’s where you’re going to get yourself in extra hot water, especially if you are copying the way a process is written and done. But refer back to points one and two; when in doubt, don’t, and number one, ask for permission before you ask for forgiveness on there.
So point four kind of ties in; again, they each kind of tie in to each other, but point four kind of ties into point three a bit. I recommend that you look outside of your direct community for inspiration, not inside of it. So this could mean anything from looking to motivation and self help people instead of nutrition people; looking to what some of, maybe some really popular celebrities are doing on their websites. How are they styling their websites, what are some new things that people are doing to just get you excited and inspired. Don’t look at what people in your community are doing, because then inevitably when you do something similar it’s going to look like you’re copying them. Everybody knows that you probably are, if that’s what you are doing. And don’t copy what someone else is doing.
It’s fair to be inspired; you can’t help be see something and like it and be inspired. I worked as a graphic designer for a long time, and we say, what are some websites that you like? What are some logos that you like? We want to know what your taste is, what appeals to you, to know what will then work for you. But we really want to be careful; I believe the book is called Steal like an Artist. Make sure you are not stealing, that you’re being inspired.
There is nothing that’s totally new, right? You make a flourless peanut butter cookie; you weren’t the first person to do it. I don’t know who the first person to do that was. I don’t know the first person to make a chocolate chip cookie, or a red velvet cake, or any of these really basic things. Nobody can say “I was the first one to do it,” but within a community, you might be able to say that. This whole paleo community was only started and formed with a lot of recipes in the last three to five years; it’s really exploded in that amount of time, so if there was a recipe that was created 3 to 5 years ago, and you just didn’t know it existed, it doesn’t mean that you were the first to do it. Or if you found it from 5 years ago, and you try and tweak it and make it your own and represent it as new today, that’s just not cool.
So that’s point four; look outside of your direct community for inspiration, not inside of it. And then point five is going to tease into the part two that I want to do on this topic. Point five is really talking about etiquette when you are interacting with other websites, interacting on other places on social media, like on someone’s Facebook page. It’s not appropriate for you to post an affiliate link to your link for a product; and this is whether or not you have a business. I see people do this on my Facebook page who just happen to have a personal account with Amazon Associates. It’s not appropriate for you to post a link like that on anybody’s blog, Instagram, Facebook, anywhere. That’s not appropriate. They’re creating content, they’re building a community, they’re bringing people there.
It’s one thing to say; so here’s a good example, and I feel like this may have happened recently. So there are tons of sales on Amazon that will happen; for example, most recently over Black Friday. And if we get talking about some kind of appliance, and somebody comes to my Facebook page and in a comment says, “oh yeah, this is on sale. This instant pot, whatever, was on sale for some crazy price.” To comment and say, “Yeah, this was on sale.” No big deal, totally fine. To comment and then add your own Amazon associates link; not ok. That’s not appropriate. You don’t come to my house and then sell people in my house with your link. That’s just not appropriate, you shouldn’t be doing that. If you’re doing that, stop. Don’t do that.
If people do that to you, if they post that on your wall, delete it. I delete those comments. I just think that’s rude and it’s unfair. Somebody spends a lot of time building a community, building a following, you don’t just come in and sell to them. That’s not how it works. And 9 times out of 10, the post that I made originally wasn’t even selling somebody something, so now for you to turn a post from something that was just sharing information into something that’s trying to sell someone, that’s just rude.
So that’s it for part one. I think part two I’m going to talk about things like affiliate and promotion. I have some friends who sell products and based on their interaction with bloggers and authors, etc., I want to talk a little bit about how to go about interacting with people who you’re going to be promoting. How people who have products to promote, maybe, should be approaching bloggers and authors, etc., because I think some people approach us in a good way and some people approach us in a way; either side of that coin can come with too much presumption and too much attitude. It happens on both sides where the author assumes that they’re doing the brand a favor, and the brand assumes that the author or blogger is doing them a favor, and I think it can get really sticky and really dangerous in both directions. But I’d like to talk about that one in a part two. So stay tuned for that.
I hope you enjoyed this. I hope you found this really helpful, and that you will take some of this into consideration as you move forward with your blog, with your business, etc. whether it’s new or it’s been in existence for a while, because this stuff will only help to boost you up and keep you from doing things that essentially just piss people off, because the last thing you want to do, especially if you’re new to this little community, whatever your community may be, whether you’re in paleo or not. Whatever your community is; if it’s mom’s, families, green ecofriendly products, whatever it is; don’t go pissing people off in your community. And everything that I talked about in this episode is to keep you from doing that. And to keep you from receiving legal letters. You don’t want to get those. Those are gnarly and scary, and they are legit. They are not a joking matter.
Hey guys, I’m so glad you’re loving the show. Let me ask you to do me a favor; come follow me on Periscope. You can find me; I believe you can search Diane Sanfilippo, or you can search @BalancedBites, which is my Twitter handle, which is the account name over on Periscope. I am going to start doing live sessions, really quick thoughts for the day. I’m not sure if it I will be every day, but it will be pretty often, and some Q&A on business topics and motivation, inspiration, etc. So make sure you’re following me over on Periscope. Download the app in the app store, and I will see you there.
That’s all I’ve got for you guys today. Don’t forget to subscribe in iTunes so you don’t miss an episode. And drop me a review to let me know what’s speaking to you from the show. If you want to get in on the conversation and you haven’t yet joined the group already on Facebook, head on over there and join the Build a Badass Business group. I share insights and tips regularly, as well as answer your questions right there on the page. Do work that you love, and hustle to make your business grow like your life depends on it, because it does. Thanks for listening, and I’ll catch you on the next episode.