Let me preface this post by saying that this is not a rant. It is a reflection on how originality and ethics, knowingly or unknowingly, get pushed to the backburner as bloggers try to ‘compete’ with others in their niche.
No one likes imitation or copycatting and irrespective of whatever people may say about imitation being the best form of flattery, trust me, it really isn’t.
- The person who is being copied feels cheated.
- The person who receives imitation goods feels cheated.
- The person who is imitating knows in his or her heart that they’re being a fake, a ripoff, a copy of someone else.
Imitation and Inspiration
“But, Prerna, there are so many bloggers in my niche? It is so tough to be new or unique all the time.”
“But I’m not imitating them. I’m just inspired by their content.”
Blogging or business, especially in an already crowded niche, can be tough. After all, the ones who’ve been there before you may have already shared all there is to share, right?
Maybe yes, but only YOU can put your unique spin on it. Only YOU can share how a certain process or product made your life simpler.
If you are inspired, give credit where credit is due.
Are you using a phrase or design element that another blogger has already used? Ask if you can use it and then give credit.
For instance, if you want to launch a product, write a post, start a service make sure you have a title, name or branding that is unique and does not infringe upon someone else’s online space.
Not only is that unethical, it is in very poor taste.
“But Prerna, it is so tough to find a new name or title for my post since the subject is the same.”
Well, then you just have to spend some time and effort in coming up with something that is different and YOU.
Isn’t that why you became a blogger in the first place? Because you felt you had something to share.
If you’re still struggling with a different spin, I’d recommend reaching out to the blogger who’s inspired you and asking him or her for help. Trust me, bloggers are people just like you and me, and most of them will be most appreciative of you for reaching out.
What Imitation and Copycatting Does To You and Your Brand
After spending close to 5 years online as a blogger, writer, entrepreneur, the one thing I know for a fact is that it is a small world online. Yes, even though I stay in India and have never attended any of the hugely popular blogging or entrepreneurship conferences, I have a network in which virtually everyone ends up knowing the other person.
And the other thing I know is that people talk and that most astute readers and consumers can spot a fake a mile off.
“She is so similar to XYZ”
“Her product name is exactly the same as ABC’s”
“I heard she ripped off an entire blog post with just a few changes, here and there”
Do you want online conversations about YOU to be in this vein?
I’m guessing no.
How to Infuse YOU-spiration into Your Ideas
So, how does one stand apart in a crowded niche?
How does one not knowingly or unknowingly copy someone else’s style or voice?
How does one be YOU-nique?
The simple answer is by being genuine.
By asking yourself each time you write a post or series of posts, launch a product or offer a service if everything about it is YOU. Do your post titles reflect YOU or do they reflect that of another bigger blogger? Does your product or service have an authenticity that will shine out or will it be a mere mirror image of what another entrepreneur has already done.
Don’t get me wrong. You can write on the same topic as other bloggers. You can launch products and services that are similar to others. But you shouldn’t ever put anything out there without infusing a dash of your own personality into it.
Need some examples?
Here you go.
Karen Gunton and Heather Allard both write about being mom entrepreneurs. But not only does Karen contribute to Heather’s site, her own is a clear reflection of who she is and what she values. The same is true for Heather.
What Being YOU Does To You
Being original, genuine and YOU fills you with confidence to share what you know without being bogged down by insecurities.
It makes you comfortable in your own skin and gives you the freedom to grow without conforming to someone else’s standards of success.
It inspires others to follow YOU as a leader and walk in your shoes.
It gives your brand and your presence online the credibility you deserve.
It allows readers to trust you and believe in what you have to say.
Yes, being YOU is good for your blog and your business.
You wouldn’t want to be a copycat mom or wife, right? So, why do that to your online life?
As you may have guessed by now, this post is inspired by a series of copycat incidents that I kept noticing but ignoring. While I can’t do much to stop the copycatting, I thought I can and I should share the importance of being YOU. Because sometimes, we don’t realize when the line between inspiration and imitation starts to blur.
How do YOU make YOU happen in your blog and business?
Photo Credit: Les Chatfield