Losing Control Versus Losing Credit

There are a lot of “best practices” that you hear about and learn about as you begin the process of immersing yourself in Social Media. I entered into the fracas around the time that David Meerman Scott published his book, Lose Control of your Marketing and PR, so a lot of the talk was about how you just need to get your message out there and let it fall where it may. Much like a white fluffy dandelion, you have to be willing to let your idea fly all over the world. You might never see it grow into another dandelion. You might never know what happens to that seed.

Like so many things in the world of Social Media, hearing words like this might make you feel one way, but then when you actually start experiencing life as it exists online, best practices sort of undertake a new meaning, a more personal meaning. Maybe a meaning you didn’t expect. So is the case with “losing control.”

Losing Control

When you are talking about a brand, a company, a product, or a service, “Losing control” can have a lot of positive ramifications. Your video has completely spread beyond where you thought it could, for example, or maybe someone took one of your ads and shared it with tons of friends. The same thing can be translated to a personal level. When we are engaging with people, part of that engagement is built upon them tweeting out our posts, writing posts based on our posts, sharing our tweets, and liking (and thus sharing) our Facebook updates. It’s all pretty neat stuff.

Losing Credit

There are some dangers that you have to be aware of amidst all of the talk about losing control, however, and learning these lessons the hard way can be anything from mildly irritating to disastrous to painful. Mark Schaefer talked about this not long ago in a post called Why Social Media Blogging is Corrupt. Many bloggers, in fact, are noticing that their posts are showing up, unattributed, on sites that have simply robbed the post. That’s not really losing control, is it? That’s losing credit for your work, credit for your idea. It’s kind of like the movie Being John Malkovich, if you’ve seen it. It’s Malkovich’s brain, but there are tons of people traipsing around in there!

Tracing blog content is one thing. Tracing advice, an idea, something you offered as consultation – that is a lot harder. If you give someone an idea and then they turn it into a new business concept or a new e-newsletter topic, can you prove that they “stole” that idea from you? Even if you could, how can you go about that without looking like a sour-puss?

Give to Get, but Don’t Give Away Anything Too Dear

A couple of months ago, I wrote about your secret sauce, the thing that differentiates you from other people in your niche, field, industry, what have you. This means that it’s okay to give advice. It’s even okay to give lots of advice for free. But don’t give away anything that you want to protect. It’s very hard to toe that line, and a lot of people who began by giving everything away are now in the uncomfortable position of having to say, “Um, wait a minute, you want me to do what for you by when and for what price? Um, but, what do I get out of it?”

Rather than having to back-pedal, consider the following before you share an idea, advice, or consultation at no charge:

• Is this concept something that helps (or could help) separate you from your competition? If so, be very cautious about sharing, even if you start out by sharing with someone in a completely different industry.

• Does the person have a history of crediting you or others with ideas? This one, unfortunately, needs to be learned by either hearsay (risky) or experience (Potentially painful). However, if you start smelling the signs that the person wants you to lose credit AND control, don’t be ashamed to hold back a bit.

• Would your advice really make a difference for the person you’re talking to? If so, you are offering a huge value, and you need to ask yourself if you are okay doing that for free.

Are you losing control, losing credit, or both?

Are you finding that in your efforts to engage with people, you’re giving away the store? You know the old saying. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As wonderful as it is to meet other people and share your content, you must remember that ideas have a way of wafting out of your hands and into the hands of someone else. If you are credited, you need to ask yourself if that is enough. If you are not credited, you need to determine how much damage losing that idea could cause you.

Determining these lines and how you will manage them is an essential step before you dig into any type of engagement. You don’t want to have to decide these things on the fly. You don’t want to have to dig yourself out of an avoidable hole.

Make sense?

This is post #18 in the Engagement Series. If you want to make sure you don’t miss a think, do what Steve Tyler does – hit the subscribe button! Well, okay, Steve Tyler just sings about not wanting to miss a thing. But still…

Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/len-k-a

11 comments
Joe Pelissier
Joe Pelissier

I'm regularly told that I give away too much for free but I don't worry about it. I'm fairly confident that most people aren't going to do what I suggest unless there's a bit of hand holding. They tend to cogitate and hesitate.

Your 'credibility' point is a good one. I've never really thought about it this way. Perhaps, rather naively, I'd like to think that something that is intrinsically of value has respect. Those who want to exploit it, are by their very nature, moving in different circles to you.

Joe (from London)

David Meerman Scott
David Meerman Scott

Hey Margie -- I'm a big fan of give to get. My grandmother told me 40 years ago that if I wanted to get a letter, I needed to write a letter. I still believe that. If I want people to pay attention to my ideas I need to give them away and lose control. The hope (but no guarantee) is that on balance I will get something even more valuable in return. I'm my experience, that has proven true. But my stuff is ripped off every single day. While I advocate losing control, it is certainly not "best practice" -- I think that whatever works for you is best practice -- we're all making this stuff up as we go along! Best, David

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Thanks so much for your comment!

I agree - I don't think there are any black-and-white issues in Social Media (and I am probably wrong about that too). I think that a lot of good can come from following what you say about losing control, but I think it is always a good idea to have a safety net :)

Joe Pelissier
Joe Pelissier

Talking of control..or loss of. I saw a re-Tweet of David's to this post, got distracted by it, and hey presto, here I am.

It's good to have discovered your writing.

Joe

Corinne Edwards
Corinne Edwards

I am more and more wary about doing article marketing unless you are doing an exclusive guest post for someome you know and trust.

I have had several articles scraped, no credit - but worst of all linking keywords in my copy to their sales pages.

On the other hand - giving out valuable information - is less risky.

Most people screw it up and come to your for help anyway.

There is a difference between knowing what to do and doing it. Big gap.

Mark W Schaefer
Mark W Schaefer

I wanted to clarify that the main point of my post Why Social Media Blogging is Corrupt is not necessarily that work is uncredited but that it is being routinely used, without permission, for commercial purposes. An example would be your blog post showing up in a promotional newsletter (perhaps even a competitor) without even being asked.

This highlights two issues. Obviously, our original content is being treated like a commodity free for the plucking with less respect than what would be given to a stock photo.

The second issue is that by association we are providing our support of this commercial effort when it might even be a person we don't know or even dislike.

This is a problem unique to blogging. Where we generally accept it, in the real world there would be law suits for this type of atrocious stealing of copy written content.

People are building their businesses on the backs of other people. That is wrong.

Thanks for another great post Margie!

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Hi Mark,

Thanks so much for your comment. I didn't mean to present your post incorrectly - however, I think you addressed a close cousin to what I'm talking about here. Whether someone uses your work without permission but credits you or whether someone uses your work and doesn't credit you OR ask for your permission, you are still left with tough conundrums on your hands. The sad thing is that in either instance, if you complain, you are the only one who will look bad. That, I think, is the most disconcerting thing about the whole problem.

Thanks again for popping by!

Susan Larson
Susan Larson

Good ideas to think about. I especially need to apply them to my flickr account. Am I really getting the credit requested in my creative commons listings?

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

That's a FANTASTIC point, Susan! Images are very very difficult to keep your arms around, especially because they show up in Google search results now. How do you keep track of that? Great point indeed.

Kristen Robinson
Kristen Robinson

Interesting concept Margie! It is a hard line to draw between giving milk and giving away the whole cow. I find that I walk that line everyday. I never thought about putting some guidelines in place for that. Thanks so much!

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Thanks, Kristen. I find that in a lot of ways, just taking an extra beat or moment before publishing, sending, or updating online can make a huge difference. In the cases where you are giving advice online, just taking that 1 extra moment to think about what you are doing could be a difference-maker.