When “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery” Doesn’t Ring True
In this day and age, everything is a remix of something that came before and that’s okay. Social media is full of trends that are just remakes of something else, but collectively brings people together – that is not what I am talking about. In marketing, it’s not unheard of to draw inspiration from multiple sources and use the findings in a way that amplifies the brand message. However, in this profession, there is a very clear line between inspired design and blatant imitation. Unfortunately, I have been dealing with someone who has decided that the latter is their best option for not only their “business” but also their personal pages… and their source of inspiration? Me.
‘Originality is undetected plagiarism.’ (William Ralph Inge)
I get it: I am pretty darn cool. Not only is sarcasm my first language (clearly) but I live on a sailboat sailing the world with my handsome partner, adorable cat, and have a successful blog and YouTube channel that puts my chosen lifestyle on blast. Behind the scenes I am working full time to put the FUN in FUNding – I am grateful to have the knowledge from my college education to back the agency I founded, Fair Winds Media, which allows me to work from wherever the wind blows. I invested in my higher education, spent years interning with successful mentors, and built up a reputable portfolio to offer my clients the best overall product which is why it is beyond frustrating to have a copycat shamelessly skip along the road I worked so hard to pave.
Not only is my copycat copying my business though, they are making it personal and copying various aspects of my life afloat. The ocean is big enough for all of us, but when I see the words I wrote (and published in magazines, might I add) casually tossed around in a post the copycat pinned on their profile… I start to see red. I’m sure i’m not the only one out there that can relate to this situation, which is why I have decided to channel my energy into writing some things to share with you that are applicable as a casual social media participant or as a business. Enjoy the fruits of my catharsis:
#1. If it really bothers you: Block them. If a competitor is set on copying you, it’s on you to make it harder for them to do so. Protect your peace (and your content) and remove them from the equation entirely. This is easier said than done, especially as a business page, since it is impossible to completely hide your content unless you are a “private” account. However, there is some instant satisfaction in hitting the “block” button, so perhaps it will be enough to ease your mind. Some other tip’s along the lines of “blocking”
- Put valuable resources behind lead forms – only the boldest of competitors will input their information to get a copy. On some marketing platforms, you can input code within your forms to reroute competitor email domains. Devious? Maybe. But so is copying content.
- Most websites have a security section where, if you know your competitor’s IP address, you can blacklist them from viewing your website. How nifty is that?
These tactics don’t guarantee that your competitor won’t get their hands on your precious content, but if nothing else, you can say that you’ve done your due diligence in protecting your resources rather than just handing them out to competitors like free digital candy.
#2: Tell Someone. Share your frustration with a friend or colleague. Get your feelings validated so you don’t feel like you’re going crazy or question if you are imagining it. Your trusted third party can be your eyes and ears – especially if you blocked the copycat – and if the copying is really bad (like stealing images) then they can assist you by reporting infringements, posting comments and setting the record straight on their personal accounts. The last strategy works wonderfully when there’s been an actual theft/infringement. Always document the copycat’s copies so you have a backlog of evidence in case you need to get a lawyer involved.
Note: NEVER use your business accounts to publicly name and shame anyone and never post fake reviews or make anything up. Stay positive on your business accounts – don’t stoop to their level.
#3: Stay Focused on YOU. If you have done the above then that is all you can do. Stay in your own lane’ and keep focused on your own goals. Even if the copycat takes some business away from you, you can’t let them push you into a race. If they do, it will be a race to the bottom. “Energy flows where attention goes” – Tony Robbins.
#4 Take a Break. This is really only applicable for personal pages. If you are a business or person of interest to the public (influencer) I do not recommend this, but ultimately it is your decision. Let your audience know you will be stepping away for a bit. You can tell them why, or keep it disclosed, but some time away from the stressors of social media will do you good.
#5. Find Their Weakness. This is a strategy for a business, but if you are an influencer with a competitive edge, more power to you! If your competitor is copying or addressing your social posts, it suggests they may not have the resources to create a competitive marketing strategy of their own. Take advantage of that. Create a quick assessment of their posts vs your posts – not only will you feel better, but you may find that there are certain communications or media types that they don’t duplicate. Posts that link to white papers, videos, articles or posts that use intricate design may be something they can’t counteract due to lack of expertise, time, or just general talent. Many copycats are only capable of saying the same things online but are not capable of doing the same things. Find their weakness, exploit it and their copycat “strategy” will quickly run out of steam.
#6. Trust yourself. You’ve built this business/following and your ideas are solid. You did your research, designed your product and poured your love and energy into it. Trust yourself to keep moving forward and to keep coming up with ideas worth copying. Competition can be an excellent driver of ideas and a brilliant motivator for success – how do you think I mustered up the motivation to bust out this blog in a day? Moving onwards and upwards is the best thing you can do for yourself and your business.
I choose to incorporate a well used Oscar Wilde quote as the sub title of this blog, but interestingly the trope is often used out of context, when in fact the full quote was “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness” So, what is Sailing Avocet going to do with our copycat situation? We are going to keep living the life we worked so hard for, create content, and continue to engage with the digital circles we have forged. As for my business, Fair Winds Media, that is dealing with the same copycat… we trust the name we have made for ourselves, know who our allies in the industry are and won’t make the mistake of pigeonholing ourselves…. like our copycat competitors already did. I feel incredibly grateful to have 15 clients located around the globe in various fields that allow me to help their business reach success beyond horizons. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect!