When Does Social Sharing Cross the Line?

July 13, 2015

Singer and actor Tyrese Gibson recently has come under fire for a social sharing practice he’s used to build his Facebook following to more than 22 million fans. The celebrity shares videos and content created by others to his Facebook page to entertain and enlighten his fans.

You may be wondering what’s wrong with that practice.

That was my first thought -- what’s wrong with that?

After all, don’t many content creators encourage—indeed, expect—others to share their content? Isn’t the whole point of social media sharing buttons to actually share content that is available on the Web?

The answer to these questions is “yes.”

But if that were all this was about, there wouldn’t be any controversy.

What has some people speaking out is that celebrities—and other people, for that matter—have been known to share videos without attributing them specifically to the original source or even mentioning the source. What’s more, they take advantage of a relatively new feature of Facebook where you can upload videos directly on the Facebook platform (rather than just sharing the link to the video hosted on YouTube, for example).

What that means is that when someone views the video, the original creator is not getting credit for the number of views on YouTube or Vimeo or elsewhere. Instead, the person loading the video on Facebook directly and sharing it gets credit for the video’s popularity.

And on today’s Web, popularity is currency. Getting many views can lead to building the content creator’s own online popularity and following, and that has value to them.

Facebook’s algorithms seem to encourage this kind of “upload it as if it were mine” sharing. Facebook gives higher visibility to content that gets more engagement. Videos uploaded directly to the Facebook platform appear larger in size and play automatically, resulting in more engagement. This, in turn, results in Facebook showing the item to more people. And this leads to the sharer’s Facebook page becoming more popular. And the cycle continues.

Senior editor Chris Plante of the Verge, had some strong words about such sharing practices, noting, “Celebrities ... that steal content aren’t just exploiting Facebook’s algorithm; they’re exploiting you.” Technically, such behavior may not rise to the level of copyright infringement if sharing has been enabled for the video. That’s a question for a copyright attorney to answer. But at the very least, some may consider it poor etiquette, and it could earn you ill will.

That article got me thinking of two simple tips for social sharing etiquette that can make you friends but keep the critics at bay:

  1. Put yourself in the original content creator’s shoes. Sharing is caring, as they say, but only if the person you shared from feels good about it. If you were a content creator and saw the video you invested many hours and possibly dollars in being shared by someone else, who loaded it directly onto Facebook and didn’t mention you, would you be happy about that? Possibly. But most content creators would not. Let the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” be your overall guide.
  2. Give attribution. Giving attribution by mentioning the content creator’s social handle and linking to their website or social profiles is a respectful thing to do. It recognizes the contributions of the content creator and, in a way, serves as a hat tip or round of applause for that content creator. More importantly, it will make you friends with others. Because after all, most of us are not celebrities. We need to build bridges with others. When that person or company sees that you shared their creation and showed them recognition, trust me—they will be flattered and get warm and fuzzy feelings about you and your business.

By caring about how the content creator feels and giving them credit for what they’ve created, you are practicing good social media etiquette.

This article was originally published on Inc.

By caring about how the content creator feels and giving them credit for what they’ve created, you are practicing good social media etiquette.

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