Kaleidoscopes of Content and World Views

On Social Media Guilt, Overwhelm, and Being a Content Copy Cat

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)
Is it okay to duplicate content in the social media echo chamber?

It’s okay to add your two cents. It lets us know how you think. It helps your tribe find you.

(It’s not okay to plagiarize.)

Just because several somebodies have already spoken on “it,” whatever that is, doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, lend your voice.

If you’ve got something to say, speak on it, kid.

You have a unique view of the world and your readers want to know it.

If they don’t, they’re not your readers.

Thereby, the rest of this post is for my readers.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get here, but maybe I can save you some time.

Recently, I rambled at length about how you don’t have to read your whole Facebook news feed or Twitter timeline or whichever endless streaming river of content you blithely, glibly signed up for.

I talked about FOMO — the Fear of Missing Out. We all know FOMO from not wanting to take naps when we were kids. We were fools, I say, dadgum fools!

Yet More Social Media “Guilt & Overwhelm”

That’s what I’ve been calling it, anyway, every time I dream about writing this post.

Guilt and overwhelm. Trips off the tongue like shock and awe.

FOMO is just one piece of this tangly web — see what I did there? Web?

Inasmuch as it’s social media, all of the emotional and psychological energetics that we know from “real-world” settings are at play in this virtual space.

But wait, there’s more.

It’s not just the fear of missing out on what the cool kids are doing.

The Fear of Not Doing Enough Is Bigger than FOMO.

Especially for conscientious small and not-so-small businesses and nonprofits.

We fear that we’re not promoting enough or promoting properly. We fear that we’re not engaging in the “right” way or with the right people. Or that we’re not getting enough traction.

There’s lotsa fear around the proper strategy and execution of social media and content marketing. Fer sure. No doubt. I know. I hear it from my clients and prospective clients all the time.

But wait, there’s more.

The Social Media Guilt Stack: Bigger Than Business Drivers.

We fear we’re not amplifying enough signals — for example, the GoFundMe campaign for the 16-year-old from your local skating rink who’s off to Taiwan to compete in World’s in speed skating representing the USA and needs the money to get there.

We fear that we’re not bearing enough witness to those profundities that can’t continue to go unspoken and which align with our business mission and purpose — ya know, like #blacklivesmatter, refugees washing up on European shores, sick workers at chicken processing plants, that skeletal polar bear forever afloat on his shrinking ice floe.

That we’re not putting into the world enough of the energies that we want to see.

That we’re not being the change, as Gandhi may or may not have said.

That, as a business in today’s world, we have an obligation to stewardship even if we don’t practice a triple bottom line.

We contribute more to the world than just widgets.

(Maybe it’s just me? Maybe it’s generational? Surely there are doctoral theses to be had here about the sociopolitical context and assumed responsibilities of the Gen X set growing up pre-Internet and coming of age in the Me Generation.)

I actually don’t have any advice on any of that stuff. It flummoxes me, too.

I mean, healthy diet, plenty of fluids, eight hours of zzzz’s at night, floss daily, eat your vegetables, develop a meditation practice, signal your lane changes, recycle.

Call your mom.

Look, we do what we can, where we can, when we can. As Oprah likes to quote her mentor, Dr. Maya Angelou, “When you learn better, you do better.”

Here’s What I Do Have Advice On.

It’s okay to “duplicate” content that’s already in the blog-o-sphere.

There are no original ideas, right?

I don’t know who first uttered that famous maxim, but it probably wasn’t this guy, who was probably cribbing from someone else, who was paraphrasing a famous Greek, who had read it in an Egyptian papyrus.

We’ve been handing this canard down through the ages like two mirrors facing each other.

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

~ the inimitable great American hero Mark Twain in his autobiography, so says Goodreads

Again, maybe it’s just me, but I’m operating on the good word of classroom teachers everywhere…

If you have a question, ask it. If you have it, that means at least five other kids in class have the same question, too.

And, here’s my question: (or was my question until I found some peace with it)

Are you allowed to write blog posts for questions that have already been answered?

How is that okay?

Anyone can Google their question and find the answer that you’re fixin’ to put out there.

You’re not adding anything new to the discourse.

How is that not a self-indulgent play at stroking your own ego and feeling important?

Basically, aren’t you just being a windbag who likes to hear yourself talk? Er, um, type?

(Perhaps I need more therapy…

Perhaps I need to reread Bayles & Orland’s classic Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.

Or finally get brave and bull through Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles.

(Though, frankly, if I’m going to read Pressfield, I’d much rather read Gates of Fire again. Five stars!))

Anyway, in my field especially, it easy to think that *everything* about social media and content marketing has been asked and answered.

It’s. All. Been. Done.

A gazillion times by a million people and hundreds of content farms.

Because if there’s anything content marketers know, it’s that consistence of posting directly correlates to persistence on search engine results pages.

(Tommy, the man behind the curtain here, oughta link the heck outta this blockquote. Just saying.)

It’s not like I’m in some esoteric niche that hasn’t really seen social daylight yet. I mean, I’m IN social media writing about social media. How meta is that?

There are a few left, I’m sure. Esoteric niches, that is.

Like rigorous scientific study into the mating habits of deep sea creatures or, I don’t know, The Live Oak Society of Yoknapatawpha County.

And their marketing teams are at the beginning of the “learning about how and why to do social media” curve. Just like you may be. Or just like you may have been eight months ago or eight years ago.

It’s Just Like the Mary Kay Equation.

When her kids were young, my cousin’s wife got into Mary Kay big time. She got the pink car and a paid trip to Dallas for their annual gala event. I was living in Dallas at the time, so I went to visit her at the event hotel.

I mentioned how I’d never seen so many women in one place and had never been so completely enveloped in a cloud of perfume and hair spray. She joked that if anybody struck a match, the whole place would go up in flames.

Eventually, I asked her how it’s possible to make money at selling make-up.

“Look,” said I, “I get that it’s relationship selling and connecting and teaching women how to apply makeup. But, isn’t that market already saturated? And, for that matter, don’t we all already know how to put on make up?”

I like to think that because we’re related she didn’t give me “The Spiel.”

She just looked me in the eye and said, “Girls turn 18 every day.”

Girls turn 18 every day.

Newcomers Join Social Media and Start Blogs Every Day.

Again, I’m referencing social media and content marketing, because it’s what I write about the most. It’s the thing I worried about for years — having the gall to duplicate content that’s already out there. Like, who do I think I am?

But then, people started paying me to do it. That always helps.

So whether your thing — your content area, your subject matter expertise — is how to apply makeup or how to blog or the best trailer foods of America or living with ALS or being a SAHD (stay-at-home Dad, I see you, Ken) — whatever your thing is, it’s your thang, do what you wanna do.

Your Readers Are Out There. You Find Them by Writing.

I’m going to make a gross subversion of a contested translation of an excerpt from Spanish poet Antonio Machado’s Campos de Castilla,

Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking.

Likewise, the audience is made by posting. It’s a build-it-and-they-will-come sorta thing.

Your audience, when they find you, will be your audience because they relate to the way you relate to the world. They like the way you explain things. They resonate with your examples.

They’re your readers because they dig your kaleidoscope.

Sure, like I said, anyone can Google the question-of-the-moment and get an insta-answer. Probably your readers will, too. I know I do. All. Day.

But, when I want a finer understanding, when I want to take a deeper dive, when I want to clarify subtle nuances, I search out my favorite authors and see what they have to say. How they’ve puzzled through it. How their kaleidoscope shines new light on it.

So, speak on, kid.

Even if it’s done before.

Especially if it’s been done before.

It hasn’t been kaleidoscoped through your filters, biases, and worldviews yet.

Does that make sense? Is that even a question you’ve struggled with? How do these thoughts hit your kaleidoscope?

Featured Image Credit: Flickr user Rudolf Ammann, License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Suzanne Hoenig is a strategist and writer helping small businesses, nonprofits, and private practitioners craft their marketing copy, grow their online and offline community, and navigate the changing tides of social media and digital content marketing.
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