Friday, July 21, 2017

Basic Etiquette for Sharing Online Content

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

A lot of people have asked me to share a blog post about the online etiquette for mentioning and/or sharing content online. 

Mentioning and sharing content from sites we find valuable is the ultimate compliment, and a great way to encourage other bloggers and writers.

Before we begin, let me clarify something. Sharing links or a short quote from another site isn’t a copyright infringement. For those concerned about copyright information, here’s a link to a blog I wrote on CopyrightBasics for Bloggers.

The Basics of Sharing Online Content
  • The first thing we need to remember when sharing content owned by someone else is that we are giving them free word-of-mouth recognition. It’s exactly like saying something nice about a physical business (or church, charity, school, etc.) and giving the address so the person you’re talking to can find it if they want to visit.
  • Second, we never need to worry about sharing the title of something—blog post, article, book, website, etc. Titles cannot be copyrighted so there’s no way that can be construed ad negative behavior.
  • Third, if someone has something visible to the public online, then it’s legal to share. 

Etiquette Basics
When I’m sharing someone else’s content—either in social media or quoting them in a blog post or article—I do my best to make sure no one thinks I’m sharing something I created. For example, if I’m sharing DiAnn Mills’ blog post about Master Plotting, then I’m going to mention her name as the author.

For a blog post or article, it looks like my reference to DiAnn’s post in the paragraph above. I make sure those who read that sentence know I’m referring to something written by someone else.

In a social media update it looks like this:
Great blog post from @DiAnnMills about Master Plotting on @BRMCWC

The social media update above lets readers know immediately that the material I’m referring to is written by someone else. It also goes a step further in that it also mentions the site where the material is presented. That’s only necessary if the site isn’t the website of the author. If the article written by DiAnn Mills was on DiAnn’s website, I wouldn’t have mentioned her twice.

Sometimes you won’t have room to mention the author and the website because of update-length restriction on certain platforms, like Twitter. In that case, use your discretion. I usually mention the author if I just have to choose one, but not always.

What NOT to Do
There are some things you’ll want to avoid doing—either because they’re poor etiquette or an outright violation of copyright.

1. Try to avoid mentioning a person, product, or place in a negative light. There may be times when you are tempted to bend this rule, but I recommend you do so only after a lot of thought and consideration. Don’t EVER post something negative without pausing to see if you’re ready to deal with the fallout.

2. Don’t repost someone else’s material without prior permission. You can quote a sentence or two from a blog post or article, but that’s it. After that, you need to contact the author and receive their permission. This is true even if they have an older blog and there’s a REPOST button still included.

The reason you don’t want to repost without permission is because of Google’s definition of plagiarism. Google considers defines any repeated post or article as plagiarism, even if it’s the author who is repeating the information.

3. If the information you want to share is in a private or limited membership group of any type, you should never share the information publically without prior permission. For example, many authors send out newsletters two or three times of year. The best newsletters contain additional information that the author doesn’t share publically. Another example would be if you’re in a private Facebook group, information shared in those groups is implicitly understood to be PRIVATE. It’s the depth of poor etiquette to release that information publically.

Bottom Line
Sharing a link to someone else’s—public—online work is a great thing to do. It’s one of the best ways to support another author. With these guidelines firmly in mind, you can share without fear of doing something wrong.

Now it’s your turn, do you have any questions about online sharing? Or, have you ever had a sharing experience you’d like to . . . uh . . . share? LOL!

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Basic etiquette for sharing online content - tips from @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Sharing content from online sites is the ultimate compliment, tips to do it right from @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. If the author of a post can't re-post something they've written in the past, how can you refer to a previous post? I'm a little confused.

    1. The author CAN repost, but Google won't rank a repeated (plagerized) post as high as an original post. Posting a full blog is different than linking to it.

      Mentioning something - on social media or briefly within a post - isn't publishing an entire post and Google doesn't or penalize that.

  2. i also inlude the link when applicable to direct traffic to the original post

  3. Great article, Edie, with valuable information! Thanks so much.