Erika Heald

How Lazy Content Curation Is Ruining Your Influencer Relationships

By: Erika Heald | August 24, 2016 | 

How Lazy Content Curation Is Ruining Your Influencer Relationships

In the start-up marketing world, I’ve often heard the adage “ask forgiveness, not permission.”

Unfortunately, it seems many content producers are living by this advice, and unwittingly sabotaging the very influencer relationships they hope to build through their content curation process.

You see, influencers are tired of having their name and hard work appropriated by brands they don’t know.

They’re not flattered by your unauthorized republishing of their content, or by how you’re amplifying their ideas by presenting them as your own.

Because I try to assume positive intent on behalf of the curator, it looks like many content creators simply are not aware of the fine line that exists between content curation and plagiarizing, or even stealing someone else’s content.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a few examples of what not to do for your content curation, unless your goal is to piss off your favorite influencers and ensure they’re unlikely to want to work with you.

Five Ways Not to Curate Influencer Content

Paraphrase their entire piece of content.

Recently, an article I wrote was tagged to another social media user by someone who was pointing out the helpful chart I’d included that walked readers through an illustration of a content marketing process I frequently use in the course of my work.

Curious as to the context of the conversation they’d had that had led to this share, I clicked through to a post on the sharer’s blog.

As I read through the post, which was a rephrased/reworded version of the meat of my blog post (down to the same number of process steps, in the same order, with the same names), I kept waiting for a link to the original post and an acknowledgment that the concepts and content were not the author’s own.

But there wasn’t one.

Instead, buried in the piece was a note about part of a concept having been borrowed from a specific website (where my post was published), but there wasn’t a link.


To say that this left a bad impression on me is an understatement.

The sad part is, this has happened several times, with different ‘authors’ thinking this was an acceptable way to generate content for their blogs.

Ask them for their personal opinion on a topic, then include it, out of context, in your content

If you’re curious about my personal opinion on a topic, my answer is going to be different than if you ask me, for publication, what my opinion as a marketer is on a topic.

Also, I might not want, for whatever reason, to be part of published content on a particular topic.

Maybe I have a business deal in the works that would make it awkward to answer, or perhaps I’m not allowed by my employer to comment on a specific topic publicly.

The point here is you should ask people their permission to include them in your content marketing.

If you’re quoting someone well-known, from content they’ve authored, or a media interview, doing so is just a courtesy.

Please don’t take someone’s reply to you on social media and call it an endorsement of your organization or include it without context in your content!

Simply ASK them if they are willing to participate and spell out the context in which their contribution will be used.

If you are creating something that’s very self-serving, they likely won’t be interested in being included in a thinly veiled sales pitch, and they definitely aren’t going to share it with their audience.

Publish a profile of them on your website…that they aren’t aware of


Not everything you read on the internet is true!

And even if it were true at the time, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate now.

A friend of mine woke up one morning to find he was that day’s feature profile, on a site he hadn’t been involved with.

Embarrassingly enough, much of the content (which had been cobbled together through Google searches and old snippets of content from various sites) was not at all aligned with his current personal branding and career goals.

If you are publishing a profile of an influencer, in the hopes of them sharing it with their audience and gaining the positive effects of that association, it’s imperative you explicitly obtain their permission to do so, and allow them to fact check and provide edits.

Otherwise, this sort of project can backfire.

In addition to NOT sharing it with their network, they may also go out of their way to avoid any further association with you and your brand.

Use their social media content, verbatim and in front of them, without credit

Have you ever been in a Twitter Chat only to see you’ve developed an echo?

For instance, there’s someone who, after you share your answer to a question, copies it verbatim and pastes it (occasionally spelling out something you abbreviated or vice versa).

Here’s the deal.

On Twitter you can retweet something you find compelling and even add your own commentary to it.

People appreciate this.

You’re amplifying their point-of-view and giving them credit for it.

But when you just re-appropriate their words as your own?

Well, that’s how you end up on ignore lists.

Present their ideas and content as your own

Imagine being at an industry conference and seeing your proprietary model or process up on the screen, being shared as the speaker’s own concept.

And then tweeted and blogged by all those in attendance as their original work.

Or seeing the visual content you created being used commercially, without permission, payment, or attribution.

Unfortunately, this sort of unfair use happens all the time, but that doesn’t make it an acceptable practice.

Don’t borrow content that doesn’t belong to you.

Fairly license it (or ask permission), and provide a legible source attribution.

If you don’t, you risk being called out by a sharp-eyed viewer as someone who steals other people’s content.

That’s a stain you don’t want to have on your reputation.

All of the above have either happened to me this year, or to one of my friends, and it really should not have.

As content creators, you can do better than this.

Perhaps you just need a few tips.

A Quick Overview for an Ethical Content Curation Process

  1. Give credit where credit is due
  2. Reach out to influencers and ask for their participation
  3. Link back to the original source

Yes, it’s really as easy as 1-2-3.

Let me go into more detail here, and give you examples of brands that are consistently doing it right.

If you are sharing someone else’s viewpoint, make the most of it by showcasing them as an expert.

This will not only increase the authoritativeness of the content by associating it with its originator, it can be the start of a beautiful influencer relationship.

My friend and fellow content marketer Dennis Shiao (disclosure: A former client of mine) pointed out that the folks at did a great job of this in a recent post on their blog titled, “The Next Five Years: How Technology Will Shape The Future of Content Marketing.

In addition to presenting anonymous feedback collected in their survey, they also highlighted a selection of marketing thought leaders’ answers to a number of questions that provided additional insight into the survey results.

As well as having a verbatim quote, the post also featured the influencer’s photo and a link to their twitter handle, or a preferred bio.

That’s an example of doing it right.

Lee Odden, Heidi Cohen, and the Content Marketing Institute also are regular ethical curators of influencer content.

Check them out for great examples of how to put your curated content to use.

For a crash course in ethical content curation, check out the CMI content curation checklist.

If you’re still unsure as to how to ethically curate content, you’ll want to attend our upcoming #ContentChat Twitter Chat with Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, where we’ll be discussing just that.

image credit: shutterstock

About Erika Heald

Erika Heald is a San Francisco-based marketing consultant and freelance writer. She focuses on helping technology and specialty food start-ups define their content marketing strategy to drive lead generation and customer loyalty. Erika led and grew high-performance content marketing teams at Highwire PR, Anaplan, and Achievers. You can find her on her blog and , or hosting the weekly #ContentChat Twitter chat.

  • Seriously love this article, Erika! Creating a properly curated post does take a little extra time, but is so worth it. In my mind, they’re best every once in a while — like when you feel really compelled to comment and add to something you’ve read online. List posts are also really effective, often resulting in multiple shares by the very influencers you’ve included on your list. Again, don’t abuse this power by publishing a weekly list!

    It always swings back to integrity. If your gut says what you’re doing *might* be wrong, it probably is. And you know what? Properly linking to sources and giving attribution doesn’t make you look any less brilliant. 🙂

    • When I see a properly sourced piece of content, I always think “What a good writer!” 🙂 And agree that it’s an issue of integrity. So important to give credit where it is due.

  • Great post Erika! There is nothing more annoying than not being credited for something you wrote, spoke of, or took a photograph of. Tara is right to say that it all comes back to the integrity and honesty of the poster/curator. Do the right thing and you will be considered ‘brilliant’! 🙂

    • YES! By sharing someone else’s POV and giving them credit, you are building your reputation as a smart, ethical content marketer and your relationship with the influencer at the same time.

      • Exactly! There’s room enough out here on the inter webs for all of us to shine!

      • Corina Manea

        Amen to that!

  • How many times can I “like” this blog post? It’s awesome! I’ve been on the wrong side of “influencer curation” twice before: Once, when a brand used my Instagram pic and didn’t give me credit because they didn’t think I wanted it (that’s their best practice, apparently, because they do it all the time — still), and another when I was “profiled” by an upstart marketing agency that wrote a whole article about me without ever conducting an interview. I’m hardly a big name in the social media space, but regardless, any person or business that wants to get credibility by riding the coattails of someone who has put in the time and hard work to earn it for himself or herself needs to remember the R word: Respect. I’m never going to endorse your business (organically or otherwise) if you don’t show me a little respect first.

    • Thanks, Martin—and I couldn’t agree with you more. A simple request followed by attribution is not too much to ask.

  • Corina Manea

    Cutting corners is never a good strategy, and it will always come back and bite you when least expected. Maybe you got away this time, but don’t be too surprised when you ask influencers to come to your event, endorse your business, etc, and they just ignore you.

    Having common sense and being a freaking human applies to everything! I don’t understand why some think they can skip it, just because they’re online.

    Great, great post Erika!

    • Thanks, Corina! And exactly this—getting away with it once and not being called out can still have a longterm negative result.

  • Erika I love your ideas, but mores your writing style. Quite a gift, which isn’t a gift but years of practice.

    • Thank you for the lovely compliment, Pete!

  • This is a great post, Erika. Lots of good info. In some cases, I’m sure it is laziness, but in others, I think it’s ignorance. There’s still a lot of educating to be done. Not everyone can adapt to the rapid changes of our industry, so tips like these are quite valuable.

    • Good point, Kara. People often learn from others’ examplse—and we all see a ton of content out there citing data without sources, for example, so it looks like it’s an accepted practice. I hope this inspires a few folks to take a look at their content curation practices, and button them up a bit.

      • I agree with Kara, in working with clients I’d say there is a huge learning curve around these issues. They mean well, but truly don’t understand. This is a great overview I’m going to keep on hand!

        • So glad you found it to be helpful, Laura!

  • Sue Duris

    Wonderful post which I have shared and gave you credit!!! I was curious what the link for CMI’s curation checklist was? They have multiple links for content curation. Would you mind sharing?

  • Erika, this post is RIGHT on target! I tweeted Gini Dietrich just a few days ago asking her if Twitter etiquette had changed because so many people are consistently tweeting content as if its their own and never giving any of the content creators one bit of credit! As a content creator, this really bugs me and I think it’s so rude.

    It’s the social media equivalent of plagiarism, and so when I retweet the content and give kudos to the REAL creator of the content, the creator is grateful and I often get messages thanking me for giving them proper credit. To me, it’s just common sense, but a lot of people seem not to care about giving content creators the credit they deserve. One of the habitual offenders has 90,000 followers on Twitter! I would think that by now, many of the most influential people he’s stolen content from would somehow make sure that Karma came his way, but it hasn’t come around yet. In the meantime, I’ve stopped using his Twitter handle when he just flat-out steals things. Thank you so much for addressing this issue on many levels! It only takes a second to RT or find someone’s Twitter handle or ask them for permission to write a post about their work and get an interview from them. Good manners and respect still matter, no matter how fast the social media world is spinning.

    • Hear hear! I’m with you all the way, Kathy. There’s always time for good manners. I hope this post changes a few curators’ processes.

  • Great post. Anyone who creates and shares content will eventually see their hard work and efforts hijacked. The first time it happened to me i found a “blogger” who had copied several of my posts word-for-word. Once confronted he took them down. Someone who knowingly steals content will most likely not be affected by your article but I hope a few who may not know the rules learn more about how to walk in this space. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Randy! I’ve had a lot of content misappropriated over the years, and it’s typically been by folks who were very much aware of what they were doing. But I’m hopeful that this conversation will at least reach the folks who aren’t sure what the protocol is, and give them some feedback on what to avoid.

  • Erika–

    Content curation is a necessary part of everyone’s content marketing and social media. You can’t keep shouting me, me, me.

    Thank you for pointing out how to curate work. I totally agree that curation isn’t copying or re-editing and calling it your own. I get emails from people who want me to check their content on what I’ve already written.

    Also I appreciate the shout out!

    Happy marketing,

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • Heidi, you are such a great example of making doing curation right a part of your content creation process. I hope this conversation causes folks to take a look at their own process, and consider making some adjustments.

  • Hi Erika, I’m a little late to comment, but appreciate the attention to asking people permission to use their ideas, content, quotes, etc – especially in marketing content.

    One question: Do you think copy/paste of influencer quotes from other content (with permission and attribution) is the same as having an exchange with an influencer directly and pulling a quote from that interaction and publishing it? With permission and attribution of course.

    I ask because the latter doesn’t seem like curation to me in the same way that a journalist quoting people in an article wouldn’t be called curation.

    One could say we publish influencer quotes and content pretty frequently. But it’s rarely curation.

    Those types of posts we publish are always a result of a first hand interaction and not copying something the influencer said on another website.

    The distinction is why we have excelled at influencer engagement and marketing. Rather than curate, we use the interaction and co-creation experience as a relationship builder – that also happens to result in content and exposure for the influencer (and quality content for our readers) everybody wins.

    The focus in your post about the need to be ethical and follow best practices with curation is sorely needed and I hope more people pay attention to it!

    • Hi Lee!

      As a former journalist, I do definitely think interviewing influencers 1-on-1 is a much better way of putting together an influencer round-up. It’s definitely not the same as curating previously published content. But in many ways it is still a curation effort, but more so as a museum curator picks the best pieces that work together for a specific gallery, if that makes sense?

      I know I am far more likely to read and share this sort of purposefully planned and executed content curation, versus a mile-long post that simply has copy+pasted the key points from every page 1 google results on a given topic.

      And like you, I’m hoping that we can keep shining a light on curation best practices and ethical content marketing, and stamp out some of the worst cases I shared in this post.