Thanks to the wonderful web and social media centric world we work and live in, sharing images and content has never been easier. It’s amazing how someone can post an image on the other side of the world and people can see it, like it and share it. We can all enjoy scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and seeing funny quotes or images, but the marketer in me cringes when I see people reposting content that they didn’t create without giving proper credit or asking for permission from the original creator. Most people don’t know that the fun or fabulous quote or image they want to share isn’t something they shouldn’t snag, hence me taking a break from designing to do some markeding (marketing education). Accidentally stealing is still stealing and can lead to some nasty reactions or issues for your business. Here are some steps to make sure that you (or your staff who manages your social media) is not accidentally/unintentionally sharing content that they shouldn’t:

1 | If You Want to Repost an Image From Social Media, Ask!

Reposting (when there is a repost button) from places like Twitter is fine because Twitter usually credits the original person, BUT before you think about uploading someone else’s image (like that amazing quote someone had on Instagram or Facebook) or sharing text, quotes or images from someone else’s post, you need to ask them for permission. No if’s, and’s or but’s. Ask for permission and if they say no don’t use it. Or, if they say they took it fromsomeone else, definitely don’t use it. If you find yourself accidentally stealing an image and someone approached you about it apologize, explain that it was an accident, and take the image down. Most people are more than happy to let their images be reposted.. As long as they’re credited.

2 | If You Get Permission, ALWAYS Give Credit

Giving credit to the original creator is so important. Like they say in school “Always cite your sources.” Giving credit to the original creator is the polite and expected thing to do. But when we say give credit, we don’t mean at the end of your post under all the hashtags. The credit should be in an obvious, easy to find place where there is no question on who created this content (don’t hide it). For example, when we post content for our clients on Instagram (say a great food photo for a restaurant special), we credit the photographer of the food by mentioning them (their name and Instagram handle if needed) and tagging the image before we post.

3 | Don’t Take Images From Google Images

Google Images is a vast resource and very helpful in many ways, but creating image content is not one of them. As a general rule of thumb, assume that every image on Google Images belongs to someone else. Don’t use them, don’t use them, don’t use them.

4 | Use Pexels, Unsplash, or Pixabay Instead

We love using Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay when we need images to support our social media content. All three websites are free to use for commercial use images. That means that all images on their websites are fair game and worry-free for you to use for your business. These sites have a wealth of stock images for you to use and are constantly increasing their library. These three websites are unique instances, because of their licensing, where you aren’t required to give credit to the original creator (although it’s always appreciated).

5 | Read the Licensing Agreements on Images

All stock photo/image sites have a specific image licensing agreement. The licensing agreement will be under either their licensing page or terms and conditions. The licensing will let you know whether an image is free for commercial use, only free for personal use, or free for commercial use under a certain amount of distribution. Sometimes the license states that the images are free to use and you don’t have to give credit. Making sure you’re in line with the company’s policies will keep your business free and clear from issues down the line. There will likely come a time when you find an amazing image that you want to buy, make sure you buy the proper usage.

6 | Use Canva and Create Your Own

Canva is a great resource for creating your own social media images! All the images/graphics are free for commercial use. Also, creating your own content allows you to give your business a unique voice, stay on brand, have your audience come back for your content (not anyone else’s). Don’t worry if you’re not a designer because Canva is catered for the non-designer business owners. It has a plethora of templates and tutorials online that will steer you in the right direction! Plus the starting an account is free! We love sharing quotes on our social media, but we never, ever copy an image from Pinterest or Google and use it. We make our own.

It’s important to remember to follow social media etiquette for both you and your business. We suggest that to get the most out of your social media posts you create your own graphic with sites like Canva and use images from sites such as Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixbay.

Social media marketing, when done right, can be a life-long investment for your brand. Be creative, have fun, but be smart!