Many of us can remember Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, Million Dollar Man (though I don't know if I really remember him, just the name). What do we remember? Well, it's so long ago for me not much. I do remember thought that I wanted to be like them, sorta. I can even remember dressing like Wonder Woman a one year for Halloween. Dork, yes I know. I never went to the extreme as I have always been happy with who I am plain and simple.
So fast forward to today. Here we are on Twitter, Facebook and every other platform. Some have been here years. Some a couple months. Some only a few days or hours.
We follow people. We choose a mentor. We mentor others. We first listen. We learn. We give. We share. The cycle then repeats itself hopefully over and over.
Something that I am seeing happen more and more is people losing sight of their own brand and identity. Regardless of if you are a solo-entrepreneur or an employee at a Fortune 500 company, you shouldn't lose site of you. Just because someone has 100k Twitter followers doesn't mean you should strive to be just like them in every day life. Learn from them if you so choose in social media but build your own following based on what you can offer others and how you can personally connect.
During my 15+ years in corporate America I would laugh it off as “plagiarism is the greatest form of flattery” when a big dog competitor would copy one of my campaigns. HA!
What I am seeing even personally is a few local people who are following me and now blatantly copying me. I write something, they write the same or the they write the opposite in spite. I update a social media profile with a widget, they soon add the widget. I change my social icons and they have the same exact ones a couple days later. They even go so far as to use some of the same words I do and describe their business and services almost exactly as I do mine. The list goes on and on. The funniest part is my co-founder and I each have 15+ years experience in corporate america while most of our copy cats have less than 2-5. However, when reading some of their pages you'd think we came from and still work at the same company ;)
I am an open book and some may say the problem is I share too much? However, I don't think it's possible for me to stop giving as it's in my DNA. I love helping others. So I am not talking to the folks who regularly read my blogs, tweet with me and comment. I love helping you. I love communicating and connecting with you. That's why I post blog post filled with widgets and tips and tricks. I know you respect me, my brand and yourself. I am talking about the folks who silently stalk and copy blatantly.
I always encourage folks to not get hung up on your competition and I still stand true to that. I truly do not waste time on worrying about competition and focus on what we are doing and how we can serve our clients and audiences. However, I do want to state that you need to be yourself. You need to be YOU!
Having mentors is good. However, they are just that, mentors. Don't mimic yourself after the mentors. Don't be a copycat to the extreme. You may think nobody notices, but they do.
10 Tips to Build Your Own Identity & Not Be a Copy Cat
1. Make the decision to be YOU and not to be a copy cat! Pretty simple. Don't do it.
2. Realize the market is big enough for more than one social media or marketing fish in the social media ocean. You are not going to run out of customers or people wanting to learn social media if you build your own brand and don't overlap your entire client base with that of your competitors.
3. Build a plan. Build yourself a plan of what you need to address. Is it website? Is it messaging? Is it everything? The worst thing you can do is overwhelm yourself and try to build your own brand over night. Start with building blocks and bite off pieces you can chew.
4. Start with the simple things. If your colors are guilty of copy cat then modify them enough so they are not exactly the same. If it's the website that is exactly the same, then tweak it. Start with what you can change and continue to differentiate over time.
5. Focus on being unique. Identify the unique value you can offer your audience and clients. Why should they care? How are you personally going to provide them value? How are you personally going to make their life better? Help them grow their business? How will you inspire them to listen to you?
6. Decide who you are and what services you are going to offer based on your strengths, not based on what your competitors or mentors. Just because something sounds cool and you'd like to learn how to do it someday don't fake it completely. You'd be surprised how many people see right thru the carbon copy web pages.
7. Don't underestimate your readers. Remember it's a small world. You never know who is your Facebook fan and also a fan of your other contacts and perhaps even the mentor or so called friend you copied your pages and ideas from. It has been networking contacts who have pointed out recent similarities of the copy cat content and positioning.
8. Take a good hard look at your website, social media profile content and any other content you have published. Be honest with yourself. If you wrote it then leave it. If you plagiarized half of it even in concept form, then change it.
9. Develop your own message house. Develop one single document to encompass all of your messaging. At minimum it should include company and product descriptions, value proposition, benefit statements, as well as service or product features. Doing this will help you truly determine what your unique differentiators are as well as give you a platform of which to pull content from. The key benefits are differentiation, compelling content and consistency in message and positioning. If you struggle with content, which might be why you behaved as a copy cat to begin with then hire a copywriter. Find a friend who can write better than you and give it a swag.
10. Ask someone you trust for their real opinion. Don't be afraid to hear an honest answer. Ask them to read your website and social media content. Ask them if it describes you. Chances are they might even point out some features or traits about yourself that is unique from others.
11. Tap into your mentor friends. Ask them for help. If you are feeling stuck differentiating yourself then ask them for assistance. Many times we are naturally attracted to mentors who have the same values, goals and personalities as we do. You'll be surprised how warmly your question will be welcomed if you have the guts to ask. I did exactly this with one of my mentors for just this reason. It gave us an excellent opportunity to talk about partnerships and how we can work together.
Remember people buy from people. You have a lot to offer and need to focus on connecting with people in an authentic way. Be you. Build your own brand. Don't live in the shadow or footsteps of someone else.
What to do if you are the CAT being Copied:
1. Don't freak out. You know the truth and so do most of your contacts.
2. Use a tool like Social Mention to check if your content might exist. If it's obvious it does and it was truly copied then obviously do what you feel is appropriate. If it's copyright infringement you obviously have legal rights.
3. Call them on it. Join their fan page. Talk to them at a networking event. Tweet with them. Remind them it's a small world and it's better if we all play nicely.
4. Continue to improve yourself as you have time. For us over achievers this is easy. I seem to be always updating my blog, content and brand. Heck at least we make them work harder to continually catch up with us. HA.
5. Reach out to them and ask if they need help. I'm not joking. In calling them on it you may be able to help both them and you. Plus, making friends is always better than not.
6. Be thankful you're the one being copied vs. the copier ;)
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced the copy cat syndrome? What have you done about it?