Arguably, creating social media content by professional writers is a job for machine-gun writers who create content out of whole cloth at 200 words per minute, post it on scores of websites in dozens of formats, 24/7 while plugged into rap music delivered just shy of the speed of sound.

They are not long form writers. They do not consult the Chicago Manual of Style. They love slang, hate deadlines, and use other writer’s content by the barrel. They are well paid and produce quantifiable product, at scale, and on time. Welcome to the world of creating and evaluating social media content for the business world. headlined it: “Examples of How Corporate America is Crushing Social Media . . . Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.”[1]

Apparently, “sharing” works in both directions. On the corporate end, business’s focus on content that encourages readers to “share the information” on their own social networks. Yahoo’s prime example is Ford Motor Company, and its eighty Facebook pages, boasting over 14.7 million fans. To maximize that effort Ford tweaks its marketing message on social media. It is ranked ninth on, which identifies the top fifty “most social media friendly Fortune 500 companies.”

Now Marketing Group is a leader in this new arena of corporate America locking arms with tech America to tie down individual social media devotees. They spilled the corporate beans by explaining something called the 10-4-1 rule. The number “1” refers to the company’s landing page. “4” is the company blog. “10” is the third-party blogs or posts. That’s where writers face at least dicey ethical challenges—they knowingly share other writers work. They call it “sharing, not stealing.”

Substantially all social media business writers share content by linking to a Facebook blog, Re-Pining on Pinterest, or Retweeting on Twitter. It seems that everyone involved at every level expects to have their work shared. They don’t sweat it; they bathe in it. Inevitably, they find infographics, photos, or language that supports their own posts and share it without attribution. The link it, hoping to avoid the possible legal issues inherent in using another writer’s work, in obvious ignorance of the original writer’s copyright. They tap-dance steps and moves to plagiarism tunes. NowMarketingGroup says, “using proper attribution, linking, and good etiquette gives business writers the ability to sleep at night knowing a lawyer isn’t calling in the morning.”[2]

Whether the lawyer calls or not, the ethical issue is plagiarism. William Inge famously said, “Originality is undetected plagiarism.”[3] Tell that to the judge.



[3] William Motter Inge was an American playwright and novelist, whose works typically feature solitary protagonists encumbered with strained sexual relations. In the early 1950s he had a string of memorable Broadway productions, including Picnic, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize.

Gary L Stuart

I am an author and a part-time lawyer with a focus on ethics and professional discipline. I teach creative writing and ethics to law students at Arizona State University. Read my bio.

If you have an important story you want told, you can commission me to write it for you. Learn how.