Fair warning friends – grab your coffee and settle in for a long blog post today…

Instagram Copycat

Since launching Style Charade, I’ve never posted a negative topic on this blog. I always want this site to be viewed as a source of fun, positivity, and happiness. It’s also designed to encourage, inspire, surprise, and delight you. Therefore, I assure you the situation is really bad if I’m posting about it now. Please know I am speaking my truth, from the heart and, above all, based on facts.

Last weekend, I posted on Instagram Stories about a situation that I’ve been dealing with for more than three years. The response was overwhelming; endless messages filling my (DM) inbox from people all over the world. Many of whom have noticed or who have experienced something similar. It was heartbreaking yet a reminder of how lucky we are to have the Instagram community. For all the highs and lows of Instagram – the annoying algorithm, the mean comments, the way it changes people for the good (and for the really bad) – the feedback and messages reminded me that it’s all worth it.

To sum up the problem, someone has been using my Instagram account as a template for their own. This person has systematically copied my channel, captions, location concepts, and personal style for more than three years. I’m not talking about just a dress, a pose, a wall, etc. (although there’s that too). It’s about ongoing examples of copying (exact looks, images, and ideas). As a result, I’ve taken immense steps to try and evolve the look and feel of my Instagram account to further differentiate myself and push the creative boundaries. Every time I pivot into new territory, the individual does the same soon thereafter.

For those who know me well, sharing the details of this terrible situation is incredibly hard. I’m not one to open up and be vulnerable, especially when it comes to talking poorly about someone else. I’m far from perfect, and I believe when you say something bad about another person, it:

  1. Creates bad karma AND
  2. Makes you look just as bad as them

Trust me, I do not take sharing the situation with you lightly. It’s taken me almost three years to say anything online. However, after a lot of thought and continued copying from this person, I’ve had enough.

Listen, I know there are bigger issues to focus on. Instagram is just a social media channel, and we need to hone our energies on the world’s problems – politics, healthcare, tax reform, #MeToo, the list goes on and on. For all these reasons and more, it’s taken me this long to address the issue. It feels ridiculous with everything going on around the globe!

Why share then? Beyond being fed up (and copying being straight-up wrong), Instagram is a business. I wholeheartedly believe that there’s room for everyone to have success in the industry, but the challenge comes when an individual does so by replicating another person’s content. By doing so, they dilute the other person’s brand, and, in the end, it hurts their business. All of sudden brands want you on the same campaigns or, even worse, want you to work together because your feeds look similar (yuck).

When someone copies you…

…they steal your ideas.

…they rob you of money and campaigns.

…a small part of your creative soul dies inside.

Without going into details about who the person is (and I won’t), I want to keep the focus on the larger issue at hand. How do we, as an Instagram, blogging, and online community, protect our creative content and brands? We can’t patent our ideas or pages. So how do we fix this? How do we protect each other from this situation happening?

I’d love to collaborate with all of you to find solutions. After all, one of my 2017 mantras? Action, not reaction. If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Let’s work together to find ways to fix what’s happening to a lot of people online.

A few initial ideas of how to fix the problem….

SAY SOMETHING

If you see someone copying, say something to the person affected. DM them, text them, email them, support them.

CHOOSE SIDES

Yes, I realize this sounds very kindergarten / schoolyard playground-like, but if you know a person is systematically copying someone, why would you follow them? De-follow button, please.

GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

The point of Instagram is to allow publishers to connect, converse, and create community online. I find myself constantly being inspired! Inspiration is when you see something cool but do your own take on it. Copying is doing the exact same thing. If you find ideas or inspirations from someone – just credit them!

INSTAGRAM, HELP!

If you work for Instagram, step-in and fix the situation. Never going to happen, right? Lol. From what I understand, Instagram can’t do anything unless someone is literally impersonating someone else. Not copying content. Instagram gods (if you’re listening)  – please consider a policy change for larger instances of systematic copying.

If you have other ideas, please send them my way. Comment below as I’d love to engage in a conversation about it!

I’ll leave with you with these final thoughts…

Over the years, countless friends will message/text me to flag examples of this person copying. It usually happens in the evening when I’m home from work, and I turn to my husband every time and say, “how can (this person) sleep at night?!”

His response always gives me chills…

“Very soundly,” he says. “Because it’s working.”

We, as an online community, have to work to solve this problem. On Instagram, as in life, we need to speak up when someone does something wrong. Not just for me, but for anyone experiencing it.

And believe the person when they say it’s happening. Especially since Instagram has timestamps; the proof is there alone.

You can’t fake time. But it turns out you can fake someone else’s Instagram account.

 

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  • Jonathan

    Well said Jennifer! Your IG account is one of my absolute favorites! I love the bright colored murals adorable outfits and those delicious puns! 🙂

    xo,

    Jonathan

    http://www.stylebyjonathan.com

    • Thanks for commenting! I hope that we can all collaborate to find solutions for creators. I never set forth for the situation to become a witch hunt. My only goal is for all of us to identify solutions for the entire online community.

  • a simply incredible post jenn! i can’t even begin to imagine how infuriating this must be. your content always brings light and happiness to my day and i hope this person will somehow realize that what they are doing is wrong. you never stop wowing me with your content and i have loved following you (i want to say for years??). stay positive, stay strong, and of course, stay fabulous jenn!

    xo
    allie

    pretaprovost.com

  • Stay strong, Jenn! We’re all behind you.

  • Dana Mannarino

    So proud of you, Jenn! I know how hard this was for you to write this, and I know how awful this situation is. I am 100% on your side and have your back. I know how hard you work for your business, and that’s always been very apparent to me. You are one of THE BEST! Even before you were my friend, I had admired following along — I admire you for SO many reasons, and they don’t all necessarily have to do with blogging. It’s so unfortunate that some have stooped so low, but that just shows their true colors. Keep your head up, and keep being one of the best of the best!

    xx
    Pink Champagne Problems

  • Alina Smith

    You are always inspiring and continue to be by posting this. You are my absolute favorite blogger, but not just because of your content, but because of the way you treat and respond to your followers. It speaks volumes about you as a person. That sets you FAR apart from the person/people who copy you. <3

    http://www.theneapolitanblog.com/

  • Instagram really should step in an do something so that it stops happening to people. It just seems like another form of identity theft!! I know that I don’t know you personally, but you are always kind and genuine. I really appreciate the fact that you actually respond to people too. Keep posting your beautiful photos and inspiring others and well that person will learn their lesson one day!

  • Nina Provenzano Rand

    Your style, creativity and kindness are always inspirational. I have to believe that copying someone like this person is doing to you must be exhausting and will catch up to them eventually. Your work is amazing and I can’t wait to keep following and supporting you! xx

  • Jessica S. Irvin

    Thank you for your bravery in sharing this!
    I haven’t encountered anyone directly copying my work (that I’m aware of) but I always try to be aware of the difference between being inspired and copying when I’m taking in other peoples content.

  • What a difficult post this must have been to write, Jenn. I’m so sorry to hear you are still dealing with this issue — obviously situations like this look so different from the outside than they do on the inside and regardless of what is going on in the world, it’s still incredibly hard to deal with anything of this magnitude. Even having as much support as I know you do.

    Bravo for writing such a brave post (and such a long one — love your writing style!). Certainly instagram has really done a lot to destroy creativity in the last few years. They seem to only reward very formulaic feeds and it’s a shame that they allow so much of the same content to flourish. Lattes and flowers for dayssss. I’m thrilled to hear you’re evolving the content — I’ve certainly been enjoying the new aesthetics.

    And the best thing someone ever told me about copying (when I was dealing with a blogger who literally bought half of the items in my closet to style them in nearly identical ways for their own blog) was that as the ORIGINATOR you are always one step ahead of the COPIER. Copiers cannot progress forward until you have already.

    It’s certainly not a solution but in the world where creative licensing and copyright aren’t at all protected, it at least helps to remember that.

    I can’t tell you how infuriating it each time I find someone else who has stolen my photos and claimed them for their own. It’s very violating and very deflating when it comes to my passion for my creative work.

    I certainly hope the industry evolves and changes this year. It’s about time!

    Xoxo,

    Ashley || Sed Bona

  • graceatwood

    Such a well written post and good on you for addressing it. I still remember the shock I felt when that person’s feed – I was downright confused as I thought it was you!!!

  • Kathy Stein

    I am relatively new to Instagram, so I’m so surprised that nothing can be done legally to stop this person. They are obviously stealing your intellectual property and that hurts you financially, professionally and personally. This is your business, right? I don’t get why you can’t go after them for stealing your intellectual property. If Instagram has said that there is nothing they can do, it seems like it’s time for laws to be changed. Your posts are works of art – there has got to be a way to stop them. I’m with Jenn! 🙂

  • Leyla

    Oh Jenn…So sorry you have to deal with this. I have always found your blog and IG fun and inspiring. Although it’s hard to stop someone from copying, the best thing to do is address it (in this case, blog about it), let your thoughts be heard, and keep moving forward. To me, seeing someone evolve their content is much more interesting because I get to see your growth flourish. Keep growing and inspiring!

    Leyla // http://www.secondcitymom.com

  • So proud of you for speaking up! Your photos are brilliant and I know how much work goes into creating each one, so it isn’t fair for someone to use your work to build their career. I get so mad whenever your imposter shows up in my Explore feed!

  • Caitlin Hummer

    I am so sorry you have to deal with this. You are one of my favorite bloggers from content to personality and it pains me to see you work so hard for someone else to copy you so blatantly. Kudos to you for trying to take the high road, I hope your Instagram community can help!!
    xo, Caitlin

  • Jess Cardona

    I love this. I have the same situation going on for almost 3 years except the person has extended to threatning me. It is never ending and seems like it will never stop.

  • I am newer to your feed, and Instagram suggested hers (are we not mentioning her name?) to me after I started to follow you. I had to do a double take. I did not know who came first, or why two people had identical accounts. I have to say: it was really, really strange! Thank you for setting the record straight. Unfollowing that person now!

  • Eloquently written, Jenn. We’ve been following one another for years and although I know we’ve only met in person once your genuine warmth and talent shined through. I know how hard it is to work on something and develop creative ideas and vision only to have someone directly copy over and over again – it’s draining and heartbreaking. Know that I admire your work so much and support you from afar. Chin up and keep going, lady! xoxo

  • It’s inspiring to see you sticking up for yourself, and it’s scary how true your husband comment probably is. And interesting to read personal content like this.

    • Appreciate the feedback. Thanks for commenting!

  • Jyotsna Shankar

    So incredibly brave of you to share this Jen and I completely feel you ! I am a victim of this as well; there is a fine line between being inspired and downright plagiarism and this is definitely not acceptable. Something must be done about it and you speaking up for yourself has definitely motivated me as well.
    I love following your amazing feed and your creativity is absolutely incredible!
    xx
    Jyo
    http://www.cuppajyo.com

    • I’m sorry you’ve dealt with a similar situation. You are so lovely, and I hope the online community can find solutions.

  • Jenn — I’m so proud of you for speaking up about this issue! You are such a kind, smart, and genuine person who I deeply admire from a blogging, professional and personal perspective. Keep your head up, and kudos for standing up for what is right.
    Isn’t That Charming.

    • Thank you, Emily! Excited for all of us to collaborate to find solutions protect all content creators. No one is perfect and we all find inspiration and ideas from others. But it’s systematic copying that we must address.

  • I’m so happy you’re sharing this Jenn. The blogging community is one that thrives on inspiration and growth, but plagiarism is a whole different thing and it is wrong. I’m sure it isn’t to address this topic, but you’re helping so many people/content creators with your voice! Keep creating your incredible content – can’t wait to keep reading!

    xx Caroline
    http://www.whenwear.com

  • Good for you for speaking up! This is why I refuse to invest the kind of time and energy it takes to earn a living with social media. It’s too easy to copy someone’s brand and business model because it is 100% public. When I launched my event planning business in 2003 it was easy to set myself apart from my competition, be unique and make A LOT of money ethically. No one knew my trade secrets unless they were a client. I didn’t post my events or techniques on social media or even my website – only my clients who experienced our events knew how we were different from the competition. I’m sure very similar to how your PR business is handled.

    Since I started blogging in 2009 the market is now so saturated, too much competition and the time it takes to really make significant revenue does not justify the time investment. Now look at IG! I hear what you are saying and can’t believe someone would go to these lengths to copy another influencer. They still have to take the time to purchase the clothes, items, etc and take the images – right? I mean are they photoshopping their head on your body? What is the motivation? Are they gaining in followers at the same pace as you? Sorry I just don’t get why someone would want to create a brand that is not authentic to themselves.

    Another thing that is crazy about this industry – the fact you are being asked to collaborate on a campaign with someone because they look similar to your brand. What other industry does that??

    But look at all the interior designers on IG – my entire feed is filled with similar styled decor photos – just in different homes. It seems like they are all copying one another too.

    So sorry this is happening but we do need to stick together as a community and educate brands/PR that it’s not ok. Just like it’s not ok to copy someone’s blog content. This is another reason why investing so much time and energy into IG is dangerous. If this was happening on your blog you can take action to have it removed and report them to Google. So how do we find out who this person is so we can be sure we are not following them?? Can we report them to IG?

    Not sure if this article helps but read this https://www.shoutmeloud.com/what-to-do-when-people-copies-your-blog-content.html.

  • Jennifer Tilley

    Wow, I just found her feed and you were not exaggerating! She is straight up replicating all of your content. One one hand you can view this as the highest form of flattery, because your feed is simply amazing and no doubt inspires countless women. However, I completely understand how this is hurting your brand and is really quite sad on her end, as she is sacrificing an opportunity to find her own niche and voice and just ripping off your hard work instead. I am behind you and I sincerely hope this situation can be resolved. I so appreciate your creativity and inspiration in my feed!

  • Mary Fremeau

    Ugh! This makes me so mad for you! You’re seriously the best/kindest/most talented fashion blogger out there– I hate that you’re being copied! The only positive I can say is that imitation is the best form of flattery, but whoever this person is, still is so wrong! Not nearly as bad, but a student made a fake Mary Fremeau Insta account– my husband found it because that student tried to friend him– lol, high schoolers, but Instagram did take it down because they were impersonating me with my name and what not. Did it help at all to report it? Could we report it for you? I know you don’t want to share the name… but I would be happy to help! All your fans would be! We could rally 🙂
    xxoo
    Mary
    http://www.BelleOnTrend.com