Many people would rather imitate those around them than come up with their own ideas. In fact, imitation can be incredibly lucrative, as indicated by a study from Ohio State University professor Oded Shenkar.

Shenkar explained that imitation is not simplistic but instead is a sophisticated analysis to determine causal relationships. “In one study I reviewed, the researchers looked at 48 innovations and discovered that 34 of them … were copied,” he reported. “In fact, nearly 98% of the value generated by innovations is captured not by the innovators but by the often overlooked, despised copycats.”

While you can absorb and integrate outside ideas into your business to great effect, this study obviously has blinders on to what we all know to be the value of an original idea. For instance, let’s say someone imitates you a year from now. You still have a full year to get 100% of the value out of that idea that you are the only one advancing.

A specific area in which you want originality is your message. It’s such a simple way to differentiate and brand yourself. That’s why marketers are always talking about how key content creation is to online presence.

Here are a few tips for creating value with the content on your site and social media:

1. Tap into inspiration

Use a file to include anything that you find interesting and might be a good topic for exploration. Keep throwing in and taking out ideas on a regular basis. Isla McKetta of Moz calls this a swip file.

2. Brainstorm effectively

Sure, research is critical to finding facts that will back up your arguments or even to find ideas you hadn’t considered. However, before research can begin, it’s a very good idea to brainstorm. If you want ideas to flow during the brainstorm, don’t think about quality right now. Just know that you are getting everything out – all the possibilities.

3. Research your competitor

Of course you want to take a look at how those around you are doing business. One of the easiest ways to get a sense of how they present themselves is their blog or their Facebook/Twitter/Google page. Examples of good ways to conduct research include the following:

Open Site Explorer lets you see what pages are getting links the most and where those links are occurring. That will give you a sense of your current audiences so you can better craft your content.

• Use Similar Web as a tool to look for other sites and see what keywords are working for them and who is linking to them. Ahrefs is also helpful to get a sense which of their ideas are really hitting.

• Tools such as Followerwonk help you look carefully at your competition’s tweets. You can get a sense of what is really strong on social through BuzzSumo. You can find out more about who is following your competitor on Facebook by typing “Pages liked by people who like [insert your competitor].”

4. Work with an expert

Many companies find that they have a few ideas related to content, but that it ultimately makes more sense to work with an advertising and marketing agency. No one likes to throw away money though. That’s why at Ren Scott Creative, we measure success in results. >>> Ahead of the curve