Content curation is nothing new. Museums, galleries and libraries have been honing and managing their collections of content for hundreds of years. Content curation occurs in all sorts of contexts, from radio broadcasters selecting playlists to attract and retain an audience, through to companies producing catalogues of retail items.
But for our purposes we’re focussing on content curation in the social media context. Content curation is not to be confused with content marketing, and it doesn’t include creating new content. Instead, it’s best to think of it as the activity of discovering, compiling, and sharing existing content.
For communications professionals it can be an important tactic for maintaining a positive online presence, and a way to provide value to your followers without having to actually produce the content yourself. It provides an opportunity to highlight your organisations’ interests and tastes. Your audience derives value from this content because they themselves do not need to dig around to find it. Who has time for that?
How then do you make content curation work for you and your organisation? The first and most important consideration is to be sure that you align this activity with your organisation’s strategic goals. This can tie into a ‘personal brand’ if you’re an individual or to a larger ethos if you’re an organisation or business.
Separate the wheat from the chaff
Don’t just add to the noise of your audience’s already over-cluttered online environment. Humans are excellent pattern recognition machines, and they will quickly identify new things that they haven’t seen before. It’s essential that your content offers them both quality and uniqueness. Don’t just re-use content that the thought leaders in your area of interest have already disseminated. Chances are that your clients have already seen it. Go that extra step of locating valuable and on-trend content. This is what will make you stand out from the crowd.
That extra step means going outside the usual streams of information like Twitter and LinkedIn. It means using techniques such as RSS feeds and alerting services like Google. It requires a high level of information assessment to ensure you’re not picking up junk. Just remember, the extra effort will pay dividends in increased awareness for your organisation and improved engagement with your followers.
You can have all of the highly relevant and quality content in the world but if your audience isn’t connecting to it there’s really no point. Make sure the content that you’re disseminating is compelling and attractive by framing it within the interests of your target group.
There are several techniques that can help you achieve this. First of all, ensure your content is timely and scheduled appropriately for your target audience. Use language and keywords in a creative and/or humorous way so they both signal the intellectual aspects of the content as well as add your own perspective on it. This is tricky and requires both flair for language and a working knowledge of your subject area. Adding your own commentary is a great way to get your ‘brand’ across and engage audiences (but be sure not to veer into too controversial territory).
And don’t forget to consider the structure and look of the content you are putting out. Are photos cropped and sized appropriately (there is nothing more unprofessional than a fuzzy undersized image, right?).
Compliment the creator
As well as ensuring that you comply with copyright and fair-use (see below), engaging with the original content creator can be a great way to further leverage value from content. Using handles and appropriate tags can both alert the author that you are re-using their content, and also give them an opportunity to engage with you. This is a way to develop a potentially fruitful relationship with them (and expose their followers to your own channel at the same time).
Tools of the trade
Be sure that the content you’re disseminating is hitting the mark, being noticed by your target group and increasing your profile. To do this you need to take an evidence based approach. And there are many tools out there available to assist you with this task. Google, for example, offers an in-depth tutorial on the fundamentals of working with analytical tools, for free!
Consider using mind-mapping tools, either online (of which there are countless available), or by putting pen to paper. Mind-mapping can help you understand and visualise the concepts you are trying to hit with your curation. It’s an excellent way to brainstorm content ideas and to ensure they fit into your overall strategic framework. In our experience this can also be an expedient way to take concepts directly from the brainstorming phase into your social media calendar.
Citation management is an essential part of avoiding the violation of copyright and ensuring fair use. But it can also be tedious and time-consuming (just ask any academic or student). Fear not though, as there are all sorts of brilliant online tools to expedite the process of proper attribution of other’s intellectual work, and these tools can also benefit content curators. Try using a tool like Zotero, which can be used as an internet browser add-in. These tools allow you to cite, store and manage found online content as you discover it.
Lastly, consider signing up for a good ol’ RSS feed or two from outlets that you know put out high quality and unique content. While RSS seems an almost old-fashioned term in this day and age, it’s still an incredibly powerful tool for uncovering otherwise obscure and shy content that other people won’t be seeing. And some of the oldies but goodies are still readily available such as Digg and Feedly. Just remember, make sure you monitor sources that have a high percentage match to the key criteria that will be relevant to your audience, otherwise you’ll find you spend too much time trawling through irrelevant information.
Cheers, Jack & the c word crew