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Content Curation GuideContent curation is a hot topic of discussion in marketing circles these days. One of the biggest problems businesses face when they try to pursue content marketing is finding the time to actually produce the content. But when you curate content, you don’t really have to produce anything.

Sort of…

There are a lot of misconceptions about content curation out there. So I decided to throw together this content curation guide to slice through all the clutter and clarify some things (from my point of view, of course).

What is Content Curation?

Curation is nothing new, really. Historically, “curators” have been associated with museums and art galleries. They pick out what to put up for display.

Radio stations are also curators if you think about it. They hand pick what genre of music will be played, what the individual songs will be, and what order they will be played in.

But never has the ability to curate content (be it visual, audio or text) been so available for the general public.

In fact, most people that have any sort of online presence have curated content at one point or another. Most curation doesn’t happen with marketing in mind, though. I’ll mention more on this later.

Content curation is really just the sharing of other people’s information.

This is similar to how a museum curator would research different art pieces for an exhibit, sift through them, analyze them, and finally decide what to display.

Of course curation isn’t limited to just digital content, but that is really what we’re focusing on here.

David Meerman Scott recently stated that he believes that the use of guest writers is a form of content curation.

I have to disagree with this view point. To me, curation is based in content that already exists; not original content. Publishing new content, even if it is written by a guest, is not curation in the strict sense of the word.

Many blogs accept guest authors. But they often have the stipulation that the content must be original. This is not curation – it is creation (by someone other than the blog owner).

Steps for Content Curation

For proper content curation to take place, there are three steps in the process.

  1. Discovery
  2. Analysis
  3. Curation

Discovery

In order to curate content, you have to have something to share first.

In the discovery stage, you find content to share with your audience.

You don’t have to go out and deliberately find content to share, though. At least you don’t have to if content curation isn’t the staple of your content marketing strategy (which I wouldn’t recommend).

Chances are you are already reading industry blogs and news. It doesn’t have to take much additional effort beyond this to find something to curate.

Of course, finding additional resources for information in your industry never hurt either. And if you want to go the extra mile when curating content, don’t let anyone stop you – it can pay off.

I’ll go over a few ways to find content for consumption, and curation, in a bit.

For most people in a non-business setting, finding content to curate doesn’t have to go much farther than logging onto their favorite social media account. There’s content floating around everywhere!

Analysis

This is the stage where you decide if something is actually worthy of sharing.

There is really no need to overcomplicate this. You don’t need metrics or statistical analysis. You pretty much know right away if the content is good or not.

Yes, this is very subjective. But you are the curator here. You decide what is right for you and your audience.

Curation

This is the stage where you actually share the content you deem fit for sharing.

This is also where things get a bit more exciting because of the countless options that you have.

For example, let’s assume that you logged onto Facebook and saw a picture that you thought was funny in your newsfeed. Someone just shared that with you. You might think it’s worth sharing that with your connections. So you click the “Share” button.

You’ve just curated content.

In fact, content curation is the lifeblood that drives social media. <–Tweet This

But sharing of content can come in many forms, and can come across many different platforms on many different delivery vehicles; especially in a business marketing setting.

It’s up to you to decide which one best suits your needs.

Content Discovery

Finding Content

I want to dive into content discovery in a bit more detail because successful content curation wholly depends on having content to share.

So where do you discover great content?

Here are a few ideas. This list is by no means comprehensive. But it should be enough to get you started.

Aggregators

Aggregators such as AllTop collect RSS feeds and organize them by category. You can go through your category of interest to discover great new content that is appropriate for you.

Other People’s “Curations”

Pretty sure that’s not a real word. But that’s ok.

Check out sites like Scoop.it, where people can collect and aggregate individual articles and posts manually.

Social networks are also a viable option. You can browse around different categories on sites like StumbleUpon and Pinterest. Of course, this may not be the most efficient way to find great content. But it can certainly work.

The Usual Suspects

Don’t be afraid to mention online newspapers and magazines. They cover a wide range of topics and are likely to have a section about your topic of interest.

You can also cite them for breaking news in your industry – something that is always of interest.

Industry Blogs

You probably already know all the “big name blogs” in your niche.

But don’t limit yourself to just those. That’s not always where the best content is.

Try checking out the comment sections on those blogs. Commenters are usually people either looking for advice on the topic or, even more likely, other bloggers in the same niche looking to connect.

Follow the comment trail and you might find some great new bloggers and content.

Attention is heavily skewed towards the “big name blogs” in any industry. You would actually be doing the smaller bloggers, and your readers, a huge favor by exposing and sharing great new content.

This was actually the main reason that Dino Dogan created Triberr – to try and even the playing field between the big-time blogs and the smaller ones. If you get a chance, ask him what he thinks of the content on Mashable, one of the biggest blogs out there J.

Software Tools

I would never recommend that you use any sort of automation tool for content curation. Your personal touch, views and even commentary are what make for a successful content curation campaign.

However, I have no problem with using tools to help you find content to review.

CurationSoft is one such piece of software. I actually found some of the content that I mention in this post using CurationSoft.

I’m sure there are others out there. But I haven’t tested them out.

Keep It Up

Once you find someone that publishes great content, make sure to keep up with them. Chances are they have an RSS feed. So you can subscribe to them through email or just by adding them to an RSS aggregator/reader (I use Google Reader).

This will help you to curate content consistently (say that 10 times fast) into the future if you want to make content curation a stable part of your marketing mix.

Again, this was by no means a comprehensive list. But it should be more than enough to get you started.

Content Curation Pros

Content curation pros vs consSo why all the hype about content curation these days? What’s the big deal? How can it benefit you and your business?

Here are a few benefits of content curation (if you do it right)…

Clarify

In a world where new content is published at overwhelming rates, curating content, and separating the good stuff from…the not so good stuff…is almost as valuable is publishing new content itself.

Clarifying and cutting through the clutter is a very valuable service you can provide for your audience – now more than ever.

While Google is seen primarily as a search engine, in reality they are a content curator. No two people’s search results will ever be the same (at least not if you are logged into your Google account). Google takes personal preferences and adjusts your search results to fit what they think you want to see when you search.

Now, that brings up some points of contention – none of which I really want to get into discussing here right now. I merely bring this up to show that companies like Google see content curation as a value-added service.

Provide Value

This one is pretty self-explanatory. As long as you are curating quality content, you are adding value for your audience (especially if they may not have found this content without you pointing it out to them).

Build Trust

By providing your audience with quality content, whether it is yours or someone elses, you build trust. You become a go-to, trusted source for information in your niche.

This is very beneficial when you get to the point of promoting an actual sale.

Establish Yourself as a Leader

Displaying your ability to separate the good from the bad displays leadership. Knowing great sources of information shows leadership. And if you add commentary to your curated content, it shows thought leadership.

People follow leaders. People subscribe to leaders. People take leaders’ advice. People buy from leaders.

Improved SEO

If you do content curation right, you’ll get some SEO benefits as well.

Search engines love fresh content on your blog/website. That doesn’t necessarily  mean it has to be your own. The duplicate content penalty only occurs when you have duplicate content on you own website. Having the same, or similar content, to a different website doesn’t really make much difference.

In theory, original content should get the bulk of the SEO benefits from the content. However, my previous experiment with SlideShare marketing certainly proved that that’s not always the case.

If your readers like the content, and share it across social media platforms, your site is the one that is going to get the backlinks and the traffic.

For more information about the potential SEO benefits of content curation check out this post from SEOmoz.

Content Curation Cons

With the purest form of content curation (just sharing other people’s content), you aren’t positioned very well to drive too many decisions. It’s difficult to help people make up their minds about your product or service with someone else’s content.

However, if you do more than just strictly share the content, but rather add your own original commentary as well, you can get around this problem by shifting gears to focus on how it applies to your business. Curation should fit into your content marketing strategy as much creation does.

Another problem that arises is the appeal of automated curation. This is accomplished by using software solutions.  As Mark Schaefer describes

 At that point, content is not king, it is a commodity.  There is no value-add.

Mark points out several other potential problems that a business pursuing a content curation strategy might face. So it’s definitely a post worth reading.

Types of Curation

Social Sharing

At its simplest form, content curation is the sharing of content on social networks.

When you share a blog post, image or video on Facebook, you are curating it for your friends and subscribers. When you Tweet out a link to content on Twitter, you are curating it for your followers. I can keep going, but you get the idea.

Curation-Aggregation

In my mind, there is a difference between aggregation and curation.

Content curation has a human element, whereas aggregation doesn’t.

AllTop automatically aggregates content. Platforms like Scoop.it do require an actual person to link to content they deem worthy.

However, there is not much more going on then collecting information and sharing links to it.  Scoop.it displays excerpts from posts and link to the original post when you click on the excerpt that interests you.

So I’m going to deem this “curation-aggregation.”

Round-Up Posts

Round-up blog posts are basically curation-aggregation to a smaller degree. And they also happen to take place on your own blog rather than some other curation platform.

Many bloggers have round-up posts where they link to other blog posts based on a certain criteria (this can be based on topic, or on date range, etc).

For example, Danny Iny does a “Best of the Web” feature on Firepole Marketing. And Kristi Hines has her weekly feature called “Fetching Friday.”

Re-blogging/Syndication

There is, of course, the act of just re-blogging someones posts.

While many people argue against the practice, I see absolutely nothing wrong with it if you are giving credit back to the original author. Claiming it as your own is just plain plagiarism, however.

The thing is, most blogs have an RSS feed – this is meant for syndication purposes. If you are re-blogging someone’s posts (and giving credit to them) you are doing nothing short of syndication. They should be happy with it. And it’s absolutely legal.

This really isn’t much different than what content aggregators or curation platforms like Scoop.it do.

Of course if they complain it might not be worth the headache.

Platforms like Tumblr have a built-in Reblog feature. It’s not as easy for self-hosted blogs on WordPress, however. But the fine folks at Triberr are trying to do something about it.

Their WordPress Plugin gives you the ability to Reblog posts (provided the post is written by someone who is also a member of Triberr and is using the plugin).

A reblogged article with Triberr looks a little something like this where Mark Harai reblogged Jens P. Berget’s blog post.

Simplification/Summarization

Cutting through the clutter and providing your audience with great content to consume is one thing, but you can take it a step further and actually summarize the key points of the content.

This saves time and effort for them two times over: the time and effort it takes to find the content, and the time and effort it takes for them to read through and pick out the takeaway points.

This may sound like catering to laziness. But this is a very in-demand service in a world of hyper-content-consumption.

A great example of this is the 500 Business Books project started by BlogCastFM founder Srinivas Rao and FixCourse founder Brad Smith. Here is what 500 Business Books does in their words:

500 Business Books is a free newsletter that profiles one business book each week. It presents the best takeaways, insights, and tips from the top business books in an easy-to-digest format. So you can spend more time putting the advice into practice – and less flipping through Amazon.

I have personally subscribed and I love what these guys are doing.

Commentary

Now let’s take clarifying and summarizing even a step further.

This is really what journalists do when they write stories.

They cite and quote sources and fill in commentary around it. This is a very effective form of curation because you are taking something that exists and adding your personal twist on it.

It is essentially creating something new and different out of existing content. This is more labor-intensive than just providing a link to it, of course, but it also has more benefits.

Since you are adding your own content into the mix, it can be seen as original not only from a search engine perspective, but also from a human perspective.

How to do Content Curation Right

In my opinion, content curation should not be the bulk of your content marketing strategy. Rather, you should use it as a supplementation to creating content.

As I mentioned in a previous section, there are many ways to curate, from strictly sharing to making existing content more original by injecting your own views.

So which one is best?

The easy answer is: it depends.

It depends on the goals you want to accomplish, as well as the platform you are using.

Social media, for example, lends itself well to the strict definition of curation: just share the content. They even make it easy for you with the “Share” button on Facebook, or a quick Re-Tweet on Twitter. You an certainly add a personal comment, but you can’t write too much.

This can establish you as a credible source of information in your industry. But it won’t necessarily drive any traffic back to your site – which means it will be hard to convert your audience into customers.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the curation/creation hybrid of citing existing content and adding your own commentary. This takes more time, and isn’t purely curation, but it has the greatest direct, measurable benefit to your business.

There are plenty of options here. And, in an ideal world, the right approach is “all of the above.” No matter which approach you take, however, it’s important to remember that…

With content curation, you are the value-add. <–Tweet This

It’s ok to use tools to make tasks easier, and even to find content. But automating the actual curation process is dangerous – and doesn’t add as much value.

I’ll leave you with some content curation technique ideas in this video from Content Marketing World 2011. I don’t necessarily agree with the definitions of “curation” that some of the participants are adhering to. But, nevertheless, there are some great ideas here:

Content Curation: The Ultimate Guide by