“Curate” used to be a word that you’d only hear if you worked at a museum, but over the last decade or so it’s become more and more commonplace. Now it’s especially popular within marketing organizations, especially ones invested in content marketing.
Content curation as a strategy has become popular of late, and for good reason. When done effectively, it can have a huge impact on the success of your marketing team, and it’s one of those strategies that doesn’t require the heavy allocation of resources.
What is content curation?
We are going to go through how to curate content effectively, but first, it might be helpful to detail just what content curation is.
Content curation is the practice of collecting content from external sources and carefully selecting which pieces you want to share with your audience. Curated content should revolve around a central theme and be presented in an organized manner.
Curating content isn’t really all that different a job than that of the museum curator. Except instead of art for a museum, you are curating content for your blog/website/social media page.
And the conditions for being a content curator are broad. Netflix’s home page is an example of content curation. It has this huge library of content but is only showing you the stuff it thinks you want to see.
Another example of content curation is Medium’s Daily Digest emails. Each day I get an email including top content on subjects I want to read about.
Curation vs. aggregation
If you’ve heard the term content curation, you’ve probably also heard the term content aggregation. At first glance, the two practices might seem like the same thing, but there’s a key difference.
The line between the two (and the line is often gray) is determined by selectivity. Content aggregation casts a wide net and serves up every single fish it catches. The goal isn’t to provide the best content, it’s to provide all the content.
Curation casts and equally wide net, but it only serves up the tastiest fish. Most of the content discovered in the curation process is going to be discarded for the audience to never see.
A good example illustrating the difference between the two is Twitter before they introduced their feed algorithm and after.
Before the algorithm, Twitter’s feed displayed every single tweet from everybody you follow in chronological order. Then they introduced the algorithm and the feed started to try to guess what you wanted to see. No longer were users seeing every tweet from every person, but rather only tweets from people that the algorithm figured users wanted to see.
Before the introduction of the algorithm, the Twitter feed was much more an aggregator. Now, more of a curator. Though if you ask me, not a very good one.
The benefits of content curation
Okay, so you have an understanding of what content curation is, but the questions begs—why should I be a content curator?
There are plenty of benefits to curating content, but first, in order for it to make sense, you should probably already have some sort of content marketing strategy.
Assuming you do use content marketing, here are some ways you can benefit from content curation:
Creating content takes a long time. Unless you have a huge team of content marketers, it might be tough to reach your output goals. With content curation, you don’t have to write every word that you distribute. Of course, finding and filtering content takes time, but probably not as much as writing does.
If you’re just aggregating content or trying to write a ton really quickly, it’s going to be difficult not to have dips in quality. By curating your content, you can make sure that everything you send is up to snuff.
Create relationships with other content creators
If you curate content and distribute what you’ve curated to your audience in the form of external links to the content creators site, you have the opportunity to create relationships with those creators. They’ll be grateful that you’re sharing their content, and when you create something, there’s a better chance it’ll be shared.
Better understand your audience
The longer you curate the content, the clearer picture you’ll get of what your audience wants. As you better understand your audience, it will be easier to market to them.
Build brand awareness
As you continue to send your audience great content, they’ll begin to associate your brand with it and think of you as a thought leader. When it’s time for them to buy, you’ll be top of mind.
Diversify your content
Since you’re not responsible for creating all the content, you can pick and choose from people who write, and write well, about a variety of domains.
How to curate content
First of all, it should be noted that curating content doesn’t mean just finding the content you like and putting it directly on your site (of course, hosting others content through licenses or syndication is an option). That would be somewhere on the spectrum of unethical to illegal (I’m no lawyer, but I think it’d be closer to the latter to the former).
We’ll get into how to distribute curated content more in a sec, but first, let’s talk about strategy.
Your content curation strategy
When you are starting out what you want to avoid is unfocused content themes. It’ll be difficult to maintain an audience if you’re not consistent with the subject matter of your content.
If I receive a curated newsletter full of stories on science one week, business the next, and sports the week after, I will unsubscribe.
Your audience should know what to expect. This will ensure they remain engaged, and it will make it easier for you to get what you want out of your audience, whether that means simply building a loyal list or monetizing with ads and affiliate programs.
This is probably going to be the most time-consuming thing you do as a content curator, and you can really dive in once you nail down your strategy. You don’t need me to tell you how full the internet is of content, so finding the best content can be like panning for gold.
The good news is there are plenty of strategies you can use to cut down on the time spent searching for shareable content.
Develop go-to sources
A good way to start is to develop your go-to sources. Obviously, these should include websites covering the subject matter you’re interested in, but don’t limit it to that.
Look at other curators and newsletters that draw from a broad range of sources. When using other curators, make sure you have plenty to pick from as you don’t want to recreate somebody else’s newsletter.
Follow the leaders
Find the thought leaders in the space you’re writing about and follow them on social media. They don’t have to be content creators themselves.
For example, if you wanted to curate content on artificial intelligence, you might follow Andrew Ng on Twitter. He used to be the head of Baidu’s AI project as well as Google Brain. He doesn’t exactly write a lot, but his timeline is full of interesting useful pieces on the subject of AI and machine learning.
Learn to skim
You’re going to be uncovering tons of pieces of content. You can’t read them all. However, you can get a pretty good idea of what a piece is going to be about by the first paragraph or two and then skimming the rest.
The fear here is that you’ll end up sharing something that is shoddily written. This is why you need to develop your go-to sources. When you are including content from people that consistently write strong content, it’s easier to trust them. Having said that you should probably do a little more than lightly skim the things you actually share.
Like seemingly everything these days, it’s best to distribute content over multiple channels, but you should have a cornerstone method of distribution.
I find newsletters to be a great primary method of content distribution. The main reason is consistency.
It’s much easier to be consistent with a weekly or semiweekly distribution schedule than it is with social media. Your audience will come to expect content at certain times from you, and therefore, be more engaged.
Of course, using a newsletter as your primary means of distribution means you need to rely on other methods to build your email list—at least at first.
Social media is great for this. LinkedIn’s newfound focus on content creation is great for this as you can distribute to your existing network with ease. Twitter is obviously great for this too.
Make it personal
The content you curate won’t be yours, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t put your stamp on it. And, if you’re only sharing links with no commentary, you won’t really be creating a relationship with your audience.
Providing commentary on what you share is your opportunity to reinforce your brand and put your own spin on what you’re sharing. It also puts what you share in more context.
Let’s say you have a weekly newsletter in which you share ten pieces a week. If you’re simply sharing links, you actually limit the content you can share because it’ll be assumed that everything you share, you endorse, or at least find interesting.
However, if you’re commenting on everything you share, you can share things you disagree and provide an explanation of what your issue is.
If you take this approach, you won’t just be curating content, you’ll be creating your own.
Consistency is key
People have short attention spans, and there’s no shortage of places for people to satiate their hunger for content on the internet. This means you need to always be curating and always be sharing.
Stick to your schedule and your audience will stay loyal.