Content curation is the act of finding, filtering, collecting, and sharing relevant information around a given topic or theme. In an age when brands have become publishers, it's a practice many have employed as one part of a comprehensive content marketing strategy.
But what benefits does curation provide, and in what ways can brands best utilize what the discipline has to offer?
Those questions were posed to the founders of several well-known content curation platforms: Pawan Deshpande, CEO of Curata; Guillaume Decugis, CEO of Scoop.it; Paul Berry, CEO of RebelMouse; and Andrew Detweiler, VP at B2B Content Engine.
Their responses provide enough insight and advice to enable any brand to attempt curation mastery with greater confidence and skill.
Content Curation Benefits
1. Thought leadership. Almost to a person, each said that establishing thought leadership was one of the most prevalent benefits.
"Content curation is a 'stepping stone' to establishing thought leadership, but it requires great effort," said Deshpande. "You have to be willing to curate on a topic, add value by providing your own perspective, do it repeatedly and consistently, and in a comprehensive manner."
Scoop.it founder Decugis viewed the benefit from a different perspective, one of discovery: "We only exist through the content we publish and a static resume on LinkedIn is not how you will be discovered. Either you create relevant, engaging content on a frequent basis or you will be lost in the noise."
2. Market education. Educating customers and prospects is another benefit cited by the founders. According to Deshpande, content curated on a single platform brings together three voices - the brand, peers, and experts - and provides an opportunity for the market to hear other perspectives than that represented by the brand alone.
"If you truly want to educate the consumer, you have to take part in a larger conversation. It can't be just about what I'm saying," stated Detweiler. "So much information is being added to the web each day, helping prospects sort through it all adds tremendous value."
3. Supplement content creation. There is an ongoing discussion over whether it's better to create original content than curate that gleaned from third-party sources. But for these men, it's not a matter of "either/or," but "both/and."
They cite a problem that exists when brands focus solely on creating original content - it is time- and resource-intensive, and many brands have little of either to spare. Curation can help fill the void, both in terms of quantity and quality.
"If done properly, curation can supplement what you're doing from a content creation standpoint, enabling you to provide more information to your audience than you could ever do on your own," remarked Detweiler.
"I'm not saying you should stop producing content, but that you should use curation to complement," added Decugis. "Bring context and inject your own perspective. Talk about why it's relevant, and why you agree or disagree."
For RebelMouse CEO Paul Berry, the real-time nature of social media makes curation more a matter of efficiency than amplification. "Social media is forcing us to evolve as we see ourselves as publishers. Most content management systems are outdated and make it difficult to respond to topics in a timely manner. Social curation platforms allow companies to cover big stories in real time when it matters most, not days or weeks later."
Several of the founders were quick to point out that the dividing line between content curation and creation has become blurred due to the fact that curation, when done well, involves adding your own perspective. "Soon you won't be able to distinguish between the two. Good curators will differentiate by adding a human touch," stated Deshpande.
What Blogging Was, Curation Is
As I listened to what each had to say, it dawned on me that, in its formative stages, blogging was an archetype of modern day curation. Early blogs consisted of little more than lists of links, which were sometimes annotated with comments from the blogger. Later, more commentary was added and the reliance on outside sources seemed to lessen.
Curation appears to be following a similar trajectory, with more emphasis given to the curator's point of view and less on the source itself. In a manner of speaking, with curation, what's old is new again.
Content Curation Best Practices
The founders suggested the following best practices.
In the meantime, think in terms of the fair use doctrine and properly attribute content to its source. Detweiler suggests not copying and pasting too many words from the original piece of content. His platform defaults to 250 words, and he recommends that as a reasonable number.
Paul Berry said that one of the driving forces behind the development of RebelMouse was the need for a platform that allowed publishers to combine creation and curation, build community, and amplify efforts via social media.
"Both individuals and brands are publishing content on different social networks. Curation platforms bring it all together into one hub and help people realize they have a thesis that espouses their perspective and view of the world," he stated.
As more brands accept the publishing mandate, the benefits of curation speak to its value as a key component in an overall content marketing strategy. It can serve to establish thought leadership, educate the market, and supplement original content creation.
But the rigors required to do curation well - consistent effort combined with the need to add value by providing a unique perspective - means that it is not a "fast food" version simply designed to be a quick fix or save time. To quote Pawan Deshpande, that's just being "lazy."
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Paul Chaney is principal of Chaney Marketing Group, a boutique agency that provides integrated online marketing solutions built on the concept that quality, optimized content framed within the proper context drives sales conversions.
He is a freelance writer, popular speaker, and author of four books on the topics of business blogging, social media, and social commerce. His latest is "The Social Commerce Handbook: 20 Secrets for Turning Social Media into Social Sales," published by McGraw-Hill.
Paul sits on the board of advisors for the Women's Wisdom Network, the Social Media Marketing Institute, SmartBrief on Social Media, and MyVenturePad.com.
March 19, 2014