For many marketers (or virtual assistants who execute a whole lotta marketing, as the case may be at Don’t Panic), content curation has come to be a bit of a dirty word. Some people think of it as an impersonal way to share content or a tactic reserved for lazy marketers. Even worse, some consider content curation to be stealing other people’s work.
But if it’s so awful, why do we continue to do it?
If you think of content curation as the marketing equivalent of gum on the bottom of a shoe, it’s quite possible you are simply doing it wrong. Or, you don’t even really understand what it is. But here’s the thing: You can curate better content. And if you do, you’ll boost your brand’s authority in the process.
What Is Content Curation, Exactly?
As this awesome primer from CoSchedule points out, you probably already witness curated content in your personal life every day, but you don’t even realize it. That Buzzfeed article full of Chrissy Teigen’s funniest tweets? Curated content. That guy from high school who only posts fan theories from different sites about the three dragon riders? He’s curating content, too. (For the record, my personal theory: Jon, Dany, and Tyrion. But I digress.)
Basically, content curation is like gold mining. You curate content any time you sift through the piles of rocks and rubble and debris that comprise today’s internet landscape, collect up the nuggets that are most valuable, and (here’s where the metaphor kind of falls apart, sorry), share or publish them around a central theme.
If you’ve ever written a post about what the top 10 experts have to say on a certain topic, or a write-up about several different case studies that all point to the same result, or have put together a list of third-party blog articles to share on your brand’s Twitter account, you’ve been curating content for work already.
The problem is, curated content can be kind of boring, especially when it’s overly automated.
Take this thread from Twitter, for example. Each of these marketers shared the same article they found online (either because their account is set up to do so automatically or they all hit the same share button in the article and simply posted the auto-filled tweet). This is the result:
— Marie-Eve Drolet (@marieeved) January 30, 2017
— Startups idea! (@startupsidea) January 30, 2017
I don’t need to tell you how lame it is, you can see it for yourself.
How to Curate Better Content
If all you ever do is regurgitate what other people are saying, you give your audience no reason to tune into you personally for information. Why pay attention to any of the people above—even if they are smart and lovely and share good stuff—when you could just go to the Convince & Convert Twitter account and get it for yourself?
Here’s how you can do better.
1. Look for the Diamond in the Rough
Here I go with the mining metaphors again. Part of the problem with the Twitter thread I shared is that pretty much all digital marketers in the know already know Jay Baer and the Convince & Convert team. They don’t need someone else to share that content verbatim. They can find it themselves.
Whatever your industry is, avoid exclusively sharing work from top influencers. Set up a Feedly account, keep an eye on LinkedIn Pulse, or establish a Google Alert for some of your industry’s keywords. Find the up-and-coming writer or the research no one is talking about yet. Those are the pieces to share. If you do this, you’ll establish your brand as the place your audience can go for information they can’t find anywhere else. This is a huge part of how to curate better content.
According to Buffer, you should spend 95% of your time discovering and reading useful content and only 5% of your time actually sharing it.
2. Share Your Hot Take or Unpopular Opinion
You’ll see this advice on every piece about content curation ever written—and yet, almost nobody does it. Add your spin to the information you share. It’s not enough to simply re-publish the stats from a recent study or the title of a blog post you like. Enhance the work that’s already there.
What do those stats mean for the future of your industry?
Why did that blog post resonate with you?
To curate better content, let their work grow and evolve with your words.
And for goodness sake, have fun. If you’ve got an unpopular opinion, put it out there. If the article made you think of a funny story about your company, share it. If there’s one thing we have enough of in this life, it’s dry, serious shit. No matter how boring or plain you think your industry is (I’m looking at you, CPAs), you can always take the work around you and make it more fun and interesting.
3. Mix It Up a Little!
This tip is particularly relevant if you’re curating content as part of your social media strategy. It ain’t all about them, homie. If you only share the work of others, it doesn’t matter how cool or fresh it is, people won’t see you as an influencer in your industry. In the words of my dear friend Jaime Hanson, “You can’t be a thought leader if you don’t have an original thought.”
Content curation should only be one piece of a much larger content marketing or social media strategy. You need to do your own research and write your own blogs or articles, too. A well-balanced social media feed should be a healthy mix of both promotional and educational content. The work should be written by others, written by you, and ideally, sometimes written by others about you.
4. Don’t Be a Jerk
Finally, it goes without saying (and yet I’m still going to say it), never steal someone else’s work. Always cite your sources, give credit where it’s due, and share a portion of a piece rather than re-publishing it in its entirety.
Don’t plagiarize someone else’s work. Not only is it an obvious issue of ethics, but also if your goal is to boost your brand and become an influencer in your industry, cheating is a misguided way to do so.
How Better Content Curation Boosts Your Brand
When you curate better content by finding unusual work and building upon it with your own awesome, expert opinion, you will undoubtedly start to see your audience grow. Your audience will think “Hey! This one knows what they’re talking about!”
Plus, content curation—when it’s done right and when you give appropriate credit—opens the door for new relationships with other people in the know. If the top dog in your industry notices that you constantly share their content and add even more insight to what’s already there, he or she might just decide you’re someone they need to know.
By building upon the new relationships you develop with your audience and with colleagues, you can truly become a trusted authority. You’ll find this change has the capacity to lead to guest posting opportunities, podcast interviews, and even speaking gigs (if that’s your thing!).
Boom. Just like that, you have boosted your brand, and you’re a top influencer in your field. It’s really that simple.