We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom that has driven social media practice over the last several years: Content is king, and in the social media era, almost anyone can be a content producer. Therefore, anyone who wants to compete must start a blog, produce his own material, and market it like there’s no tomorrow.
Organizations are scrambling to produce fresh, relevant material for their blogs (leading to a secondary flurry of generic advice on how to keep coming up with unique ideas), then pushing it out on every social media channel that they can find. Online platforms are proliferating, the Internet is getting overloaded, and too many marketers may be declaring victory on the sheer volume that they’ve pushed through the pipeline.
The net result of this content arms race is that everyone is swamped because the one commodity that the marketing community can’t conjure up is more time—for the marketers charged with producing all of this content, and for readers who are already spending 24 hours per day, seven days per week at their computer screens. With content marketers racing to outdo each other on sheer volume, the impact of each individual post is bound to decline.
Telling a Bigger, Better Story
While content created exclusively by brands can be extremely valuable, curated content can help fill the pipeline and lessen some of the burden of production. Curated content acknowledges and extends the reach of the best news and analysis that other people produce. It still takes time and effort to find, prioritize, process and publish the material, but as long as you follow a few simple rules, content curation can deliver powerful benefits to your content sources, your audience and your own organization.
1. This is publishing, not plagiarism. When you republish or, better still, summarize someone else’s content, you must acknowledge your source, ideally with a link and a Twitter handle. The source gets the online credit and referral link. You gradually build visibility and, eventually, working relationships with some of the best thinkers in your field.
2. Your audience gets the bigger picture. A single blog post is interesting, maybe provocative. Two or three articles fill in some detail. A subject index category with two or three dozen articles spanning weeks or months gives history and context, telling a far bigger, often more important story. And since you choose the mix of content on your site, that bigger story is tailor-made to reinforce your brand message.
3. Your social media channels get more interesting and diverse. With a steady stream of content credited to other sources, it’s almost too easy to meet the 80/20 rule on social media channels like Twitter: For every 10 tweets you post, eight should repurpose community content and only two should be about you.
4. Content is king, but nested content rules. Readers will visit your site at different times for different reasons, looking for different levels of detail on different topics. By offering a mix of shorter- and longer-form content, you put each reader in the driver’s seat: He finds what he’s looking for, and you establish your organization as the thought leader that gave it to him.
Smart content is still the key ingredient that makes social media worthwhile, but it takes a community to capture most stories worth telling. We used to call that community a newsroom. Content curation delivers similar results that will turn some of your most coveted website visitors into fanatically devoted readers.