Getting Started with Content Curation

National Gallery Curated Paintings - L

Photo by Herry Lawford


In a world where anyone with an Internet connection can be a publisher, people are being inundated with information 24-7, often in real time. People aren’t just overwhelmed with content. They are drowning in it, and in desperate need of a way to make sense of it all.

Help Your Audience Sort the Signal from the Noise

Their is a way to save them, and you can be part of it. It’s called content curation. If you become good enough at it, this content marketing tactic can position as a thought leader in your niche. Are you up for the challenge? Keep reading to learn how to get started.

But first, let’s make sure we know what content curation is, and what is not.

Defining Content Curation

Content curation is the process of selectively choosing, packaging, and sharing the best content from a variety of trusted sources in a niche. A content curator also adds original commentary, and credits original sources and content creators. She may or may not summarize content, quote from content selectively, and include excerpts from original content when packaging curated content.

Good content curators breathe new life into content by presenting it from a unique perspective. [tweet this] Great content curators weave together excerpts from multiple sources. They paint the big picture of the issue at hand for the reader, and fill in gaps in the story. In other words, content curators select the type of  content their audience is looking for (valuable, useful, and trustworthy) and help them make sense of it.

Content Aggregation & Syndication

Unlike content aggregation and syndication, content curation cannot be automated. Content aggregation involves gathering links and content titles, and publishing them in a single place (with or without excerpts.) Alltop is a well-known content aggregator with a proprietary system. I know a few bloggers who use multiple tools like RSS feeds, Google Alerts, and IFTTT to automate or semi-automate content aggregation.

Content syndication takes aggregated content one step further by redistributing and publishing it through a third-party service like NewCred or NewsText. Syndicated content is usual republished intact.

Now that we’ve nailed down what content curation is, let’s break the process down, step-by-step.


1. Define Your Focus

Decide what topics or niche you will focus on. Each topic should be of interest to your audience and relevant to your products and services. You should also have opinions about it that you are happy to share. Ideally, each topic will be one of your areas of your expertise, and something you are passionate about.

2. Identify Content Sources

Now you need to figure out where you will get your content. If you are passionate about the subject you probably already have a good list of sources to start with. If not, spend some time listening on social media networks and using content discovery tools like Stumbleupon . There are several great tools that will make this you will use to discover and gather great content. All types of content – not just articles and blog posts. Images, videos, podcasts, anymore. Set up tools to make this process easier. Ready widely and deeply into your subject

3. Identify Distribution Platforms

Your own blog and social media channels are where you should primarily share your curated content. Depending on where your audience spends time online, you may also consider publishing some of your work on content curation platforms like Storify and Listly.

4. Gather and Organize Content

You are going to need tools for this. Otherwise, you are likely to find yourself in the same predicament as your audience: drowning in a sea of unfiltered information. At his seminal keynote for Web 2.0 Expo NY way back in 2009, NYU new media professor made waves by asserting that it’s not the increased volume of information that is driving us nuts, but the fact that we aren’t managing the information flow efficiently.

“It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” ~ Clay Shirky, NYU new media professor and author

To manage the flow of inbound information, you need to set up a system of automated and manual manual filters. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Feedly – Delivers new posts from blogs you subscribe to straight to your online account or mobile app
  • Topsy – Social search engine that lets you filter content by delivery medium (tweets, posts, videos, etc.). You can also subscribe to search terms and have them delivered to you via email or RSS feed, or take advantage of Topsy’s built-in analytics.
  • FlipBoard – Allows you to easily discover new content and share it via “magazines” you create. Very popular on tablet devices.
  • Pocket – Use it to bookmark interesting content you run across on the web, in your feed reader, etc. Integrates with popular feed readers and web browsers.
  • Buffer & HootSuite – Let you schedule content in advance to share on popular social media platforms. Both tools also provides you with both free and paid analytics. Hootsuite provides additional features to help you curate content. For example, it will search social networks for you while you sleep, and organize them in streams based on your keywords.
  • If you are looking for an enterprise solution, you may want to check out Curata. I haven’t tried it myself, but people I trust have vouched for it.

These same tools will also expose you to content that inspires a ton of ideas for original content creation. Keep that in mind when setting up your filters.

Finally, don’t forget to monitor your own social media networks for quality content.  Curating content from your existing audience and the people you follow on social often sparks interesting conversations. This is a great way to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones.

5. Select the Best Content from a Variety of Sources and Mediums

This is where the real fun starts. With your audience top of mind, hand-select content the best content you can find. As with all things content, ask yourself is it useful, unique, and relevant to your audience? Is it relevant to your products and services?

In addition to links to articles and blog posts, consider including quotes, excerpts, and thumbnail images from the original source when you curate.  Curating images is tricky. I mentioned including thumbnails for a reason. If you are just starting out and want to curate photos and other artwork, I would recommend using a content curation platform such as Storify or FlipBoard for that purpose.

6. Add Your Own Commentary and an Original headline

Remember, as a content curator, it is your responsibility not only to select the best content in your niche, but to help your audience make sense of it. Whether you are writing an in-depth editorial piece, putting together a slideshow, or publishing a round-up post (best blogs of the week, etc.), always include your own thoughts on the content you reference. This, plus the way you present the content, is what will make it your own. (And yes, that means you can claim Authorship for curated content, if you are wondering.)

Write your own attention-grabbing headline. Even if you are curating a single piece of content, do not reuse the original content creator’s headline. If you do, you will end up competing with them for search engine rankings, increase your chances of being penalized for publishing duplicate content, and miss out on an opportunity to claim the curated content package as your own. When sharing your content on multiple platforms, consider tweaking your headline to fit both the platform and the audience.

7. Credit Content Creators and Sources

Always, always, always credit original content creators and link to original sources. ‘Nuff said.

8. Publish and Share Your Curated Content

In addition to what we’ve already discussed, you should consider the best days and time to share your content. Also, don’t be afraid to reshare content on social networks, or repackage it in a different medium. This applies to all content you create, not just curated content.

9. Respond to Comments

Curated content is a wonderful tool for engaging your audience in conversation. Respond to all comments on your work in a timely manner, and remember to thank people for sharing your work (in a useful, non-spammy way.)

10. Measure Results

Take advantage of the built-in analytics many social media platforms now have to measure the reach and engagement of your curated content. Remember, any piece of content you create (curated or not) should support your overall business goals. Use Google analytics to set up conversion goals and custom reports so you can see what social platforms are delivering you the most traffic and conversions. Dig in deeper by tracking individual content pieces with custom URLs (either handcrafted, or using a custom URL shortener like bitly.) As you gain more experience as a content curator and measure your content marketing efforts, you will learn what types of content resonate most with your audience at different stages in the buying cycle. You will also discover which headlines convert well, and the best times, days, and places to distribute curated content.

Whether you are an experienced content curator, or this is the first time you are hearing about content curation, I’d love know your thoughts on the process. Please share them in the comments, along with any questions you may have.

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