Curation – the sharing of content from trusted, credible third party sources – can be used as a powerful and efficient tool. But this only holds true when it is used as just one spoke in the content marketing wheel and when it is aligned with broader business goals.
According to Curata, top-tier marketers create 65% of their own content and syndicate 10%. The remaining 15% of content is put aside for content curation.
Though this percentage is moderate and by no means fixed, it makes for a robust vote in favour of using content curation as part of the content mix. When in a balance with content creation, it can bring about a ream of benefits for the organisations and their audiences – from diffusing production pressures to building consumer trust.
Content curation isn’t fit for every marketing strategy however. Before it is adopted, it needs to be considered in the context of what you are trying to achieve and how it will benefit your audience.
What is content curation?
Under the Mahlab definition, content curation is when a company selectively and impartially uncovers, organises and shares relevant content from various credible sources with specific target audiences to deliver value. As part of the marketing strategy, curation should be consistent and regular rather than a one-off activity or short-term tactic. While the cadences of publishing schedules vary, Curator found that 48% of marketers that do curate, are curating at least once a week.
In its best form, content curation is built around an audience-first approach, aimed at engaging audiences through providing pathways to relevant third parties insights and information. This puts it a world away from ‘content farming’ – the disreputable practice of raking of irrelevant muck from around the web to either dupe audiences into visiting your site or build low-quality followings, fast.
So why exactly are big-name brands like Marketo and Xerox investing in content curation? Here, a few reasons.
It adds value to audiences
We’re listing this one first for no other reason than that it is, unequivocally, the most important. As Sherry Lamoreaux from Act-On writes, “Curation broadens the palette of content to our readers, and brings in fresh voices and new viewpoints – which make our site more valuable to our readers”.
In the face of the bewildering array of information available today, audiences understandably get to feeling a little queasy. There’s just so much to choose from; such an enormous volume to parse, rank, verify and second-guess. It’s very easy to throw up one’s hands and get trapped in the echo chamber of over-rehearsed thoughts and opinions.
As a content curator, a publisher is able to step in and do this work for their audiences – whether that’s alerting them of articles that everyone is talking about, competitions they can enter, or events they might want to attend. When you provide this service, you are more likely to build a loyal audience – who are more likely what’s omoe to turn into quality leads and/or social media subscribers.
It positions brands as trusted industry experts
A good curator is someone whom audiences come to depend upon and trust as an authority in their specific field. They earn regard and respect as an impartial, value-adding expert on things important to their areas of interest and concern.
Another thing: by directing users to places that aren’t stamped with your brand logo, you’re proving that you’re not the type to grab at their wallets and chase after their dollars. In other words, it demonstrates the kind of brand integrity that isn’t always easy to find. In the minds of audiences, this may be seen as a differentiator.
It develops industry relationships
Everybody likes their content efforts to be noticed. In this competitive brand landscape, where everyone is ramming elbows into each other’s ribs for a share of user attention, the task gets harder every day. It is therefore both surprising and gratifying to be held up in esteem by others in the industry, and more gratifying still when this results in free audience reach, reputation and website traffic.
By doffing your cap to other thought leaders as a content curator, you can’t help but foster and reinforce positive relationships within the industry. In a marketing world sometimes given to a touch of tribal attitudes and even outright hostility, this kind of sincerity can be a salve. And who knows – while there should be no expectations here, perhaps in the future you’ll see the favour returned.
It’s a way to manage content production pressures
The pressure on marketers to use content marketing to excel in demand generation, lead generation and customer experience are immense and growing. To scale content production without putting immense strain on your people or potentially eroding ROI, content curation can be an effective growth solution.
Convince & Convert’s Jay Baer puts it well: “To produce enough content to meet the information and Youtility needs of your entire audience, it’s almost impossible to do it all yourself, from scratch. Curated content allows you to broaden your content topics and do so in a fast, cost-effective way.”
Content curation may not fit every marketing strategy however. Here are a set of reasons which may lead businesses to decide curation may not be the best fit for them.
It drives traffic away from your brand
A common goal of a content program is to drive traffic to your website. For many brands, it is not only a place of content discovery and engagement but a revenue generator, where customer transactions are made.
Content curation effectively splits the signpost, funnelling audiences to domains where your brand does not exist. If your content aim is predominantly to encourage users to explore your own range of products, services and original expertise, then content curation may not be for you.
It may compromise your ‘thought leader’ status
Nodding your head in appreciation at what others are saying will only be well-regarded if you as a brand are adding to the conversation too. If you aren’t, your silence may be interpreted by your audiences as a kind of laziness or – worse still – indicate a lack of original thought.
As a content marketer, if you are pressed for time, resources and staff (which many are), it can be all too convenient to start jacking up your content curation activity in the place of content creation. More dangerously, if at this time the c-suite notices that this ‘quick fix’ is saving money, they may argue that curation should be given increasing weight in the publishing calendar.
For the richest and most productive audience relationship, content curation should be only part of your marketing strategy. When calibrated well and executed right, it can elevate your brand’s authority and lighten your load.
A few examples of good content curation
On what platforms and channels curated content is distributed and the weight it is given as part of the content mix will differ according to a business’s needs, capabilities and goals.
To sketch an example: the Australian Water Association (AWA) mixes up sharing original stories on their Facebook and Twitter page with links to resources created by third party leaders and partners. (Full disclosure: AWA is a Mahlab client.) Recent publishing sources include the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science, UN Water and the Economist, with links directing audiences to water-themed competitions, events, resources, topical news items and thought pieces. Curated content is given a far greater ‘share ratio’ on Twitter than on Facebook, and only original content is shared on the association’s LinkedIn platform, website and in their weekly newsletter, Source.
Brand Tales, an Australian branded content magazine, gives us another illustration of how content curation can be done. While original, fresh content is exclusively published on the website, a section has been carved out in the monthly enewsletter under the heading ‘Articles worth reading this month’. Here, a handful of high-quality commentary and thought leadership around brand journalism and content marketing is embedded, with publishers including Newscred, the Content Marketing Institute and (small cough) Mahlab.
User-generated content (USG) can also fall under the umbrella of curated content. We’ve talked previously about the benefits of USG in the travel industry, but brands across the board are increasingly leveraging the peer-to-peer halo effect. Sports technology GoPro is a master at the art with their ‘Photo of the Day’ Instagram posting, and Tourism Australia’s ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign isn’t short of legendary in the marketing world.
Depending upon how ‘micro’ your understanding of content curation, you could even argue that we ourselves are doing content curation right here, right now, in this very article. By referencing and linking to content curators, we are giving space and mention to other brands in order to enhance readers’ understanding of the concept and practice of curation.
Kate Prendergast contributed to the writing of this piece.