I realized the other day that my business wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for content curation.
When I was working for other companies, figuring out my place in the marketing world, it became clear that I also needed to work on my personal brand (regardless of how much I disliked that term at the time).
Every night, I would find the best “underground” content to share on Twitter. I continued at it consistently and the persistence paid off. After a couple of months, I saw steady and healthy growth.
Not only did my curation lead to growth in Twitter followers, it led to invaluable relationships – something much more meaningful to me. After a few months, I was receiving invites to write for leading industry blogs, speaking gigs, and even job offers.
These new relationships led to referrals for freelance work, which then led to starting my own company. Today, we’re a 12-person agency working with some of the biggest brands in the world. And it all started with curating content and sharing it.
Curating quality content that adds value to people’s lives can bring you all types of opportunities (and that’s before you even start creating your own original content).
You probably see a lot of people curating content every day – on Twitter, in newsletters, in listicle-style posts. Some of them just add to the noise, trying to ride the coattails of more influential people. Others share unique information, the ones you know you can rely on to find something that you want to read, save, and possibly even share. The latter is how you want your content to be considered.
Want to learn the absolutely most effective curation tactics and best practices – the ones to make sure your efforts produce real results? Here’s a breakdown of the three tactics to ensure that your curation efforts are noticed, appreciated, and rewarded.
1. Leverage ‘underground’ content
Effective content curation highlights amazing content that readers have never seen in a way that adds value and impresses the original source.
If you have a friend who’s super into music, you know how excited he gets when sharing a new, underground artist no one has ever heard of. You want to do the same but for content. Think of yourself as the hippest content DJ on college radio or whatever it is the kids are into these days. Share valuable content that people haven’t seen so you become the go-to place to find the best content. To build brand awareness and grow a following, you want to be a trend finder, a trend analyst.
t’s easy to say something like “find the best unseen content in your vertical.” You’re probably thinking, “OK, great, but how do I see unseen content?” Here are a few tips:
I get it. RSS is the Twitter feed of yesteryear. Well, not so much. When Google’s RSS reader shut down, I relied on Twitter like everyone else. After a time, I realized I was missing quality content. And when I did find it, it was no longer fresh.
When I started using RSS again, I found unique content and was one of the first in my space to do so. RSS alerts you as the articles go live, often before the businesses promote the content themselves. These alerts provide the benefit of being able to promote the “big boys” first.
Companies such as HubSpot and Moz see heavy sharing of their content. If you can find the most relevant content from them before others do (and not auto-share just because it’s from them), you’ll see improved distribution.
When I say “just because it’s them,” I mean it’s obnoxious to share every single post from one source. No one is going to believe that you’re reading every single post. Be selective. Take time to consume what you’re sharing. Only share the best of the best from your favorite sources.
Dig deep from sources with 10 to 20% relevancy
My curated content with the most engagement is not content found in the most obvious places for my industry. Anybody can take articles from popular sites and share them. It doesn’t stand out.
True value comes from frequenting locations that are abstractly relevant – the places that publish content strongly relevant to your audience 10 to 20% of the time. When the content is relevant, it resonates because it’s fresh, new, and otherwise unseen by those in your space. They aren’t willing to dig to find that content, that’s why they need you.
Although it might not be the most direct application of the Pareto principle, it’s true that these 20% locations will drive nearly 80% of your results, sometimes more.
Your own industry probably has its own similar sources. Some places succeed in providing content you can use 2 to 5% of the time. However, I think the gold is in the 10 to 20% range because content in this range keeps you interested and reading.
2. “Frame” your curated content
Don’t underestimate the first sentence in any blog post, Tweet, Facebook post, or ad. It will make or break effective curation.
I understand the value of scheduling as soon as something goes live – you want to be the first to share it. Every second that passes makes it more likely someone will have seen the content you’re sharing. Scheduling has its place but only in rare instances given the previously mentioned weaknesses.
Instead of just auto-tweeting the headline of an article in less time than it takes to read it, add your own context. Great curation makes the content better by highlighting it in a new way or adding a new element to make it more interesting or shareable.
Here are several ways you can add your own unique value:
Increase visibility with a twist of words
HubSpot’s Lindsay Kolowich curated a post based on a study, State of the Modern Meeting, from video-conference service Blue Jeans. “The State of Modern Meetings: 7 Revealing Trends You Should Know [Infographic]“
The words – 7 Revealing Trends You Should Know [Infographic] – create a sense of urgency/need. Do I know these trends? I should check. Additionally, a bracket has been shown to have a higher click-through rate based on some of HubSpot’s recent research.
Overall, the headline is an improvement over the original study name, which also will help the original creator get more visibility – something they’ll appreciate.
There are several other ways to apply your expertise to the content you curate beyond tweaking headlines. Many content creators have great content but miss some fundamentals that curating and editing appropriately can uncover. Here are just a few:
Sharing content at the optimal times
Using SEO best practices to uncover keywords and drive traffic
Distributing the content beyond hitting publish
Distributing the content through a bigger platform than the original publisher offered
Structuring the post to make it more readable/shareable overall
Add value with your own commentary
One thing Moz’s Rand Fishkin does consistently when curating is adding intelligent commentary in a way that’s clearly him and different from any of the other shares for that content. For example, how many people do you think shared this post in even close to the same way?
Simply hitting the share button isn’t going to help you build an established brand in your space. Rewrite any default text provided by the share buttons to share in your own brand voice.
Add a little sparkle with design or development
The most sure-fire way to add value is by adding or improving design elements when you curate content. If you have the resources to leverage multiple skill sets with your content, you have an advantage smaller players don’t have.
Here are a few easy ways to upgrade existing content with design:
Select or crop photos with optimized dimensions. Find new photos or crop from the original content source to fit the optimal size for the relevant social platform. If you don’t have Photoshop, online tools like PicResize make it easy.
Aim consistently for full-width photos. If you’re working on a round-up blog post rather than a social media post, full-width photos look better.
Pull together images to create a full-width image. If you don’t have time or the skills, outsource your design work through a site like Upwork.
3. Impress the original creators
If the original content creators are impressed, they are more likely to share your content with their audience. They also may follow you and/or your brand, improving the distribution of your content long term.
If they’re not impressed, you’ll likely gain little to no benefit from the effort. An optimal piece of curative content not only adds value on its own, it builds a deeper relationship with the source creator.
To impress the original creator, first, make sure to notify them by tagging their handle. Or, if you know them personally, send a quick note of thanks for the valuable content. If you’ve generated significant traffic by curating their content, show them the curated content in a polite manner. They may be happy to have learned from your lessons.
An important best practice for curating is making sure you are ethically sharing said content. It’s unfortunate, but not everyone wants their content curated.
If you’re using someone’s photography or anything else that took significant time to create or could be sold for profit, send a message asking for permission before posting (unless an explicit statement allowing republishing is posted on the original website). In addition, always follow these rules:
Link to the content on the original source
Don’t steal traffic, push traffic. Post an excerpt with a link – don’t publish the original content in its entirety.
Make your mark
I love watching people on the Internet gain traction and build an audience. Content curation provides an awesome opportunity to make an impact and tweak your voice. Don’t hesitate to experiment until you find a voice and tone you’re comfortable with. Just remember to watch reactions and exercise empathy. What would you think of the content you’re sharing both as a reader and as the original creator?