When it comes to creating content, marketers and publishers face a number of challenges. For example, the Content Marketing Institute’s annual survey of B2C content marketers had some trouble with everything from creating engaging content to lack of budget. How do you fill your editorial calendar with quality content without sacrificing quality? One good answer is curated content.
As a marketer, you already know that creating high-quality content isn’t easy, cheap, or quick. Though producing original content should be an integral part of any content strategy, there are plenty of occasions when curated content can save you time and resources, engage your audience, (and when done right) drive traffic on an ongoing basis.
Curated content also helps you showcase how your partners, fans, and stakeholders are interacting with your brand. By stamping your endorsement on content created by people who love you, you’re creating a virtuous circle—strengthening relationships with loyal advocates and accessing new networks of potential leads. Sure there are risks (we’ll get to that in a minute), but there are a number of tangible benefits too.
What is curated content?
Though some people assume content curation is an easy way out for lazy content marketers, it’s actually a useful tool for marketers looking to help their audiences find relevant information. The goal of content curation isn’t to add more content to the social world, but rather to group, organize, and present the most relevant content in one place. The curator’s job is to collect the best content from across the web and organize it in a way that’s useful to your audience.
The difference between stealing and curating content is that content curators bring their own lens to the topic and put a fresh spin on existing content. “The key lies in adding something to it,” Matt Cooper, Senior Vice President of Rock Content explains. “Why should your audience care, and why is your brand bringing this piece of content to them? Every piece of curated content ideally has a bit of creation behind it, even if it’s only a brief comment in your brand’s voice.”
So now that you know the value of content curation, how do you get started? Curated content comes in a number of shapes and sizes:
- User-generated content (UGC) – This is any form of content, including blogs, posts, Tweets, images, videos, or audio files that were created by users (and often posted via a social media site). Brands often create contents asking participants to upload their photos, videos, or text to a public-facing site in exchange for the opportunity to win a prize. Or, brands might collect user-generated photos and stories showcasing their product.
- Hashtag campaigns – Companies or brands choose a unique hashtag and asks customers to Tweet or post pictures using that hashtag. Usually this is part of a larger campaign to raise awareness about a particular product or service. The goal is to get people talking within your network and, ideally, raise awareness in new networks. For example, you might use a hashtag campaign to raise awareness on Twitter about an annual fundraiser your brand supports. You can then embed a Twitter sream on yoru webpage so that people can check back in for the latest updates. You might also ask permission to borrow some of those hashtag-driven posts for future marketing materials.
- Syndicated content – Syndicated content refers to the republishing of content from another site or source. You can seek out experts writing on relevant topics and invite them to repackage that content on your own blog or site. Suppose you are a marketer for the lawn care industry. By showcasing the writing of experts in technology, grass seed, fertilizer and other aspects of the industry, you are curating the best and brightest in your field, bringing people to your site and creating a feed of the latest and greatest ideas.
Once you’re familiar with all the ways you can curate content, you can begin experimenting with the format that best fits your brand and marketing objectives.
The pros and cons of curated content
There are a ton of reasons to curate content, but there are also a few reasons to proceed with caution. Let’s unpack the benefits and drawbacks of curated content so you know how to take the best approach.
1. Save time. Researching and producing original content is time consuming. Use tools like Reddit, Pocket, Hootsuite, or Trello to help you find content and create curated posts efficiently. This means you can spend more time framing the curated content, and less time scouring the web or your social networks for relevant content.
2. Cost-effective content. It’s hard to beat free. By developing a good relationship with your partners and fans, you can make your marketing dollars go further by blending some curated material into your content mix. It doesn’t cost your fans a dime to share photos or use a hashtag on social media.
3. Build a relationship with your audience. “When you curate content, it means that you think that content is the best of the best, which is flattering to those content creators,” says Neil Patel. Curating content from your audience shows them you’re listening and gives them a little love. Foster discussion and interactivity wherever you curate content—a simple thread or forum can do the trick. Show your fans a little love by adding comments and getting permission to repost their submissions on your social media channels.
4. Improve/Cultivate SEO. Done correctly, content curation can add SEO juice to your website. This is because you’re creating content to build an informational resource for your customers and fans. Go back to the lawn care example: If you’re syndicating the work of experts in your chosen field, it shouldn’t be surprising that people who search for “expert opinions on eradicating crabgrass” might eventually land on your page. After all, you’ve built your reputation as a trusted resource, and search engines reward good content over cheap SEO tactics.
1. Legal liabilities. All’s fair in love and war, but nothing’s fair about trying to do a runaround on fair use. If you’re in the habit of lifting whole chunks of text, you’re not curating, you’re committing intellectual fraud. Read this excellent checklist on ethical curation and then take a glance at how seriously the courts take this issue. Always give credit where credit is due.
2. Need to moderate. Though content curation might save time during the creation process, it might demand more time and attention when collecting content. If you’re curating content from social media and using a tool that automatically pulls in Tweets with a specific hashtag, instagram posts, or generates a discussion you’ll definitely want to moderate that content. There are no shortage of “trolls” on the internet waiting to use language or explicit materials that do not reflect your brand. To avoid a PR disaster, it’s best to either moderate content with a tool or budget time into your editorial calendar and make the judgment calls yourself. If you don’t have time, find someone else to curate or reevaluate your strategy.
3. Long-term approach. Not every curated content campaign is going to go viral. Curated content drives traffic on an ongoing basis, but it takes time for this to reflect in your Google ranking and awareness index. You must be patient and invest in your audience continually. With every new person who contributes content to your effort or signs on to be syndicated, you are filling the upper funnel, building relationships that can develop into qualified leads or loyal brand advocates. Be friendly, understand you won’t see a massive upsurge in pageviews overnight, and be content with small victories.
4. Might hurt SEO. This goes back to our point about legal issues. If you’re snatching up text and photos like a kid at an Easter egg hunt, you’re going to beat yourself at the curation game. Google is watching how you use duplicate content, and it has the power to ensure it never sees the light of day. Remember, don’t just cut and paste. Link to the original source, and focus on providing useful information in an original way with a unique perspective. Fail to do this and Google will likely pick a superior content provider for higher SERP placement.
5 killer examples of curated content
Example #1: Reuters
For the opening of the new “Star Wars” movie, Reuters cranked out an awesome page of curated content featuring photos of costumed fans and links to its own coverage of the Star Wars premiere. It’s a surprisingly fun read for Reuters, a brand the uninitiated might associate with stock markets and world news more often than the world of pop culture. Released around the premiere, it was relevant and visually compelling, making it an example of killer content curation.
Example #2: National Alliance for Youth Sports
The National Alliance for Youth Sports, an organization that advocates for safe athletics for young people, used curated content to create a rich resource of information for their community. Drawing on expert advice from sports professionals across the U.S., the organization perfectly illustrates how killer content curation can be used to build a community of trustworthy experts and a resource that fans can turn to for sound advice.
Example #3: Global Voices
The international footprint of Global Voices and the fact that its news is derived almost exclusively from user-generated content makes it an excellent example of content curation. Collecting and presenting such unique perspectives allow the reader to connect with a broader community by better understanding the thoughts and feelings of people who are living in hostile environments or experiencing political change. Global Voices use curated content to empower people and raise awareness. Not only is information packaged and presented in the form of a traditional news website, the information is also accessible in multiple languages and carefully reviewed by citizen translators.
Example #4: Create Airbnb
Airbnb gave “creative control to the travelers and hosts who create Airbnb every day” through Create Airbnb. They asked their audience to make a symbol reflective of their Airbnb experience. “Once you make your symbol, you can bring it home – on mugs, thank you cards, souvenir stickers. You create Airbnb, and now it’s yours to share.” The UGC-driven project asked the community to share their travel stories, get creative, and produce a souvenir that they could take home with them. The project created both a tangible reminder of their great experience with the brand, and generated a ton of positive content for Airbnb.
Example #5: This Old House
This Old House built a community by getting fans to upload images as part of its “Search for America’s Best Remodel 2016”. Turn those entries into interactive photo galleries and place tons of calls to action for participation on each page of your website, and you have the This Old House recipe for curated content that is bound to be highly trafficked.
Curated content comes in many shapes and sizes. The real measure of success is bringing together voices to tell a story that coincides and elevates the one your own creatives are already sharing. Are you ready to get started on your own curated content campaign? Check out our Quick Guide to Killer Content Curation for tips and tricks from the Grammys, Intel, and Sport Chek. And if you want to know more about how we can help you, check out Engage!
Nate Birt is a multimedia journalist, social media enthusiast and copy editor with experience at a variety of print and digital publications, and a Contributing Editor to the Rock Content Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @natebirt.