By definition, content curation is the act of continually identifying, organizing, and sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific topic or issue online. When evaluating which content curation tool to use, there are three primary areas of consideration:
1. The Inputs – Where does the content curation tool get information from? What type of content will this allow me to curate? Will it help identify and recommend relevant content?
2. The Organization – What does this tool offer in terms of organizing content once it has been identified? What type of data models does this represent content as? In a simple chronological list, or an inter-linked structure? Does it let me annotate and editorialize the curated content?
3. The Venue – How and where can I share the content once I have decided to curate it?
In this blog post, I am primarily going to focus on the decided on a content curation tool based on the venue – the channels to which your content is curated. And just like most things, there’s no one right answer. Here are the different options of where you can share your curated content.
What is it? Embedded widgets allow you to display curated content in a small pane on your existing web properties. For example of this see the 3M in the News section on 3M’s career website. A few companies that provided dedicated widget solutions include Curation Station and Meltwater News. Another simple way to achieve this is to create simply embed a twitter widget on your site that only syndicates content from your account.
Sample of embedded curation widget from the Kauffman Foundation
Who should use it? Organizations that are looking primarily to touch up their website with some fresh content may want to use a widget. For example, if you already have a corporate blog and are not interested in increasing your traffic, but rather want to provide some context and fresh third party content, without having to write a new blog post – a widget is a great way to do that with minimal effort.
What is it? A dedicated microsite or section of a website populated primarily with curated content. For examples, see my blog post entitled “6 Content Curation Examples Illustrated”.
Curation microsite by AllSalesforce about Salesforce.com’s development ecosystem
Pro’s: Microsites really create a full-fledged experience with curated content as the center piece and can easily because the hub for a specific topic or issue. Also, microsites also do well with respect to SEO because they have dozens, or even hundreds or thousands of subpages. If done well, microsites can also seamlessly juxtaposition original created content with curated content.
Con’s: Because the curated content is not tucked away in a widget and is instead front and center, you will need to pay a lot more attention to what you curate. Also, microsites can either be positioned as a section of existing corporate website, or positioned as a more independent vendor-neutral industry resource. If you choose the latter, then you have to think about branding and marketing that new resource.
Who should use it? Organizations that are looking to become an authoritative destination for a topic or issue to position themselves as a key resource or thought leader, or to drive traffic and visibility.
What is it? A personalized page is a lightweight, single page microsite filled with curated content. Delicious is a great example of a curated personalized page. Here’s an example of one user’s page. Similarly Microsoft’s new tool Montage, Netvibes Universe, Paper.li, Scoop.it let you create more visually appealing and branded pages, but lack sufficient curation controls.
Example of a user’s personal page of curated links on del.icio.us
Pro’s: Easy to get up and running and are indexed by search engines. Usually free.
Con’s: Only one page is indexed by search engines. Furthermore, they are often created as sub-domains or subdirectories on another service rather than on your own domain, which is often insufficient for brands.
Who should use it? Individuals or cost conscious non-profits who want to create an information resource.
What is it? An email newsletter or digest containing the latest curated content that is sent out on a regular interval. As an example SmartBrief is a publisher that sends out hundreds of thousands of curated newsletters to various industries. Another curated example shown below is by DPT Labs.
Newsletter of curated content sent by DPT Labs
Pro’s: Email newsletters are a great way to continually educate an audience on a regular basis without fail. Unlike widgets or microsites which people may not come back to everyday, people do check their email every day without fail.
Con’s: Email newsletters have two drawbacks: 1. They are not indexed by search engines. So unless someone is already on your list, they are unlikely to join. 2. They are not real time. Without risking facing a high unsubscribe rate, you can only likely send a email newsletter with a digest of the latest curated content once a day.
Who should use it? Email newsletters are a great medium for curated content for curators with an existing captive audience. Alternatively, email newsletters can be used in conjunction with another means of attracting an audience, such as collecting subscribers from a tradeshow or a corporate site. By doing so, you have can “grab” people through another venue, and “hold” them with your curated email newsletter.
Twitter & Social Media Channels
What is it? Posting curated content on Twitter and other social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn through status updates. The curated content could be links to blog articles or other web content, or curated tweets (a.k.a. retweets). Most people on Twitter already are curating whether they know it or not.
Pro’s: Posting curated content is different from other mediums, because it’s a very time sensitive medium. People may be on a microsite or in their inbox to read email newsletters just a few times a day, but they are likely to be following Twitter throughout the day. Therefore, this medium is particularly well-suited for content that is time-sensitive in nature. Secondly, this medium makes it extremely easy for people to virally share content (just press the retweet button). If your curated content has the potential of being shared, then you should consider curating on a social media channel.
Con’s: The drawback of sharing curated content on social media is that if you don’t have a lot of curated content on your topic, then it’s hard to get noticed. Because social media is content is so fleeting, if you are not constantly and consistently posting your curated content, then your impact will be minimal. Also on social media you are not building up a search engine or visitor friendly organized archive of curated content – rather you are simply building up a hard-to-navigate list of links and comments.
Who should use it? Curators who have topics with a sufficient throughput of content. Curators with an existing or potential audience on social media channels. Curators with content that has a likelihood of being shared virally.
What is it? Content that’s shared through RSS feeds or other data feeds.
Pro’s: People with RSS readers can subscribe to them – who are usually visitors who return regularly. In addition, some search engines crawl RSS feeds.
Con’s: Social media these days has in many ways taken the place of RSS feeds and provide more room for annotation. Unlike social media, it’s also difficult to annotate your content as a curator and add your own context. Most importantly, a feed is a glimpse at a small window in time and all your older curated content and hard work is lost once it’s no longer in that window.
Who should use it? Curators with an audience that prefers this medium. One example would be curating content on a topic with a large developer audience, who tend to consume content through feeds.
What’s the right answer?
So what’s the right answer? Which venue should you choose as you evaluate content curation tools?
A sound content curation strategy utilizes all of the venues and channels, but drives all visitors back to a single microsite. If you’re using a robust content curation platform then you should be able to easily syndicate your content to all channels with ease. However, when you publish to feeds, social media, widgets, email newsletters (basically everything but the microsite), they should all have excerpts of your curated content with links back to landing pages on your microsite for further context, rather than linking back directly to the original curated content. At your microsite, you can then advertise your calls to action to convert your visitors lower into the marketing funnels. The graphic below depicts how this works.
Further Reading and Examples
There are many examples of brands that are using microsites as their main hub for their curation strategy, who also share their curated content on other channels with links back to the content hub microsite. We’ve put together a whole eBook of real-world examples of content curation in action by marketers.