In the age of social media, establishing an identity through content is arguably as much about curation as it is about creation.
In his book Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi outlines the elements that, according to entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, make up the "perfect content product". The final one of these — and the focus of this post — revolves around the sharing of others’ content.
The benefits of being a curator are about more than just keeping eyes on your brand, however. Let’s look at a few of the other ways in which sharing outside content can provide significant value to businesses.
In his ‘Advanced Guide to Content Curation’, Siege Media’s Ross Hudgens outlines the fact that good content curation is an ideal strategy for smaller brands: those that are still in the process of building up their own identity, and that may not yet have the budget to be able to publish high-quality original content on a regular schedule.
And curated content is far from being just a placeholder. When it comes to social media, many recommend the “5:3:2 rule”, which dissuades brands from posting entirely about themselves and encourages a more organic approach:
"If you publish 10 posts a week, then: 5 should be content from others that is relevant to your audience. 3 should be content from you that is relevant to your audience, but not sales focused. 2 should be personal, fun content that helps humanise your brand."
The simple fact is that well thought-out content curation is a valuable service in its own right. Whether you're sharing content directly to social media, or posting a comprehensive list of recommendations on a blog; aggregating and distilling content for your audience is a really effective way of establishing thought leadership.
Sharing is one of the most important parts of publishing content — you want the work you’ve created to be seen and engaged with.
That's precisely why a curatorial approach is such an effective means of networking and raising awareness: through simply promoting the work of others, brands are able to endear themselves to these creators and — more importantly — to their audiences, in a way that can provide social capital, turn more people onto your own original content, and even lay the groundwork for future opportunities.
Another interesting avenue is the curation of customer-generated content. Take the creative software company Adobe, for example, who use their Instagram as a means of showcasing the diverse examples of work produced and submitted by the users of their software.
As well as being a gallery of impressive work, this is also brilliant promotion for Adobe as a brand: this is authentic marketing that ultimately works to build a sense of loyalty and community around their products.
There’s no doubt that sharing the content of others is a less personally creative endeavour than generating your own content, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use curation as a means of expressing creativity and personality.
A large part of the effectiveness of content curation comes from how the content is presented. One particularly strong example of ambitious and lovingly-presented curation can be seen in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog, which uses things that Popova has read, seen, or listened to as the springboard for in-depth, long-form pieces exploring her own thoughts and interpretations on the original reference points.
The blog has been widely praised for its enthused sharing of highly eclectic, and often somewhat obscure, curiosities and ideas, with one commentator remarking:
“She’s a celebrator … You feel the tremendous amount of pleasure she takes in finding these things and sharing them. It’s like walking into the Museum of Modern Art and having somebody give you a customised, guided tour.”
Of course, communicating this kind of sincerity and humanity to your audiences through curated content can be as simple as just including a short personal opinion about the content being shared in a tweet or short blog post — expressing enthusiasm, or perhaps inviting further discussion and engagement from your audience.
If you have a real understanding of your specific area of business, the audiences you’re speaking to, and the wider community that you’re are a part of; the curation of outside content can be a highly beneficial and cost-effective way of enriching your brand’s identity.
Bolstering original content with that of others not only strengthens brands, but turns them into a resource that audiences can trust and return to.