Curated Content: How to Serve and Delight Your Crowd
Content curation is more valuable to your brand than you might think. When it’s time to buy or try something, we face a confounding amount of information. Choosing takes work. You might ask people you know for their experience: “How was that movie?” “What did you like about that car?” “Who did you use to design your website?” “How did you set up your marketing system?”
When you must choose, you’re likely to do some online research too. You decide what input to trust and who to follow. That collection of resources you’ve gathered, judged and based your decision on – that’s an example of curated content.
Curation Trumps Choice
What is curated content? Wikipedia says:
Content curation is the process of collecting, organizing and displaying information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest. Services or people that implement content curation are called curators. Curation services can be used by businesses as well as end users.
We have abundant evidence that choosing content for your crowd is a valuable service. June 8, 2015 marks the arrival of Apple Music’s new live broadcast streaming channel, Beats 1. But it’s not really new. It is Apple’s nod to radio’s timeless value of selecting music for listeners so they don’t have to.
Apple has “rediscovered what saved radio six decades ago,” writes Marc Fisher in “Radio’s Retro Future,” in The Washington Post. “With Beats 1, they are betting that curation can still trump choice…. What people really want isn’t necessarily the latest, coolest technology — they want a smart, entertaining personality sitting in a studio to tell them what they’ll like and to play it form them, again and again.”
It’s worth repeating: What people want is someone to make consuming great content smart, easy and fun. Could someone be you?
The Case Against Content Curation
There’s a vigorous argument against the value of feeding other people’s content to your following. Marcus Sheridan of Sales Lion asks, “when your website consists mainly of articles from other sites, how in the world will that establish YOUR company as the trusted and expert voice at what you do?” In, “Content curation: A poor substitute for original content” David Meerman Scott writes: “Sure, there are some benefits to this effort. But as a strategy for generating attention for yourself or your business, content curation is nowhere near as powerful as generating original content.”
Sheridan’s and Scott’s objections point to aggregation done by robots. Sheridan denounces unnamed syndicating software; Scott refers to services such as Scoop.it and Paper.li, which automate the process of collecting links on desired topics. Indeed, these are marketed as content curation services. Can man curate by automation alone? I think not.
The important difference between curators and aggregators is where the burden of value discovery falls. If your effort tasks readers with sifting through information for gold (because you haven’t done it first) you’re aggregating, rather than curating. You’ve lost an opportunity to position your thought leadership when it’s needed most.
Others have positioned content curation as a fallback for times when it’s hard to think of anything original to produce. Sure, you can repost what other people say, just to fill silence. But don’t miss a more valuable chance to stand out! Curating content is more than a second-best alternative to saying something new. It’s an overlooked answer to help people deal with the unwanted burden of choice.
Your Golden Opportunity to Add Value
What’s understated in Wikipedia’s definition is the curator’s added value–the process. You have your own unique approach a problem–that’s the key to selection. Name the problem. Ask meaningful questions, gather information, and decide what is important. Weave your knowledge of your reader’s needs into your collection of links and resources. You know better than anyone how your audience could use what you’ve found for maximum benefit. Tell them how to help themselves.
Consider using curated content next time you want to give your readers something of value. Don’t underestimate the power of good decision support. If you want to reach people where they are active, help them when they are not sure about a choice they need to make. Indecision is a painful state that drives people to take action to resolve. Put yourself in the path of that action with your most helpful curated content.