There’s plenty of buzz about “Content Curation” in the marketing world right now. In a nutshell, the word “curation” is used among content professionals to describe the careful research, sifting, selecting and sharing of content with others.
But let’s take a look at what it’s really about…not from the side of the content curator — but of the reader.
Imagine this. You’re in your office. You’re finally ready to tackle the task of finding a solution to a meaty business problem your team’s been facing. You Google it. You read. You wade through some amateur blog posts. You sift past keyword-laden micro-sites and eventually get fed up with the overload of nonsense on the very topic you’re trying to master. Grrr…doesn’t anyone have any meaningful information out there? You’re not ready for a full-blown consultation or sales call. You need *actual* answers to some of your immediate questions so that you can get educated and begin drawing your own conclusions.
Then it dawns on you. The people at your buddy Carl’s company seem to know their stuff when it comes to the topic at hand. In fact, they blog and Tweet about it weekly. Better yet, they make it their business to keep up on the latest trends, risks and laws associated with this issue you’ve been tasked with — and they distribute recommended articles, videos, news and resources every day.
So why reinvent the research wheel when Carl’s people are sifting through and finding the relevant information for you? That’s the beauty of content curation. Carl’s company is on top of the latest information so you don’t have to dig. It’s kind of like that old tagline, “You have questions. We have answers.”
Content curation is an essential part of establishing thought leadership in a content-saturated online landscape. By continuously sharing articles, news and breakthroughs about your industry and expertise, you also establish trust and authority.
The ultimate payoff?
Let’s continue with our scenario. Because Carl’s team clearly makes it their business to solve the problem you’re facing, perhaps you’ll send him a note, check out his company website or download the “Getting Started” report they recently published. The company is low on sales pressure and heavy on information. Voilà! You’re now a potential lead for Carl. And a solid lead at that. You already know him, trust him and recognize his team’s expertise.
So… why isn’t your company curating content?
I’ll tell you why in one little word: TIME
A recent survey published by eMarketer shows time constraints are the biggest difficulty marketers face in content curation. But, check out the other challenges listed. Allocating staff. Understanding how it fits with the overall strategy. Creating original content.
The “time” issue isn’t going to change. Content curation takes serious dedication to do it right, keep it consistent and keep it valuable. No quickie tool or gizmo can take away the fact that quality content curation is serious business. It takes planning, dedicated resources, methodical processes and … oh… did I mention time?
Can you hire an agency to do it for you?
Absolutely. BUT…only if that team operates as a Thought “Partner.” A content agency worth its salt will become an integrated extension of your business, sales team and marketing team. Do not…I repeat…do not think that hiring an entry-level writer or “online savvy” intern is going to do the trick. And, don’t think that slapping the task onto an already-overworked PR manager is the answer either. It’s critical to find an experienced partner who will position themselves for long-term, meaningful content curation. You need to find a partner that’s…well…a thought leader themselves in content marketing.
10 things to look for in a Content Curation partner
- Extension vs. Vacuum – One of the most common questions we hear is, “How can I hire you guys to curate content when we’re the Thought Leaders?” In fact, you should ask *every* agency you’re considering that very same question. Look for a group that’s committed to becoming an extension of your team — not just in theory but in practice. They get into your business, become a proactive sponge and have a clear path on how to weave themselves into your day-to-day world in order to build a content curation strategy that works and builds over time. Experienced agencies and content strategists have clear processes and exercises to become one with your audience, relevant online communities and potential leads. The kid who hangs out on Twitter all day and shares an article here and there is curating in a vacuum and likely just creating noise on your behalf.
- Strategy vs. Tactics - Ask the potential partner about their approach to content marketing and their methodology. Did you get a blank stare? Did they dive right into tools and tactics? If so, they’re more likely to have a short-term mindset when curating your content. Look for an agency that shows you a clear strategic process of how they intend to move through and refine the content curation process.
- Audience Obsessed – A quality content marketing agency makes it job #1 to learn about your audience, clients and prospects. But, it goes well beyond the basic age, demographics, and old-school definition of “target audience.” Make sure the agency you hire has a methodical way of documenting your ideal audience(s) AND translating that into Mission Critical content that will reach, resonate and re-enforce value. Ask the agency what their process is for defining your audience(s) and mapping them to content goals. Doing this correctly at the start of the relationship will save you a ton of time, heartache and money in the long run. When facilitated correctly, this process can also strengthen your team’s awareness and commitment to your ideal audience.
- Respect for Your Expertise – Getting at the heart of your team’s expertise takes time, energy, probing and lots and lots of questions. Knowing the *right* questions to ask is key. A savvy content producer (and curator) doesn’t assume they know your business right away. They learn through regular sessions with your team, by observing what they read, becoming a Thought “Partner” and building on that knowledge.
- “Big Picture” Communicators – Ask the agency point blank, “When curating content on our behalf, how do you plan to give us visibility?” Just as it’s important for your content partner to share relevant content with your networks, it’s equally important to share it with your team. Once again, ask about processes. Do they have a way to review relevant content with your team? Do they intend to escalate “breaking news” and “content alerts” to those on your team who need to be in the know? As an extension of your business, this is part of playing on your team vs. working in a vacuum.
- Innate Curiosity – Uncovering relevant content on your behalf is one thing. Delving even deeper to uncover sources and opportunities to leverage the content in other ways is quite another. For example, let’s say a blog post by an industry leader contradicts your point of view on a hot-button topic. A solid content curator not only knows how to bubble this up — they’ll advise on next steps, plot a course for rebuttal and ensure your team is a player in the discussion — not just sitting on the sidelines. Ask the agency to share recent examples from other clients. A hint: Content Professionals with an innate curiosity practically get giddy when describing such events.
- Understanding of Your Sales Process – Notice I said your sales process. Businesses selling their expertise, authority and experience are quite different than those selling widgets, car parts or jewelry. In short, the sales cycle is often a bit more complex and involves several stages leading up to a sale. Your curated content must reflect that. Ask the agency how they approach content curation for businesses with sales cycles like yours.
- Clear Points of Research – Here’s where things get more tactical. A content curator should forever be on the lookout for new credible content sources for gathering new tidbits, articles, news and blogs related to your business and audience. This goes well beyond a basic Twitter feed, Facebook search and Google. A real content curator sets up and constantly refines dashboards, alerts, tags and feeds to scour.
- Clear Points of Distribution – Ask the agency where they might expect to distribute your content. Naturally, the big social networks should be on that list. However, a credible agency will likely go further in figuring out how to distribute quality content. They should ask themselves, “Who needs to know this.” There are simple opportunities like sending personal notes with links from your sales team to current clients, posts within blog comment threads, Twitter hashtags that will snag specific eyes…the list goes on.
- Discipline & Measurement – This one should go without saying. But too many agencies get woo’ed by the “something shiny” tool of the week, only to loose sight of an important conversation or content that’s brewing. Measurement and a quick review of what content and sharing seems to bump traffic and stickiness is also essential. This goes with the “innate curiosity” we described above. Any content curator wants to know how site traffic/stickiness is affected. That information should never be a chore…but a godsend.
How much time should content curation take?
Of course the real answer to this is “that depends.” Variables such as industry, competition, news-worthiness, trends and reputation management all come into play.
However, as a rough guide, you can expect your content agency to spend 6-15 hours a week on content curation — assuming they’re doing it right. Keep in mind, that’s curation alone. Unique content creation, social network engagement (relationship building) and other content marketing areas have to be considered, as well.