Defining Digital Content Curation

Defining Digital Content Curation image Content Curation Pic

“Content curation” is one of those phrases that gets repeated ad naseum without much thought about what it actually means or what role it plays in our digital lives.

It’s a term that is widely used, yet the definition (at least in the social media marketing sense) is murky and unspecific.

Let’s define what digital content curation really is and what it’s not, and how we can begin to think about this term a little differently.

The distribution of content

What I believe people are referring to when they use the term content curation, is actually the distribution of content from various sources via social media. That’s not wrong per se but, that’s not even close to the whole story either. This simplistic definition leaves a lot of wiggle room for some common practices that can be annoying and a waste of time.

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Frequent, regular automation

For many people, social media curation includes an element of automation, which is ironic since it seems that automation is the opposite of curation. It’s easy to create an automated stream of tweets or LinkedIn posts that are deployed when a blog post is published, as many people do this with their company’s blog (or even their own.)

I am not a proponent of this method for a couple of reasons.

1.) These communications weren’t crafted by a human brain. For example, tweets that have the exact headlines of blog posts, headlines that are too long, posts that have too many characters, and the use of the exact same post across multiple channels are good examples of this type of communication. This is a problem because if it’s obvious that a robot is doing the talking for you, real humans are not going to be inspired to talk back.

2.) It’s unrealistic. Unless your blog is all of your own content, it’s not likely that you would share every single post from a feed. Not to mention, why would someone want to follow your content if they can get the exact same information from their RSS feed? Not only does feed automation look lazy, it could also portray you in a negative light which, doesn’t exactly inspire trust.

This is what I call link spraying. In the attempt to execute on one best practice (consistent sharing) these folks violate a few others: trust, context, and humanness.

Hand selection and scheduling

Hand selecting content to share is infinitely better than automation. For one thing, you have to read at least a portion of the content you are sharing. You’re also helping to shape your identity through what you share. It used to be that your digital self was composed of what you created. This is still true (although those who create content are more highly valued than those who exclusively share it) but, what we associate ourselves and our brands with are co-creators in our online identities.

Note: There is a big difference between automation and scheduling. In most cases, scheduling or hand selecting content to share and scheduling for later publication is just fine. It’s helpful to those who want to provide a steady stream of relevant content while remaining responsive. I myself use Hootsuite for this purpose.

Sharing with context

Let’s not let the definition of curation stop here. “Hand selection” is still not digital curation in and of itself. Without ever adding any unique perspective or context, you aren’t adding to the conversation, you’re simply parroting.

Does that mean you need to comment on every retweet or share? Of course not. There is value in simply sharing. Breaking news is one example that comes to mind. But, is there value in just passing along every article that everyone in the industry has already seen? Probably not.

Twitter is not a curation tool

Twitter is a fantastic discovery and sharing mechanism but, you can’t curate there. Tweets are fleeting, they’re there and then they’re not. There’s a lot of serendipity involved in what you see in your Twitter stream. But, you can certainly use Twitter to lead folks to where you curate.

For example, blogs and websites are the ultimate curation tools because of their flexibility. As are photo albums, Pinterest boards, Storify, YouTube channels, some Facebook apps, and perhaps hundreds of other examples. These are examples of curation tools because they are destinations that house selectively placed, found objects.

Defining the process

Okay, we’re getting warmer. Let’s review. Digital content curation is definitely NOT automation and it’s not mindlessly reposting already popular content. What digital curation does include is hand selecting great content and often commenting or otherwise providing context or a unique perspective to accompany a piece of content.

So…we’re done, right? Having a frequently updated Twitter stream filled with interesting, engaging content from obscure sources that you contextualize is content curation, right?

Not so fast. A curator isn’t just someone who can find great “stuff,” though it is an important skill. A curator is someone who creates a specific experience using found objects and contextualizes those objects within a limited space. A curator not only collects and interprets, but houses that work to create unique experiences.

The Internet is a big place

And those who point us in the right any direction are becoming increasingly valuable. By making the Internet smaller, focusing our attention, providing context, and creating relevant experiences, curators actually enhance our online experiences.

Let’s hold curation up to the standard that it deserves and stop pretending that interesting tweets = content curation. This process takes time, skill, and creativity that should be recognized.

What curation tools do you use? I’m experimenting with a few new kinds and am curious to know what others are doing in this space. Tell me your thoughts below.

Discuss This Article

Comments: 2

  • Hi Erica,

    thank you for your very well written blog post.
    I believe that everyone of us is a content curator. We must handle the information overload day by day. The Internet consists of over 650 million web pages, individual pages should be far more than 25 billion. Every internet user is confronted daily with an enormous flood of information, which it must handled by him.

    Keeeb is a next generation content curation tool providing one of the best clipping technologies and a unique grouping functionality. While other services offer tools to save or highlight websites as a whole, Keeeb allows you to highlight and save sections of an article, including key phrases, videos and images. Keeeb has unlimited image upload capacity, extensions for all browsers and will release its mobile apps by 08/2013. Keeeb allows for people to collaborate in teams and have the option to keep information private or public.
    Visitors to Keeeb pages will find not only a collection of hyperlinks but curated content. Our model is based on business accounts, premium features and various forms of advertisement. We already have paying customers and we are currently in negotiations with international brands and publishers to distribute their content on Keeeb.

    It would be great if you could give Keeeb a quick test run to see how you find the site and we are, of course, happy to answer any questions you may have.

    Thanks,
    Marc

    PS: We gave all Clipboard users a new home with our import tool, recommended by Clipboard’s CTO:http://blog.keeeb.com/post/50367925136/dear-clipboarders-get-ready

  • Thanks for a great post….

    I first started with Delicious “boards” then moved to Clipboard and have now moved onto memit.com as each closed.

    I also use Scoop.it and appreciate the stats it produces.

    I use Springpad.com for note taking (not a great Evernote fan)and have just started using Springpad Baords for curated content.

    Storify.com is another great tool for collecting material together to create an article on a theme. I have also tried So.cl in the same way

    And of course I use Pinterest but mainly only for image sharing.

    I do like my tools to have bookmarklets for use in my browser and to have apps that I can use on my Android phone and tablet.

    The links to my curated content can be found at http://xeeme.com/martinrstone

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