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Content Curation, Content Marketing, and Facebook’s New Policies

The powers that be at Facebook like to keep us on our toes. Sometimes it feels like they change security, posting, and other features on a whim. But today there was some good news – at least for some of us.

A new update from Facebook’s elders has quelled previously whispered rumors that they would kill off all sharing from third party apps. In reality, it turns out they will actually be giving less weight to stories that are “implicitly shared.” Implicit sharing occurs when someone clicks “Share” on a story through a third-party app, without creating a unique message for the post. Essentially, the message that is posted with the story is exactly the same as the title of the link.

So what’s the good news?

Along with this change, Facebook is now giving more weight to “explicitly shared” stories from third-party platforms. Explicit sharing occurs when someone click “Share” and writes a “unique” message to go with the post. This stands to benefit social media marketers – at least those who put real effort into providing value though their social sharing.

Content marketing is undergoing a paradigm shift. It’s no longer limited to white papers, case studies, and testimonials exclusively, but now also includes “social content.” Social Content Marketing refers to the idea that the messaging in social posts is, in and of itself, content.

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Now that social messaging is being considered “content,” marketers should treat it just like any other type of contents. It’s truly amazing how much value can be created from a 140 character tweet. In today’s world of marketing, a post on Facebook can have the same impact on a prospect as a 25 page white paper. Even more importantly, engaging in discussions across the social web requires a content marketer to stay on his or her toes. Social media doesn’t sleep, and social engagements require an immediate (or very quick) response with little time to plan.

In recent months, Facebook has made real strides in cleaning up our News Feeds. For example, Facebook has recently started giving less weight to “like baiting” posts, as well as posts that include regurgitated images that are spammy in nature. While some marketers that are complaining about these changes, they should be glad – this will serve as a an impetus for them to change their ways.

App developers, especially mobile app developers, need to take note. Facebook has suggested tweaking apps to allow users to include unique messaging around content shared from them. For example, photo sharing apps often times give you the option to just share visual content, without creating any sort of unique message for the post itself. As such, Facebook is offering new tools that will allow developers to implement more robust sharing functionality for their apps, allowing users to not only share more valuable content, but also get their posts seen by more people.

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Via Facebook

Beyond mobile apps, there are many third party web apps that enable marketers to share content from across the web. The types of content shared through these platforms are often “curated” from outside sources, a practice that might lead to “implicit sharing” for some. However, it’s important to make sure your content curation strategy includes explicit sharing.

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Content curation refers to distributing someone else’s content, in this case, through your social channels. As content marketers, and marketers in general, we want to establish ourselves and our companies as thought leaders. As such, it’s vital to not only be a respected writer, but also be someone people look to to find valuable content . The benefits of content curation are many, but just as important is the messaging that you include when sharing this content.

These ideas don’t just pertain to Facebook, but to all social channels. Along with Facebook, Twitter is often used as a curation channel for content. A mistake that is very, very often made is to just copy and paste the title of the article as the tweet itself. While this mistake isn’t a cardinal sin, if you choose this roue, at least include relevant hashtags within your tweet. This will at least ensure that your content will get in front of the right audience.

Twitter (or any other social channel, for that matter), hasn’t really enacted the same kind of rules that Facebook has. There are rumors abound that Facebook is actually making content less visible on News Feeds so that companies are more likely to pay for promoted posts. Facebook now has to report to its shareholders (myself being one of them), and I still think (hope) that its decisions are based on wanting to give users the best experience possible. More active users = more advertising dollars = happy shareholders.

Now that Twitter is also a public company, some people may worry that it will adopt a similar approach. Again, I tend to disagree. While Twitter has increasingly been pushing promoted tweets, there’s no indication that they are “weighting” tweets, and I don’t see them doing this any time soon (I could be wrong, though I hope not).

This might sound like a lot to digest – and for many marketers, trying to keep up with the changes can be overwhelming. Not to fear, here are a few tips that will help you curate content with explicit sharing:

Ask Questions

There is no better way to get someone to comment on your post than to ask a question. When curating content, include questions in your post that are relevant to the content you are posting. Your social message will then be adding value and enriching the content consumption experience of the reader.

This strategy is most important when posting posting in LinkedIn Discussion Groups, especially since research shows that the majority of leads for B2B companies are generated there.

Discussion Groups are just that – groups for discussing specific topics. Given that some marketers don’t heed the advice that has been laid out in this post regarding social messaging and content curation, LinkedIn instituted a policy that was subsequently named SWAM (Site Wide Automatic Moderation). With the new SWAM policy, if you are “blocked and deleted” by any moderator in any of your Groups, your posts in all of your remaining Groups will automatically be flagged as “requires moderation.” Very often, Group moderators have no idea that this has happened, and your posts will remain in purgatory.

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By including questions when curating content to LinkedIn Groups, you will be encouraging members to not only read the content you have shared, but also to engage in a discussion related to it. The question you ask should whet their whistle and entice them to click through and read the content you’re sharing.

Don’t Promote

It’s been written about, talked about, lectured about, and so on, but for the 10000th time: Content marketing is not about self-promotion. Therefore, when sharing a piece of content to Facebook, or any other social channel, make sure the messaging you use in your social post is not a direct promotion of you, your product, or your service. This will not only make you look like an amateur, but it will also cost you in terms of how Facebook weighs the value of your post.

The Universal Marketing Funnel is a great example of why self-promotion (in an overt and direct way) plays a minor role in content marketing. The Universal Marketing Funnel divides the marketing process into 3 main stages: awareness, evaluation, and decision. Additionally, a fourth stage and fifth stage occur post-sale: customer service, and turning a customer into an evangelist.

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The principles of the Universal Marketing Funnel apply to content curation just as much as they do to content creation. Your social content determines how the world views your company. Whether you’re posting to a LinkedIn Discussion Group with your personal profile, or tweeting with your company’s Twitter account, what you share on the social web is a direct reflection of who your company is. By understanding this funnel, a marketer will be able to identify and curate content relevant to each stage. Additionally, the social messaging around these posts should be crafted accordingly.

In the Awareness phase, your potential customer doesn’t know you exist. Here’s an example: Let’s say your company has a SaaS platform that helps businesses run their social activities. The best course of action to create awareness for your company and the problem your product solves, is to find content that potential customers will find valuable. Basically, any content that will help them solve a problem, teach them something new, or let them know about a new trend. By doing this, people will know that your company is an authority in the field they are interested in, and when it comes time to make a purchase decision, they will immediately remember your brand.

The next step in the funnel is Evaluation. This is where your potential customer will try to understand exactly how your offering solves they problem they are facing. While this may seem like a good opportunity to talk about how great you are, you must fight this urge. A content curation strategy for this stage of the funnel should focus on sharing information that highlights the benefits of what your company offers as opposed to the competition, without directly promoting yourself.

Decision time. This is where the rubber meets the road. At this stage, you need to let your potential customer know about your unique selling proposition but this should only make up around 20% of all the content you curate. However, when it comes to creating the social messaging around this type of content, make sure that you aren’t “bragging.” The type of content that should be shared to reach prospects at this stage is a review of your product or service. Obviously, sharing content from an outside source (not your own blog) will lend more credibility to your company.

Provide Value

Piggy backing on the previous point, when curating content, ensure that the social messaging you use provides value to the reader. Don’t just say something like “check out this awesome article,” state your opinion on the piece that you’re sharing, or write about the gist of the article . This will give the reader a concise overview of the content that they’re about to start reading.

Putting effort into crafting a valuable message may be more time-consuming then thoughtless sharing, but it will pay off in the end. If this means that you won’t be able to curate as much content because this method is more time consuming, then so be it. In the world of content marketing, less is not more, and quality most certainly trumps quantity.

Be Unique

Sharing a piece of content that others have shared is definitely not a bad thing, as long as the social messaging you use when posting it is your own. However, this applies more to written content (blog posts, for example), and less to visual content, as it seems that Facebook is cracking down on images that frequently reposted (they see it as “spammy”).

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Going back to the evaluation stage of the Universal Marketing Funnel, when a prospect is comparing your company to other companies, they will most certainly take into account the way your project yourself on social media. This means that if 90% of your posts contain photos of cute kittens, you’re doing something wrong. Again, this requires a marketer to really sit down and think about what he or she will be posting. Consideration needs to be made not only for the type of content you curate, but also for the type of messaging you use when sharing. Many blog posts get 1000s of shares, but are still relevant to your target audience. Curating this type of content will require you to distinguish your posts from all other ones.

Make it Relevant

If you are a technology company, sharing content about Miley Cyrus is probably not the best way to establish thought leadership. The content you curate should be relevant to the messaging of your company, the interests of your target market, and be aligned with your brand identity. Additionally, the social messaging you use when sharing this content should similarly reflect you and your potential customers.

Referring back to the Universal Marketing Funnel, if you are looking to increase awareness of your company and what you do, curating content that has nothing to do with your offering will be counter-productive at best. What’s worse, you will start attracting followers who have zero interest in your company, and most certainly will never become a customer.

Keeping curated content relevant requires some research. First, identify the interests of your target market, and then seek out content they will enjoy reading. When sharing this content, make sure the messaging is equally relevant to the reader.

Engage

Social media is meant to be social. Therefore, engaging with your social connections and prospects is vitally important. Social engagement, namely the content of the discussion, falls under the category of social content marketing. Unfortunately, many marketers adopt a “spray and pray” strategy when it comes to curating content. This is an incredible waste of time and effort, and should be avoided at all costs.

In order to actively engage in social media, you need a robust social listening strategy. Identify keywords, hashtags, and lists across Twitter and follow them closely. When a potentially beneficial engagement opportunity arises, capitalize on it immediately.

LinkedIn Groups are generally very active, and therefore you don’t want to miss anything. Keep an eye on the Groups you feel are most beneficial to your marketing strategy. Also, make sure that you give your 2 cents when a conversation arises that you can add value to.

Not Just Blog Posts

Just as “content” can now be a tweet as well as a white paper, so too can it be “Media Content.” Several sites now provide fantastic new types of rich media content that can be shared and event embedded in blog posts.

Some of the most engaging content you can share is visual content. Pictures, videos, infographics, slideshows – all of these are great types of content to share across your social channels. As far as images go, you can upload and post them on social channels. When you do this, the same rules apply: provide value in the social messaging. In terms of curation, utilizing images can be an equally valuable tool. Be careful though – sharing cheesy and extremely often shared images will be seen as spammy on Facebook. When choosing images to share, make sure they are unique, and haven’t already made the rounds.

If you are looking for some interesting “rich” content to share, Slideshare is a great place to start. Though considered a social network itself, it is mainly a repository for slide shows – mostly professional in nature. With its “search” and “explore” features, a content marketer can easily find valuable and relevant content to share. While curing this type of content, it’s important to follow the rules that have been set out in this post: add value to the content you are sharing by including unique, interesting, and engaging social content when posting. Other sites that are great places to find media content to share are Soundcloud for audio/podcasts, and, of course, YouTube for videos.

What are your experiences with both content curation and “explicit sharing”? Leave your comments below!

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