Aspiring thought leaders often stress over the idea of not being able to produce enough original content to satisfy the needs of their community. It can seem like an unrealistic goal to produce fresh, quality content all of the time; and quite frankly it is. But don’t fret, aspiring thought leader! Content curation can be your best friend. And while it has that going for it, it can also cheapen your reputation if used improperly.

When it comes to thought leadership, content curation can be two-sided. If used properly, it can effectively help you convey your viewpoints to your community or industry. If used incorrectly, it can lessen the impact of your thought leadership.


What’s Content Curation?

This infographic is one of my favorite ways to explain content curation. As it shows, it’s basically the act of aggregating existing content, pulling the useful parts out, contextualizing those parts, and passing the results along to your network. Here are other definitions from industry experts:

  • Beth Kanter: “Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme.”
  • Bob Steele: “Curating content means sharing content from other content creators for your readers and adding your own two cents.”
  • Bruce Gibson: “Content Curation is the act of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds specific subject matter.”

As you can see, content curation doesn’t have any set definition. But for the most part, everyone agrees on the basic idea of it: adding original knowledge to existing content.

What’s the Connection to Thought Leadership?

In 2014, content curation will continue to be at the heart of every thought leader’s strategy. While all thought leadership is not produced through content curation, almost all content curation is produced with the sole goal of providing thought leadership. Data from shows 85% of marketing executives cite thought leadership as their primary objective for content curation. It is not a stretch then to conclude that content curation exists to feed thought leadership. With that being said, you have to understand what content curation is and what it is not.

Content Curation is Not…

  • A time saverOne blogger suggests content curation is overhyped. He points out that content curation is not a shortcut for thought leaders. In fact, effective content curation can sometimes take longer to produce than original content. The point? Don’t run to content curation as a way to save time.
  • Content scraping – It is also important to note that content curation is not the same as content scraping. The difference between the two is often confused, but in reality it is quite simple. Content scraping takes place when a website takes content from another author and posts it on their site. They may change some of the structure or language, but it is essentially a glorified copy and paste. With the emergence of Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm, scrapers are going to be penalized for their practices. Going forward, Google expects sites to contribute fresh, original content to the internet’s conversations. It’s becoming less about links and more about content.
  • Retweeting and aggregating – This is a very common misconception. When you retweet an interesting article or thought, you are not curating content. As Margot Bloomstein says at the beginning of this interview, “If that’s what you’re doing, if you’re just pulling in lots of content from all across the web, you might as well be linking out to the original stuff…because you’re not adding any value.”

If you are practicing any of these three misconceptions, you are not curating content and certainly not developing thought leadership.

Properly Feed Your Thought Leadership

What is content curation then? And how can you use it feed your thought leadership? Here are some practical steps to becoming both a good content curator and thought leader:

  • Focus on quality – Joshua Merritt believes the most effective content curation tip is to “stop playing the volume game.” The internet is a noisy place, and if you are only increasing the volume level, you aren’t adding anything to the game. Thought leadership is all about providing useful information. In light of content curation, you can only do this by adding knowledge or expertise to the original content. Don’t worry about frequency, but focus on quality.
  • Make it timely – All content curation should have immediacy and relevancy. Make sure you are curating content your community is currently talking about in real time. And always ask yourself whether the spin you put on the original content is relevant to the community. If your curation lacks immediacy and relevancy, you are failing as a thought leader.
  • Complement with original content – Content curation is only effective when you are also producing your own original content from time to time. Curation is not a substitute for original content creation; it is simply a complement. Think of it as the salt to your meal. You can use it to bring out the flavor of your thought leadership when you don’t have time to write. But you must make time to write.

With the introduction of Google Hummingbird and the ‘death of the guest post,’ original, quality content will be the key for thought leaders in 2014. But don’t ignore the usefulness of content curation when it comes to thought leadership in your community. When done properly, it can truly feed your thought leadership.