To use content curation as a marketing strategy, or not … apparently that’s the question.

My new(ish) friends at Web Search Social are calling me — and others — out.

They’re saying,

“… content curation as a social marketing strategy is silly, fruitless and something you should stop doing immediately.“

Well hold on there, partner (in my best John Wayne voice).

Isn’t that a one-size-fits-all blanket statement?

Surely, if content curation were THAT bad, no discerning marketing person (or “experts” as my WSS friends call them in their post) would use this ghastly tactic.

Undoubtedly, if content curation were so hideous a tactic, smart marketers like Beth Kanter, Jay Baer, and Jason Falls wouldn’t promote such a thing.

Let’s discuss.

the content curation challenge

This all started when on a Ready, Set, Podcast interview with Cendrine on the very topic of content curation, I mentioned that there were two schools of thought on content curation: to do, or not to do.

I referred to a certain blogger (Ralph of Web Search Social), but didn’t call him by name and made it a point to mention that he’s well respected.

He is! I respect him (but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with him).

Ralph, astute as he is, picked up on this and wanted to talk about it.

To my surprise Ralph’s panties weren’t in a wad. In fact, he said he loves academic debate and invited me to a showdown on their podcast.

Challenge accepted.

And then came this post by Carol Lynn (Ralph’s partner and wife) slamming content curation.

No doubt prep for our show … so in my own prep, here’s my rebuttal (isn’t this FUN?!) …

Content Curation Is Not A Strategy, It’s A Tactic

I certainly would be one of those aforementioned “experts” (air quotes and all) if I told our clients our marketing strategy would revolve around content curation.

Instead, we use content curation as a tactic.

Let me break that down further:

  • Strategy: Specific goals centered around achieving business outcomes
  • Tactics: Specific resources used to support strategies, business outcomes, or secondary goals

What that means in the social sphere is that we share OPC (other people’s content) supporting our own mission, goals, messaging, etc.

I don’t think this is where the messaging gets mixed on the WSS post though, as we’re all still on the same page at this point.

Rebutting Content Curation Challenges

Carol Lynn lists several challenges she sees with content curation.

I’m with her on being scared to death of those marketers selling a one-size-fits-all strategy and calling it marketing gold.

But, let me push back a tiny bit here: Isn’t saying everyone should stop doing content curation immediately one of those approaches?

Here are other thoughts on some of the challenges she lists:

1) Sending Your Audience To The Competition

Clearly, it wouldn’t be wise to curate the content of your direct competition.

I think this is so basic a concept that most marketers would not engage in this type of curation.

However, sending my audience to my network, my sphere of influence, my digital friends and cohorts is absolutely a part of my strategy.

Let me tell you the secret sauce behind that strategy …

My online network is how I get MY content to MOVE.

Without them, my original content would not be caught in the ripple effect of reciprocity and influence, and would not have led to a bigger ROI of business and blogging deals.

So for me, any way you slice it, my careful curation efforts have led to the distribution of my own content, PLUS a dollar-for-dollar return with my business.

And I had to carefully curate the content of others to start building my network.

Plus, the way I see it, the content we carefully curate makes a statement about who we are (and who we like, trust, respect, etc.).

My friend and Ready, Set, Podcast co-host, Mallie, agrees that curating is about MORE than the content, too.

sharing may not mean caring

2) Sharing Is Not The Same As Curating

I have to agree with this. Kinda.

And this is where my premise with the WSS posts lies!

Curation, by its very definition is the act of carefully selecting online content.

It is taking sharing to the next step; it’s not just sharing, but sharing carefully, with intent and purpose.

See this post on how to properly define content curation by my friend Cendrine.

Other consideration points for curating and/or sharing are:

  • The curation process itself; choosing the best, most relevant pieces from inside and outside of your network.
  • Making it “think conversation” curation. For us this means adding commentary or value to the piece — it’s answering the question of, “Why was this selected for me to see?”
  • Citing your source. This is not only the right thing to do, but lends to building those loyal online communities/reciprocity/influence/etc.

Since I don’t haphazardly share content I find, and I’ve usually meticulously made sure it/it is:

  • Credible
  • Answers a question
  • Thought provoking

In fact, studies of late have shown that many peeps share content without even reading it!

You see the nuance there, right?

If not, here’s a beautifully curated piece (found by Cendrine) with recognizable marketers giving their two cents on curation and what it means (on video).

3) Duplicate Content Is Not Smart Curation

I see this a lot with new clients.

They think that blogging is just going out and “curating” other posts from Forbes or Inc. and slapping them on their site with one or two lead-in sentences.

I personally don’t acknowledge this as curating because — and Carol Lynn can attest to this firsthand — Google doesn’t play nicely with duplicate content.

It’s not that you’ll be in trouble, but Google will give more authority and rank to the original source.

In essence, this type of “curation” can be a huge waste of time.

4) Real Brands Don’t Curate

Just head back to the beginning of this post where I mention a few well-known marketers and brands.

These fantastically smart marketers are in fact curating and sharing other marketers’ content.

You could even call some of the content they curate and share the content of competitors.

Not enough for you? Well, okay (twist my arm and make ME do some curating!) …

Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Whole Foods are using UGC (user-generated content) as a form of content curation.

Still not with me?

Here’s proof that big, recognizable brands (or “real” brands, if we’re calling them that) like

  • General Mills
  • Pepsi
  • Sephora
  • Intel
  • Cisco

all use content curation as a tactic.

They just don’t participate in not-so-smart curation.

content curation isn

Content Curation DOES NOT Equal Automation

I think the point that Carol Lynn was trying to make was that automated content curation is not smart.

And I totally agree. But, again, therein lies the problem.

Total automation defies the definition that I’ve laid out a million different ways in this post (click those links, folks, they’re educational!).

So while Triberr (yes, ironically Ralph is a partner of the curation site) can help me find the right people to curate from, setting it up to do so automatically, as in just to fill my feeds, would be foolish.

As cool a tool as Triberr is (I use it), it still requires my touch (a human filter) to ensure I’m curating what’s really relevant to me/my brand.

And without that all-important distinction from just sharing to actually curating, Triberr can be viewed as an automation culprit (but only if the user behind it allows it to be).

Find Out What Works For You

Content curation is the reason many relationships are started; the catalyst for conversation.

I have experienced a return for myself and my business with content curation.

I’ve also helped clients go from zero followers on social media channels to tens of thousands of followers (yes, organically) by using content curation as one of my tactics.

And truthfully, I’ve seen those same tactics on the same platforms fail miserably.

There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to content curation, and that includes saying it doesn’t work or that you shouldn’t spend time on it.

Has content curation been a challenge for you? Do you use it? Not use it? Weigh in below!

See you in the social sphere!