As companies become media publishers as part of their social media marketing strategy, one topic that always confuses my clients is the topic of content curation, or sourcing information from 3rd party sources and then sharing them on your social media properties. Windmill Networking Content Marketing contributor Bob Geller wrote a great post yesterday on how content curation can help complement your content marketing and social media marketing efforts. If you’re still trying to get a grip on content curation, let me frame the topic the same way I do for my clients:

  1. There is a certain frequency at which you need to be active on social media in order to get noticed.
  2. You’re probably not blogging on a daily basis.
  3. Every social media post can’t be about you – unless you’re a movie star, musical artist, or consumer brand with a fanatical following.
  4. Therefore, what else can you post to try to reach your content strategy and frequency strategy goals?

The answer, of course, is in the art of curating content and sharing that information that is aligned with your content strategy, represents your brand, and would be of interest to the public you are trying to attract.

In general, content curation involves identifying relevant sources of information, organizing them according to topic and urgency, and sharing them through the social media website that your audience normally uses. With the advent of social media, it is also important to note that since everything on Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites happens in real-time, it’s important that the content posted to these sites be up-to-date, or at the very least, interesting and relevant (= shareable) enough to be shared once more.

There are companies that offer social curation services, as well as software that helps filter content based on specific topics. But if you’re on a tight budget, you can actually try doing it yourself. A great inspiration to starting out would be Guy Kawasaki, the famous general information curator who’s given his support to projects like Alltop (which is obviously a great start to find great posts to source) and StumbleUpon, among others (note: LinkedIn Today is also a great source for curation – and make sure you follow Windmill Networking on LinkedIn Today!). So what exactly is he, as well as others that are building up huge social media followings through content curation, doing right? Aside from having great sources, he and his team have the knack of choosing the right stuff that piques everybody’s interest.

Or, as Social Media Today blogger Jack Humphrey would put it:

So what is the secret sauce that makes people like Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, or Mari Smith popular while most everyone else remains hidden?

In a word: Sources.

In order to do this yourself, remember that you have to go beyond sharing the articles that land in your favorite RSS feeds, or just reposting something from your social media timeline (which honestly has probably been reposted a thousand times before). To make your social curation easier, and more effective, here are a few things you might want to do:

  1. Do a competitor check. It’s important to know what’s already out there. What do your competitors post? How or when do they post? What are their usual sources? Study your competitor’s social media behavior meticulously. It’ll take time, yes, but once you’ve established where you stand, you can start looking for the best places to gather curated information without fear of repeating what others have already shared.
  2. See what’s out there. Now that you know how your competitors work, you can begin creating your curation strategy, collecting the tools you need and compiling sources you can use to collate content. How many blog posts, videos and news articles are posted about your chosen topic everyday? Does your field have enough sources to sustain you, as far as your plan goes? Based on these, you will have a general idea as to how you can adjust your social media strategy and how many times you can post content based on a given timeframe.
  3. Is this what your audience really wants? This truly is the most important question you need to answer. You need to see what your audiences actually post online. Create a market study on their digital behavior. You can check for yourself how audiences react towards your competitor’s social media efforts or use social media monitoring software to help you out. You can also facilitate focus group discussions to go in depth as to what exactly they want to see online. You might think you have good topics and sources, but that doesn’t matter if there isn’t anybody to appreciate and share them.

The above is a summary of an excellent curation methodology created by the content curation platform Curata. Check out their blog post on crafting the perfect content curation strategy for more details that further expands on the above.

Remember that content curation is not just about posting content without a plan; it’s about supplying interesting, relevant and timely information for your audiences to consume and share with others that is also aligned with your strategy. If you want your audiences to spend time with your content, give them something that is resourceful and shareable. Not only will you have more people happily interested in what you have to say, but you can also be well on your way to creating a good online reputation, one post at a time. The ROI of this will undoubtedly be 1) growth in your social reach, 2) more clicks on content that you post, and 3) establishing yourself or company as a subject matter expert in your space.

How have you or your business been utilizing content curation? Any other tips you would add?