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Five Skills You Need to Curate Standout Content

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Some 27 million pieces of content are shared each day, according to a study by Nielson and AOL. And that was in 2011!

All this content flying around demonstrates the (true) clichés that content is king and distribution is queen. However, in the attention economy, actually getting your content noticed is what makes you belle of the ball.

At a time when marketers are challenged to furnish steady streams of engaging ideas and content, curating other people's content is an effective content marketing tool. Nevertheless, curation merely shifts the challenge to "How do I identify and curate valuable content?"

I recently read Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future, by Rohit Bhargava. In it, the author presents a framework for identifying nonobvious trends. Within that framework, he homes in on five critical skills that he says are also valuable for marketing professionals. He says...

  1. Be curious.
  2. Be observant.
  3. Be fickle.
  4. Be thoughtful.
  5. Be elegant.

Here, I take a closer look at how to apply those skills to the process of content curation so your curation rises above the din of the content waterfall.

1. Be curious: Learn something new about your personas

To break out of our ruts and see beyond our tunnel vision, we need greater curiosity, Rohit says.

Specific application: Update your personas. Have they stagnated? Are you focusing on the same pain points and needs? Consulting the same sources?

Re-examine your personas to identify their common interests, values, and beliefs beyond those directly related to your interest in them, so that you might expand the scope of content topics and sources that will attract your customers' attention.

For example, a company offering high-end fashion may want to curate content on other topics that touch their personas' interests and values—travel, say, or the psychology of extroverts.

Particular value: Brand awareness stage. Curating a topic that's fascinating to your market, but not directly related to your product or service, increases your odds of getting noticed by the right sort of people.

Content discovery tools, such as drumUp, Klout, and Prismatic, mine the people you follow by using keywords, so you can see exactly what's capturing their interest.

2. Be observant: 'See what others miss'

Being observant, as Rohit explains it, is to "see what others miss; notice the small details that others don't find significant." Cultivating the skill of being observant helps you uncover underserved areas where your curation can distinguish your company from its competitors.

Specific application: Get more granular in your persona's buying journey.

  • Where are the knowledge gaps?
  • What are some unacknowledged challenges?
  • In the B2B space, what questions do prospects need to be able to answer internally to justify a purchase?

Particular value: During the evaluation and decision-making stages.

Talk with sales reps, customer service reps, and current customers to ferret out these undiscovered details. Listen to what end-users, not just the decision-makers, have to say.

Mastering the skill of being observant is your greatest opportunity for curating original themes and topics.

3. Be fickle: Respect the slow burn as well as the spark

Spotting a trend is a myth, Rohit says in his book. As if trends line up along the Las Vegas strip and blink their neon lights at us. We need patience to find the nonobvious—which is where the skill of being fickle comes in.

Rohit defines being fickle as "capturing ideas without needing to fully understand or analyze them in that same moment."

Specific application:

  • Don't dismiss the outlier ideas and feedback you uncover while being observant. Outliers may be the tip of a larger issue not yet addressed but worth exploring. They might offer a meaningful entry point for differentiating your curation from overworked curation themes.
  • Follow new sites and blogs that your personas like, identified while being curious, even if you don't see something valuable to share right away. If everyone in your space is sharing and curating from the same blogs, your curation can't stand out.

Continually clip and note articles or reports that strike you as interesting, even if you can't yet clarify why. Evernote and Trello are popular tools; I'm a fan of Zotero.

Set aside a regular time to review your clippings and notes. Are any connections sparking? Even if you don't see one immediately, listen to your gut if it's still urging you to keep that piece around.

4. Be thoughtful: It's the special sauce that sets curation apart

"[The] curator is the imparter of value," according to Rohit. Indeed, where curation and aggregation separate is with the addition of your singular insights and expertise.

Being thoughtful is how you establish authority and the trust you're trying to build with your audience. Being thoughtful means adding genuine value, not generic commentary:

  • Provide additional context with new statistics or anecdotes from your direct experience.
  • Develop or support a point or theme that increases the piece's relevance for your specific audience.
  • Share action tips how your audience can use the new information.

Specific application: Everywhere. You're not curating if you're not being thoughtful.

5. Be elegant: Style supports substance

Being elegant is about "developing your ability to describe a concept in a beautiful and simple way for easy understanding," Rohit writes.

Such elegance enhances your ability to communicate your insights and analysis through your content. It applies regardless of your brand identity and voice, whether you're a global telecomm or a local micro-brewery.

Specific application:

  • Clean writing
  • Images that attract attention and reinforce or amplify your message
  • Presentation formats that keep people engaged

New curation tools let you move beyond a post or report. If you want to package and deliver multiple pieces of content together, Roojoom (a client of mine) is a great option, helping you craft the content journey you want visitors to take by overlaying your insights, expertise, and CTA at each step.

Stand out in today's content storm

Your curation is only as valuable as your sources and insights. Use these five skills to discover others' creativity that you can curate in your own, original way.

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Elisa Silverman is a freelance B2B content and copywriter, crafting relevant, engaging content for technology companies and professional services firms.

Twitter: @ElisaKapha

LinkedIn: Elisa Silverman

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  • by David Butler Mon Aug 24, 2015 via web

    We invented a Story Sheet to provide the automation to marketers with these skills. We help marketers and story creators capture and catalog ideas, related media, and then ideate. Our cloud is @ipositioning. Interested in your feedback on using a universal format to communicate ideas.

  • by Elisa Tue Aug 25, 2015 via web

    Hi David - if you have multiple eyes and hands on the same piece of content, it's definitely helpful to have a centralized workspace. I think the key is to make sure the workspace meets the need of that project without being overly complex.

  • by David Butler Tue Aug 25, 2015 via web

    Excellent point. Thanks Elisa

  • by Michael Gerard Tue Aug 25, 2015 via web

    Great post on content curation Elisa. Thanks. With content curation accounting for ~25% of the mix for a typical content marketer (Curata stat), these tips will no doubt come in handy.

    I've found Rohit's 4th skill to be especially valuable. (i.e., be thoughtful) This provides an opportunity to add your own "analyst insight" as a content curator. This may include accentuating a point by the original author, offering up an alternate opinion, or using the author's content to support your own position. The result of creating your own content as part of curation? . . . establishing yourself as a thought leader, increasing the "SEO juice" of the curated piece, and further interacting with your ecosystem of thought leaders (i.e., the original content's author in this case)

  • by Elisa Wed Aug 26, 2015 via web

    Thanks, Michael. Indeed. If you want to curate - you need thoughtful; otherwise it's aggregation. Although aggregation can be the 'thoughtful' if you're aggregating stats/info that result from the 3rd skill - seeing what others miss.

  • by Rohit Bhargava Wed Sep 2, 2015 via web

    Elisa - thanks for this great article and the extended thinking. I really enjoyed reading it and appreciate you taking the time to read the book and put together such thoughtful tips for how others can use the ideas in there!

  • by Rohit Bhargava Wed Sep 2, 2015 via web

    Michael - thanks for the comment. That is indeed one of the most important but also hardest tips to follow thanks to the pace at which most of us consume information. A good reminder that no matter how much we attach ourselves to technology, there really is no substitute to taking a breath, slowing down and just thinking!

  • by Elisa Fri Sep 4, 2015 via web

    Hi, Rohit! Thanks so much for the feedback; I'm glad you like it!

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