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Recently, the AP Stylebook updated its guidelines to reflect the evolution of social media: For example, "fan," "friend," and "follow" can all be used both as nouns and as verbs. A decade ago, those words might have sounded completely foreign if used as they are today.

The widespread adoption of the Internet has forever changed the way we communicate as brands, companies, and people. In the age of social media, it's no longer just about communicating; it's also about interacting.

Most marketers are eager to achieve a level of engagement with current and prospective customers, but the majority stop dead in their tracks when they consider this question: Where am I going to find the time to develop all the content necessary to do it?

I am going to let you in on a little secret: Engaging customers online does not have to be difficult. In fact, sharing information with the appropriate group does not need to be daunting or time consuming—if the way information is selected and shared is effective.
Then and Now: From Content Creation to Content Curation

Consider the next step in the evolution of content: curation. At one time it was sufficient to produce and distribute content exclusively to a company's own customers. Marketers would create their own blogs, podcasts, case studies, news stories, whitepapers, and so on.

But a few things have changed:

  1. Everyone is publishing volumes of content, which makes it hard for marketers to rise above the noise while continually producing fresh content.
  2. Customers are not looking at information from just one source—and especially not from just one company.
  3. Customers are increasingly consuming expert and community content as a part of the buy cycle.

In such an environment, content curation has emerged as a new and powerful way for marketers to sift through the flood of content available to customers.

Like the owners of high-end art galleries, marketers must sift through the information from across the Web and "curate" it to ensure that it is relevant to their customer. By doing so, marketers can cost-effectively advance online thought leadership and drive business through new and innovative customer interactions.

Two big concerns that marketers often have is that they must continually publish new content, and that their customers will be inundated with too much information. Content curation, however, allows for customers to receive a manageable amount of relevant content from trusted sources; and it encourages a brand or company to share outside content as well as its own in order to offer the most relevant and useful results for its client.

Ultimately, embracing content curation improves the channels of communication by making the information that's shared with relevant audiences more user-friendly.

Be Present, Be Relevant, Be Trusted

For smaller organizations that do not have the time or manpower to compete with larger companies that are producing new content, curation levels the playing field.

Regardless of size, however, companies cannot afford to be left out of the chatter when it comes to producing and publishing information that influence customers' purchasing decisions.

But with so many companies publishing and sharing content through channels, including blogs and newsletters, the Internet can feel like a high-pressure hose, drowning your customers with information.

Rather than trying to decipher what information is relevant and which of the information is from a reliable source, people are hungry for sites and social media curators that can filter content so it's manageable and relevant. And they ultimately view those sites as trusted resources.

Enter content curation, which is like a precision-engineered irrigation system: It delivers the content that matters most to your customers, when they need it, to help them growth their business.

The Art of Curation in Three Simple Steps

Just about anyone can master Content curation by following these steps:

1. Identify

The first step in content curation is identifying the information that is most relevant and valuable for customers. Research shows that people are more apt to click on a news article they agree with than one they disagree with: 58% of the time vs. 43%. Offering information that the target audience agrees with and is looking for will ensure they become frequent visitors of the company's content channels.

Some key questions to ask yourself when identifying relevant material:

  • On what topic do you want to be the go-to authority? Identify a critical and specific topic that your customers what to hear from you about every single day. Make sure that you can be a trusted and unique resource on this topic without having to compete with other online resources.
  • Who are the topic sources and influencers on this topic? Identify the key sources and influencers for your topic. You can then follow these outlets for their insights via email, Twitter, news feeds, or otherwise and selectively pick the best content for your curation strategy.
  • What can you leave out? The tendency is to want to include too much, which can overwhelm your audience and drown out your own message. As a curator, focus on the 5-10 most relevant articles, posts, and tweets daily.

2. Organize

The next step is to organize the information so that customers can easily consume that content. As you build a rich library of relevant content, the need to organize and structure that content will grow; therefore it's best to organize your content as an integral part of your curation practice.

A few aspects to consider when organizing your curated content:

  • How do I segment my content? All your customers may not be interested in all your curated content. If possible, you should categorize your content along the lines of your customer base. For example, if your technology is used both by cardiologists and by ophthalmologists, categorize your content accordingly so that your customers can easily get to the most relevant content quickly and directly.
  • Where should I archive this information? If you curate items every day, then in a year you will have several thousand pieces of content. As a curator, you should not lose this rich repository that you have built up. Give that content a home in public form—whether your corporate blog or a dedicated microsite. This repository can enhance your search visibility and your stature as a trusted resource.

3. Share

This is the easiest aspect of the curating role, because the information has already been selected and organized. To share effectively, you will need to think through the following:

  • How often should I share? Just as with a good friend, sharing needs to happen regularly. If you do not share content regularly enough, you will not be considered a reliable source for your key topic.
  • How should I share? You can share your content through a website or blog, social media channels, or email newsletters. Whatever you decide, consider your audience and how they consume content.

* * *

Content curation is a time-saving and cost-effective way to interact with current and would-be customers. Ultimately, it is a win-win for everyone: It allows customers to conveniently receive relevant industry content on a regular basis; at the same time, it enables marketers to easily produce and distribute fresh content and directly engage customers.

Ready to bridge the gap between leads and sales with an effective content marketing program? Join us for the 90-minute Pro seminar, Content Development in the Real World, and learn how to create better, more manageable content your audiences will actually care about and that will bring them closer to business. This seminar is free for MarketingProfs Pro Members (upgrade today to access all of our Pro-only resources).

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image of Pawan Deshpande

Pawan Deshpande is the founder and CEO of Curata, a leading provider of content marketing software. He is an accomplished entrepreneur, marketer, and technologist.

LinkedIn: Pawan Deshpande

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