How should I use content curation in my content marketing strategy?
This is a question we began hearing at Content Marketing Institute (CMI) five years ago, as content marketing started to get traction as a process within businesses. To this day, the term “content curation” continues to promote debate — even among content curation companies themselves.
What is content curation?
In our second, and newest, Content Marketing Technology Landscape Report, Content Curation & Conversation Tools, we spoke with a dozen content curation companies. After gathering their input, we’ve cooked up our own point of view on how curating content feeds the content marketing approach. In short: content curation is a means by which we either supplement or promote our brand’s point of view to our specific audiences within the context of how the “world” is talking about that particular topic. We see it as a spectrum of activities that evolve from one point to the next:
- Simple aggregation and collection of content (with or without a distinct point of view)
- Active curation and promotion of a point of view using that collection as a source
- Aggregation and curation of user-generated content and social conversation around reported events or news in order to build an engaged community
- Active real-time coverage of events and “newsroom” coverage of events around trending topics
The benefits of curation
If you want to use curation but are not sure how it could fit into your content marketing strategy, consider these four business benefits. These observations come from our consultations with more than 70 Fortune 1000 companies on the process of content marketing. We have found that the enterprises that are successfully using content curation as a marketing strategy are, in most cases, deploying solutions that focus on one or more of these four business benefits:
- “Taming the firehose of content”
Many content marketers still struggle with “feeding the beast” of content (although, we’d argue, the beast should go on a diet in many instances) and look to content aggregation tools to help them filter — and provide topical relevance to — content they may want to deploy for any of the approaches mentioned above. Additionally, some brands now need to curate their own content — i.e., the content they are producing in-house. This is a problem that will only grow, as brands start to produce more and more content across different channels. With the use of multiple web content management systems (WCMS), blogging tools, social media content, etc., becoming the status quo in managing content marketing, the need for multiple departments to curate content across a large enterprise is a huge challenge that content curation tools can help solve.
- Faster, more agile content marketing
With regard to real-time conversation with consumers, any tool that helps a brand monitor and aggregate what’s going on in its industry can be beneficial to the content marketing team. For the members of that team, understanding what’s “hot” and “trending” can mean the difference between a successful approach and one that’s constantly operating behind the curve. Beyond social listening tools, content curation and aggregation tools (especially those that also pull in conversations) can help a brand be “in tune” with what’s happening in real time.
- Adding points of view and distinct experiences
Producing original content certainly can be part of the curation process — and adding distinct points of view to curated content can be a huge benefit to the content marketing strategy. This is especially appropriate when a brand may want to “bundle” three, four, 12, etc., articles in a package and then, perhaps, write a short post contextualizing these articles with an opinion. Or, the brand may want to provide a complete “event” as a bundle and package it as a microsite.
Many content curation tools approach the curation idea from this perspective — where the content marketer has not only the capability to aggregate the content in a “portal” type of interface, but also to organize and add new content, and package it all in a way that may create an entirely new type of experience. This might include publishing microsites, adding bundles into email newsletters, or simply adding to existing social or web content channels.
- Empowering and engaging target audiences
Jeff Ernst, Vice President of Marketing at Forrester Research, has been quoted as saying, “Consumers don’t buy your product or service, they buy your approach to solving their problem.” This is certainly a core tenet of content marketing, and the idea of giving audiences both the incentive and the power to aggregate around a branded approach to a particular topic is an attractive one. For example, some content curation tools enable brands to create live online events, where they can aggregate influencers, resources, and audiences — all of which can interact and share with one another. These types of tools leverage the power of consumers to act as journalists for the brand at events, which helps feed the aforementioned “content beast.” Options here also include gamification, which is another strategy to promote further engagement with a brand. Similarly, other tools are enabling brands to create centralized online destinations where consumers can gather and interact with the brand in order to “unlock” some benefit (e.g., a discount or extra feature).
Finally, marketers with consumer product companies also can look to content aggregation tools to help them curate the overwhelming amount of content that may be appearing from users all over the web as part of their experience with the brand. For example, marketers can create “product walls,” where pictures, video, and other user-generated content is gathered around a particular product, sourced from every channel imaginable.
Evaluating content curation solutions
The content curation space has extraordinary diversity in differentiating technology. While some are, quite literally, just using basic web searches to aggregate content based on themes, other solutions have incredibly sophisticated semantic and indexing technologies that could ultimately provide true differentiating value to the business — or an acquiring company.
Additionally, these companies tend to take varied and niche approaches to their solutions. Some are purely focused on aggregating thematic content in some kind of easy-to-use interface for teams to more efficiently manage a process (e.g., “taming the firehose”). Others are providing everything from the ability to set up promotions and contests across social channels to managing content in mini “content management” systems, and even creating microsites, in some cases.
As such, it’s difficult to get an apples-to-apples comparison in this space. Content marketers looking to add curation and conversation management to their approach will do well to truly understand what they are trying to achieve before going shopping. Certainly, the “shiny object syndrome” holds true here. As many of these vendors do vastly different things, it is easy for a buyer to be distracted by the first “sexy” demo and then (unfortunately) compare every subsequent demonstration to the shiny object that captured their initial attention.
Thus, we recommend developing (either internally or through consultation) a more thorough evaluation of the benefits a curation and conversation management process should achieve for your business. Then, consider the vendors that can solve that particular process most effectively. Based on the four key benefits above, here are some questions you may want to ask:
- What sources can the tool curate content from? RSS feeds? Twitter? LinkedIn? Facebook?
- How can the tool help me filter the best info?
- Can it curate content that’s created in-house across different channels?
- Can it help me understand what is “hot” and “trending”? (Side benefit: Even if you do not publish this content, it can help with editorial planning.)
- Does it allow me to add my own point of view to the content I’ve curated?
- Can I “bundle” several articles that I can use as the basis for a post?
- Can I create a microsite from curated content?
- Can I use the curated content to produce an email newsletter?
- Can I use the tool to create a live online event?
- Can I create a centralized online destination or “hub,” similar to a community, where consumers can gather and interact with my brand?
- Can I use the platform for gamification or in other ways to promote engagement — for example, to encourage consumers to “play along” in order to unlock some type of benefit (e.g., a discount or extra feature)?
From a marketplace standpoint, this space is moving extraordinarily quickly. We expect that, within the next year (very much like the content collaboration space), most of these vendors will have been more fully funded by venture capital, or that one or more of the “large” enterprises focused on the full marketing stack (e.g., Oracle, Adobe, Microsoft, or Salesforce.com) will acquire one or more of these solutions.
The space is moving quickly from the technology buyers’ perspective, as well. As internal teams begin to de-silo within organizations, and as content becomes more central to the marketing approach, we expect there to be opportunity for the space to consolidate quickly. Web content management and marketing automation solutions may potentially become an optimal sweet spot for this aspect of the process (as illustrated by LiveFyre’s September 2013 acquisition of Storify).
One thing is certain: Many of these companies are doing very interesting and powerful things when it comes to some of the most fundamental concepts around content. These technologies are searching, indexing, categorizing, analyzing, and optimizing huge amounts of content — this is no small task, and these teams are bright and eager.
If you are using content curation or thinking about implementing this strategy, I encourage you to download our latest technology report, Content Curation & Conversation Tools, which covers the following technology solutions:
- Atomic Reach
- Mass Relevance
Access is still available for our first report from this Content Marketing Landscape Report series, Content Collaboration Tools.