The Content Curation Challenge [Accepted!]

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the content curation challenge

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't automation

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!


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Content, Content Curation
Tags: content, content curation, content marketing
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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Great points Brooke. I see content curation as the recommended reading list for my peers and vice versa. There’s so much content to consume that I find it helpful to figure out what’s worth my time. When someone I respect curates an article, video, etc. that they find interesting it makes that decision easier and I try to do the same. It’s kinda like Oprah’s book club – she likes something, she let’s everyone know about it. You can read it or you can skip it, but it carries weight (no pun intended) because her opinion matters to her audience. I use curation as a way to inform my clients and colleagues of something I’ve found value in that I think they will too.

    • Thanks for adding your POV, Josh! I think many people who curate have similar sentiments. I also think what the WSS team was saying is that it’s fine and dandy to curate, but does it lead to ROI (or some sort of lead generation)? It didn’t for them. I, however, have seen some types of curation work firsthand for some of our clients and for my own biz, but have also seen it fail.

      I think the two main points are:
      1) We can’t say it does or doesn’t work for YOU — you have to figure that out yourself
      2) Sharing and curating don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Online behaviors tend to show sharing isn’t “thoughtful” while curating by definition is taking the time to share something that you’ve carefully chosen for your audiences.

  • I think making the distinction between a strategy and a tactic helps a lot. It sets the rules, as it were.

    Another somewhat random thought I had, was that if you’re afraid you’ll just be sending your audience to your competitors, maybe you haven’t specified your niche enough. I love your content most of the time, and I’m very happy to send people your way, also because we serve different audiences, but I like your approach, your focus on social instead of media, and your hatred of Meme Measles (I am glad I can use that improved pun a week later). I believe your services are over the heads of most of my customers, but they can absolutely learn from you.

    On the other hand, when I find something truly interesting on a website that competes for exactly the same customers (and because my brand isn’t that old, they can often leverage their accumulated resources and content better), I will choose not to share.

    If you dumb it down, it’s almost like I come here weekly to share the same message: much of the tactics (and even strategies) in social media can be bad, but a lot of time the problem is a bad execution, not a bad idea. I guess the reason I keep coming back in your wisdom in showing what a good execution is.

    • Thanks, Bas. Content curation is a sometimes-used tactic in our tool belt, and most definitely is NOT the strategy.

      That’s an interesting point you bring up about better defining your audience. Perhaps that is true. It’s much like me sharing our “deepest darkest secrets” (tips) here on our blog. I know that PLENTY of peeps will come along and use those ideas or have a DIY state of mind, but those aren’t my customers (and are not the people I’m targeting). Like you said, you feel comfortable sharing some of our info because though we’re in the same “market” doesn’t mean we’re selling to the same customer.

      I agree with you. I think there’s nothing wrong with content curation as an idea — but you can execute it poorly! And that’s my whole point to my friends over at WSS … just because something doesn’t work for you (or your clients, or me, etc.), doesn’t mean we can say 100% that it doesn’t work at all.

  • Avatar
    Cendrine Marrouat
    February 4, 2015 1:58 PM

    Hello Brooke,

    Fantastic article, thank you!

    You make some extremely valid points. I love the distinction between sharing without reading and curating. I think it makes a big difference and really explains what Carol Lynn was arguing about. She has an incomplete vision of curation, to me.

    Without curation, I would have never met you and Mallie. Mallie would have never shared Carol Lynn’s article, and I probably would not have seen it or responded it to it as fast as I did.

    I want to gather the views of great curators in an upcoming roundup. It won’t be about the definition of curation, but rather about what curation has brought to their professional lives. Stay tuned, I’ll contact you soon to contribute! 🙂

    • Thank YOU, Cendrine, for being the catalyst to spark such a wonderful conversation.

      Curation, as I mentioned in the post, has led to MANY MANY (unpaid and paid) opportunities for me and my business. I think it’s a tactic I’ll keep using. 🙂

      Cannot WAIT for your roundup. Would LOVE to participate!

  • […] Many people confuse sharing with content curation. […]


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