Usually communications pros that dabble in social media maintain a mixture of content creation and content curation in order to fulfill their overall strategy mix for their channels. It would be a dream come true for most comms pros to be paid to MAKE 100% of their focus on creating their own content, but in our experience when that happens the audience usually ends loathing the organization as they are basically screaming about how great they are, or initiating a call-to-action for sales or promotion of themselves, which on social media equates to an unfollow, block, unsubscribe or basically the opposite of what that organization THINKS they are achieving.
Over the course of the next few months we are urging companies to go “back to basics” for their content strategies, so we thought we’d chip in and offer up some best practices for content. First up, content curation best practices. In an effort to organize and streamline the bulk of content that a digital or social strategist would pour through on a daily basis, we have consulted with our comms friends which resulted in these 7 points for content curation:
- Plan out your content in a strategic manner. Use a calendar, spreadsheet, Word doc or whatever you need to properly organize yourself. There are a zillion great templates available on the Google machine free of charge – a quick search results in more pages than we care to mention. Most of our colleagues have looked up what others are using and then have created their own savvy hybrid of what’s out there in a combo Excel spreadsheet or Google calendar to manage that workload.
- Employ a deliberate mix of scheduled and impromptu content activities. One of our friends calls her mix the “rule of thirds” which she admits she stole from the photography industry. Here’s the analogy, if you put your organization in the middle of the picture all the time, you are missing the art of the mix. She draws from the community, the company and the culture of the industry at large then she is able to get people interested in a variety of things. This is particularly useful when you are charged with curating content for an industry that is either very technical or hyper specific.
- No set-it-and-forget-it activities. Be ready to talk about it, respond, refer and further educate your audience when they choose to engage with you. Automation is great, in small doses. A comm pro in a large agency told us that automation cannot be helped when you are dealing in volume-based social; however, you have to combat that by paying attention all the time and responding even to the most basic “like” or “share” with the same enthusiasm that you would a comment or a post. He stresses, the point is to be social, it’s the first word of the phrase after all.
- Content can come from anywhere; how you use it is important. Use videos and photos, links, text, mentions, tags, etc. to create an interesting combination of mediums for your public to play with. We know you think you are at the pinnacle of fascination, but it’s likely you are a few notches lower so mix it up with visual aids to get some more interaction. Always draw the connection for the audience. If you are enjoying the deliberate mix as we discussed above, and maybe you have a piece of content that might be a stretch or is close but not the same, just make the connection or as one of our friends says “use your words friends.” Just say it. You have plenty of room on most platforms and with the introduction of photo and video into your curated mix you have a lot of time to trap people and talk to them. In an isolated field, we are all seeking interaction. So chat it up.
- Vary the sources of content. While you will have your favorites, please mix it up. Heck, don’t be afraid to use a competitor’s blog or feed for inspiration, you may even find sharable content or a collaborative opportunity. No, this doesn’t mean your clients will jump ship and go to them, it shows you know and respect your competition. If you are scared to do this, then you probably have deeper problems within your company that you should address. Embrace your super stalker power and find out what is working for others. You don’t have to copy it, but you should respect it if they broke the code. Don’t reinvent the wheel, it’s okay to mimic, just don’t steal.
- When sharing or re-packaging content for your own, use proper attribution. That could be anything from an @ mention on Twitter to a backlink on a blog post, but be sure to give a proper hat tip where appropriate. Attribution can also be an opportunity to engage and connect with other people and organizations for even more serendipitous interactions (which lead to more content — a virtuous circle). Building community is an underutilized strategy on social media these days, get on the good karma train. Share for someone else, they will share for you.
- Repurpose your content, reuse it, and reduce your time spent. Social media is like a river. It’s flowing. Users dip their toes in every once in awhile and the data washes over them and moves on. Therefore, you have the opportunity to take great curated content (and likewise created content) and use it on more than one medium more than one time. You have to be smart about it though, you don’t want to alienate your fan base with 100 redundant tweets in a week. You can use the same link, just vary the intro to it. Mix it up! Use your brain and see if maybe it can interest additional audiences while you are at it. Avoid tunnel vision with this approach too. Win. Win.
Social media has come a long way and publics have become more sophisticated about their content needs. Proper curation can lead to great virtual relationships, better SEO, and a more engaged audience. No one wants to be shouted at anymore, they want inside voices and some attention. You should make it a priority to give your fan base the time they deserve, in turn your audience will reward you. It’s just like any other relationship. It takes time.