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In November last year, New York Times published a detailed spread on Maria Popova, editor and chief curator at BrainPickings.org, a daily blog that curates letters, images, inspiration ideas, and quotes from across the web (and sometimes, the library).

A month later, Forbes named Popova one of their ’30 Under 30’ in media. The verdict was clear: content curation was now mainstream, it’s champions brushing shoulders with literary stars and media magnates.

Content curation solves one of the biggest online problems today: discovery. There is an overwhelming amount of content online – nearly 690,000 pieces of content are shared on Facebook every minute.

Yet, the majority of content remains unseen and unshared. Automated discovery engines are only partially successful and lack the ‘human touch’ of editorial oversight.

Human powered content curation, on the other hand, can help audiences discover new content that fits their tastes and requirements – with editorial comments, thoughts and collocated ideas included.

What Is Content Curation And How Can it Help You Grow Your Business?

Content curation is simply the act of collecting high quality content and publishing it in easy digestible formats. Think of it as making a mixtape, albeit with some of your own music in between. Curators either publish entire blog posts/articles (with author permission, of course), or parts of several posts grouped under a larger heading.

The curated content may be high-brow (a la BrainPickings.org), or simply a collection of popular images/videos/posts from across the web (eg: BuzzFeed.com). The primary intention is to help the audience discover and consume a large quantity of content in the easiest possible format.

Essentially, a content curator acts as a go-between publishers and readers. Think of them as personal trainers who not only tell you what to eat, but also deliver the best foods right to your doorstep.

Publishers benefit from it as it gives their content an even larger audience. Consumers, meanwhile, get access to personalized content they wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Curators, of course, benefit by turning into virtual platforms with the capacity to moderate vast amounts of traffic.

Curation isn’t limited to content alone. Some of the fastest growing e-commerce companies in the world such as Fab.com and AHALife.com, follow a curation model wherein they sell hand-picked designer items. That Fab.com is currently valued at $1 billion goes to show the tremendous potential of the curation model.

Content Curation and Your Business

The obvious question now is: how can content curation help grow my business?

For starters, here are four reasons:

  1. Grow Your Traffic: Content curation websites attract vast amounts of traffic. BrainPickings alone accounts for over half a million monthly unique visitors and more than 150,000 newsletter subscribers. BuzzFeed, on the other hand, is the 125th most popular website in the United States (and 358th in the world).
  2. Create Content Faster: If you’ve ever dabbled in content marketing, you know how difficult it can be to create great content on a regular basis. With content curation, you only have to discover great content. Of course, that isn’t to say curation is easy, but it sure beats pumping out a dozen blog posts a week.
  3. Create a Brand Identity: By curating a specific type of content, you can reinforce and propagate your brand values. Take BuzzFeed and BrainPickings for example. BrainPickings consistently curates sophisticated, inspirational content pulled from the journals of writers like Hemingway and Hawthorne. BuzzFeed, on the other hand, is fun, ebullient and obsessed with pop-culture, which shows in the kind of posts it curates.
  4. Create a Community: As you start curating content of a particular type, you will eventually start attracting an audience that favors content of that type. Collect technical tutorials and opinion pieces, and you will attract hardcore programmers and geeks. Collect entrepreneurial advice and inspirational pieces, and you will attract startup founders and wantpreneurs. Collect memes and images culled from Reddit and 9Gag, and you will find pop-culture obsessives knocking on your doors. This audience will then start congregating on your website regularly, turning it into a platform to discuss, create, and innovate new ideas – one of the biggest reasons why you should start content curation right now!

The Principles Of Content Curation

Before you start your content curation website, there are a few things you must keep in mind:

1. Choose a Model: Hybrid or Curated

Hybrid: With a hybrid model, you curate content from across the web and publish your own original content side by side. This is the model followed by some of your favorite blogs such as Gawker and HuffingtonPost.

Both Gawker and HuffPo publish their own pieces, but also liberally quote and reference content created by others. The key advantages of a hybrid model is that it allows you to tell stories in your own words, while still benefiting from the traffic and community building features of content curation.

Curated: With a purely curated model, you only quote and reference content published elsewhere. This is the model followed by BrainPickings, BoingBoing and LaughingSquid which publish very few original pieces, if ever.

Since there is very little original content, it is crucial that you pick out only the best pieces for curation. Businesses on a budget can use a purely curated model to try their hand at content curation before evolving into a hybrid, curation + original content model.

2. Always Attribute Your Sources

There is only one cardinal rule of content curation: always attribute the original author. Failure to do so not only breaks the Curator’s Code, but can also lead to legal trouble.

3. Follow a Theme

You can’t curate cat pictures in the morning and PHP tutorials in the evening (unless your site caters to both cat lovers and programmers). No matter what curation model you follow, make sure that all your content has thematic cohesiveness.

Businesses should be especially careful about selecting content that fits in with their overall brand identity and message. If you’re selling web hosting, for instance, it’s a good idea to curate opinion pieces on technology and web hosting tutorials. Of course, you can always break the mold and throw in some cat pictures from time to time.

How to do Content Curation

1. Find a List of Sources

Before you can start your content curation blog, spend a couple of days scouring the web for sources of content. This is easier said than done; some of the best sources rarely show up on search engines and can be found only by following links on blogs. Some ways to find content sources are:

  • Social sharing websites like Reddit, Digg, Imgur and StumbleUpon
  • ‘Link surfing’ – that is, finding a blog/site you like, and following the trail of links in its sidebar.
  • Flickr search tools like Compfight.com
  • Chrome/Firefox extensions such as Pin Search, Mevoked and Tumbly.
  • Video discovery tools like Crackle.com and Redux.com.
  • Publishing platforms such as Tumblr.com and WordPress.com.
  • Social bookmarking tools like Delicious.com
  • Social Q&A websites such as Quora.com

2. Develop a Theme

Before you jumpstart your content curation campaign, take some time to think about your brand values and customers. Ask yourself: if you could broadcast your message all over the world, what would you say? What values do your customers cherish? What are their primary interests and hobbies? What kind of content would help their lives better? What kind of content would help change the way they view your brand?

Your aim should be to align your brand identity with your curated content. If you’re a technology company that cherishes its culture of innovation, try to share content that reinforces these values. If you design clothes for young college students, share content your customers would identify with – cats, cars and Kanye West, not stock picks and political news.

Also keep in mind the tone of your content and match it with your industry expectations. B2B enterprise technology companies are expected to be serious; sharing expletive ridden blog posts won’t probably help. Consumer facing social web startups, on the other hand, should strive to embody the values of the kind of users they want to attract – fun, social and outgoing.

3. Collect and Publish Content

The next step is to content collection. You would hopefully have a long list of sources by now. Check in with these sources (and keep finding new ones) every day and create a list of content pieces you want to share. It’s a good practice to group posts together by theme or idea (say, “Ten tools to create website mockups” and “Ten dieting myths you probably believe”). It’s also good idea to create lists – “Ten writing tips from Virginia Woolf” will probably get you more page views than “Virginia Woolf Writing Advice”.

You can also create a newsletter to supplement the traffic on your curated blog.

4. Analyze, Understand, Repeat

The final step in the content curation process is analysis. Keep close tabs on the how different pieces of content perform and use this knowledge to guide future curation efforts. After a few weeks, you will have a rough template of the kind of content that gets the most shares. Make sure that you put all efforts into curating more content of that kind.

Conclusion

Content curation is the perfect solution to the problem of over-creation and content discovery online. It is also a fantastic way for businesses to grow their audiences and create a vociferous community of readers. It benefits everyone involved – curators, publishers and readers.