If you’re marketing your brand or site on just two social media networks, and you’re publishing just once a day, Monday through Friday, on each network, you’ll need forty pieces of content each month. When you’re facing a need for content at these levels, you essentially have three options.

Come up with enough of your own unique material and risk wearing yourself out (or exhausting your financial resources with outsourcing), repeat-share your own content and risk turning off your audience or curate other people’s content. As shown in Curata’s Content Marketing Pyramid, content curation helps you do more with your precious resources:

Content Marketing Pyramid
Image Source: Curata.com

If curation makes most sense for your brand, this article is for you. We’ll help you find and share the kind of content your audience finds valuable, while still serving your brand’s interests:

What is content curation?

Content curation is the process of sifting through other brands’ content, finding the best pieces out of that larger pile, then sharing it with your own audience — or, as Buffer defines it:

Definition Content Curation

Note that curation isn’t the same as aggregation, which has no added thoughtfulness or creativity. Think about museum exhibit curators, who take a thoughtful, strategic approach to their work, based on what the curator finds compelling and worthwhile. With social media curation, there’s an added purpose: to provide content your audience will find valuable. Content curation can yield a number of benefits, as shown in the infographic excerpt below:

Why Content Curation
Image Source: Uberflip.com

In addition, curation can help you build better relationships with other experts and thought leaders in your niche and enhance your perceived aura of expertise and trustworthiness.

Curate great content in 6 simple steps

Content curation stepsSource: PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay.com
Image Source: PublicDomainPictures – Pixabay.com / License: CC0 Public Domain

Now let’s walk through the process of creating your own content curation system for social media marketing. A curation system should include the following:

  • Finding, collecting and storing the underlying content.
  • Re-finding or locating content when you’re ready to share.
  • Using the right tools to save time and automate where it’s wise to do so.
  • Adding value and appropriate attribution.

It starts with one crucial question: What does your audience actually want?

  1. Know your audience (segments) and your goals
  2. Identify your sources
  3. Pick the right tools
  4. Decide on a schedule
  5. Find the right mix of content
  6. Curate with added value and attribution

1. Know your audience (segments) and your goals

Image Source: Clker-Free-Vector-Images – Pixabay.com / License: CC0 Public Domain

User personas personalize various segments or groups of your overall audience, so you can address their varying needs and desires in a more specific, targeted way.

Creating user personas doesn’t have to be terribly complex or expensive. As long as you have a sketch of each type of user you’re trying to reach — their fears, needs, and goals, as well as basic demographic information — you’ll be able to find the content that user will find valuable.

You’ll also need to identify your goals for your overall social media strategy, whether that’s increased traffic to your site, more followers, or improving a specific conversion rate.

2. Identify your sources

SearchSource: wiggijo / Pixabay.com
Image Source: wiggijo – Pixabay.com / License: CC0 Public Domain

One way to save time and effort in content curation is to curate an ongoing list of trustworthy sources — your “go-to” sources for shareable content. Look for a nexus between their content and your audience. Sometimes that’s what’s of interest to you, but that shouldn’t be your criteria. Instead, keep the focus on your user personas. What do they need, want, fear, value, and expect?

You can use Buzzsumo, Ninja Outreach or other aggregation tools to identify the most shared content for specific keywords. Collect those source URLs in some way. For example, you can use organized bookmark folders, Evernote, Feedly, or even a Word or Google document. The key is to put them into some format that makes it easier for you to work with them at a later date.

3. Pick the right tools

Image Source: ullajj – Pixabay.com / License: CC0 Public Domain

Tools and technology can be lifesavers for busy marketers. Use a social media publishing tool that integrates with all your accounts to save time. For example, Feedly can help you find content, whereas Pocket can help you organize and save that content. Or Evernote together with its Chrome browser clipping tool can work for both steps. Then you can tie an IFTTT recipe to your social accounts to create an automatic record of what you share.

Automation can help save you loads of valuable time. But some aspects of social media marketing actually suffer when automated. For example, don’t automatically retweet or share those items on your account without first reading the content yourself and making a thoughtful, strategic decision about whether to include it in your curation efforts. Otherwise you might share something that actually damages your brand.

4. Decide on a schedule

Define schedule
Image Source: StartupStockPhotos – Pixabay.com / License: CC0 Public Domain

How much content should you curate, and when should you post on social media? These are complicated questions that don’t necessarily have a single “best answer” as it always depends. For example, Hootsuite advises following the “rule of thirds”:

Content Curation Rules
Image Source: Hootsuite.com

But your best bet might look drastically different — say, 80/10/10. The mix of posting types will impact how much content you need to aggregate first before curating, based on your scheduling and frequency. Likewise, the best times and frequencies for social media posts vary from site to site, from niche to niche, and even from brand to brand in the same niche.

The only way to know for sure is to start with industry-recommended averages, if you can find them, or generalized data if you can’t. Then adjust accordingly as you analyze your results.

5. Find the right mix of content

Mix content
Image Source: senjinpojskic – Pixabay.com / License: CC0 Public Domain

Always run each underlying piece of content and your added value through the user persona filter. Get in the habit of asking “Would this appeal to my core audience? Would they find value in it?” before curating any piece, no matter what format it may take.

Speaking of format, mix it up a bit. No one wants to see a Twitter feed full of nothing but headlines and short URLs. Include direct questions, add your own thoughts, and tell (good, relevant) stories. Don’t forget to use striking visuals in your curated content. Eye-catching graphics, images, and other visual elements add interest and help convey meaning.

6. Curate with added value and attribution

Business Ethics
Image Source: Maialisa – Pixabay.com / License: CC0 Public Domain

Share content ethically by adding two things:

  1. Added value: You’ve added your own thoughts, ideas, and unique perspective; and
  2. Attribution: You’ve linked back to the original source and credited the creator appropriately.

These simple, common-sense rules will help you avoid seeming as if you’re simply scraping content from that source, which could open you up to copyright and other legal challenges.

Conclusion: Content curation for social media

Once you’ve established your curation toolbox, document the workflow steps that make the most sense to you, based on your goals, your toolset, and your schedule. This will help you pinpoint any gaps that need to be filled or duplicative effort you can trim down. It’ll also help you cement the system mentally and save even more time.

Finally, measure your results and revise your approach accordingly to keep making steady progress towards your goals. What’s your favorite content curation tip? Or do you have any other suggestions for content curation? Share it in the comments section below.

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