Anyone who aims to drive a successful social media marketing effort will need to get comfortable with content curation. Content has become the glue that holds the whole social marketing process together.
It is not enough to write and promote your own content. To establish expertise in your field, you need to read, understand, filter, and share good materials from other smart likeminded people or companies. This is the whole premise behind content curation.
It is easy to get online, set up some social profiles, and start sharing to your heart's content. But like anything, there's a right and a wrong way to curate content.
Below are nine tips to keep in mind if you want to succeed at content curation. If you want to build a network of loyal friends and followers, do your best to follow along with all nine of these ideas. Over time, doing it the right way will work if you stick to it.
1. Know Your Target Audience
Anyone who has worked with me on website and content strategy will tell you that I am a huge proponent of identifying buyer personas early in the process. The rationale behind that position is simple - how can you engage an audience if you have no idea who they are up front?
There are many ways to figure out who your target audience is. If you lack budget, it's okay to make a guess and testing to see if your gut was correct. You can adjust as you go.
If you have bigger budgets and more resources, you can go a few steps further by way of market research. You have options - either by using standard existing reports by research firms or by fielding your own surveys and primary research studies.
In most cases, you built your product or service to meet a specific need. The need naturally suggests whom the target audience is, so I always recommend starting out with a "best guess."
Once you define the "who," you can more easily identify the "what" (i.e. topics of interest to the audience). Content curation is meant to serve a specific audience, and you may or may not be a member of that target segment. Be sure to share for them, and not just based on what you like.
2. Be Consistent
To succeed at content curation, it's important to become a resource for your target audience. There are wide ranging opinions about how frequent you should be pushing out content, but frequency can vary. They key is to be consistent - you don't want to burst out a ton of links at one time each day or week and then vanish from the social web the rest of the time.
Users are online at different times, and it is important to spread out your curation over hours and days. It is also important that you keep a steady flow of good materials coming, lest your followers possibly lose interest and stop paying attention. If you want to be a content curation resource, plan to stick with it and make it a priority.
3. Use Content Curation Tools for Efficiency
Obviously, life and work will require you to be away from the computer at certain times. You can't be tethered to a device 24×7. But you need to spread out sharing over days and hours.
This is where content curation tools come into play. There are many tools available that provide scheduling features for your content curation efforts. At the entry level is HootSuite, which is free for up to five social profiles and a darn good tool (I use it all the time). Or you can go for a solution that offers more premium capabilities like Buffer or SocialOomph, both of which come with a wider range of features for managing and measuring your social presence in addition to the basic, free feaure set.
If you want to review some other options, check out the top 10 tools for managing your social presence here.
4. Stay On Theme
Although it is okay to take a few liberties with content curation so long as it suits your target audience, it is important to maintain a theme. The theme should naturally dovetail with your product or service offering in some way.
For example, my company specializes in SEO, SEM, Content Marketing, and Social Media Strategy. If you observe how we curate content on Twitter, you will see a heavy focus on these topics and similar subject matter. Given our heavy focus on the SMB space, we also touch on topics such as entrepreneurship, business processes, and marketing as a whole. But we spend the bulk of our time reinforcing the strategies that we are best qualified to help build and execute. And it works very well for us.
5. Be Selective
Not all content can be great content, so it matters to filter for only the best and most on-point materials. I see some companies simply automating tweets and shares from specific web properties.
Efficiency matters, which is why we have content curation tools in the first place. But content curation and automation are completely different strategies. Successful curators take the time to personally review and evaluate the content items before sharing them. There's no way to automate selectivity with content, and you need to share only the most insightful or inspiring materials to become a trusted resource for your target audience.
6. Promote A Wide Variety of Sites
If you want your audience to stay engaged and interested, you will need to mix up the sources of content when sharing it. This is part of the issue with automating content sharing - if you pick 2-3 sites and simply share everything they post, why should anyone follow you?
As soon as they realize you're just sharing a couple of sites, most people will go to those websites directly for the content. It's very easy to just follow them on social and get it directly, subscribe to the RSS feed, or join the mailing list.
But when you share remarkable and interesting content from a wide range of sites, your effort becomes follow-worthy. I will share good content from any reputable website. But I filter heavily for quality, and it works very well.
7. Don't Just Share Big Media Content
In the spirit of promoting a wide variety of sites, make sure that you aren't over focusing on websites that everyone already knows. If you look at the top sites shared, you will see that Upworthy, Mashable, The Huffington Post, and other huge media names are already being shared widely with or without your help.
On the other hand, there are thousands of great but less well-known blogs and news sites out there looking for exposure. In my early days of blogging, I was on "Cloud 9″ when anyone was gracious enough to read and share my content. While I remain very thankful for any support I receive today, it was groundbreaking for me back then.
In the same way, I always love to share great content from sources that are not already peppered all over the social web. It's fine to share from the big names, but mix it in with links from websites that your target audience may be excited to find. This type of discovery is one of the biggest benefits you can offer your audience during your content curation efforts.
8. Spark Discussions
When you curate content, do you just share it or also add commentary? Content curation can serve a stellar role as a conversation starter. Some of the best content curators I've seen in action do this very well - they always state why a piece of content is interesting, and add some of their own opinion or context. They often float out a question to get you thinking and engaged.
If time is limited, it's fine to merely share the materials and move on. But at least some of the time, take a few seconds to comment on why you think a piece of content is especially of note. I've found that it increases CTR and raises the likelihood that someone will engage with you in a follow up discussion. It also raises the odds that they will share forward, which can in turn help increase your exposure even more via their followers and friends.
9. Add Value
When curating content, always ask yourself, "How am I helping my followers by promoting this piece of content to them?" It's most important to add value.
Some examples of adding value include:
- Helping them fix a problem
- Educating them on a topic or issue
- Sharing unique data or research that is not readily available elsewhere
- Telling a story with a lesson
- Entertaining or inspiring the reader
- Making them aware of an event or breaking news item
The list could go on much longer, but these few examples should be a great place to start. If you use these criteria to evaluate whether a content item is worthy of your curation, you will be off on the right foot.
Content curation is the key to successfully marketing yourself on social media. Instead of blindly sharing content or automating the process, put in the time and effort to build out the right content and processes. Hopefully these nine tips help you build your presence successfully and quickly from day one.
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