You find yourself atop a vast social media empire. At your disposal are dozens of communications channels: Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Google+, tumblrs, Pinterest, Instagram, even a snapchat account for your brand- and project-level channels, as well as for your expert- and staff-level channels. And don't forget your blog(s), website(s), newsletters and email lists. You've got to feed a lot of content into that beast. Not just any content. Good content. You need to feed it content that advances your mission.
If your organization produces content, you have to curate it. Just as an art museum curator determines where to hang the art, what art to hang around it and how to light it all, a content curator must also arrange the content across those many channels, pairing it with the right hashtags to shine a light on it, giving it a catchy caption for more context or adding a pithy pull quote. But unlike art, each piece of content can be "hung" on an infinite number of channels, simultaneously. And we can make many shorter, more visual, tasty, snackable derivatives of any original piece of content.
If your organization produces enough of original content to fill all your channels, that is great. If you have enough original content to fill all your channels strategically--in other words, you can be picky about what you share--that's even better. If you have too much original content to wrap your head around, you really need a curation strategy and process. If you don't have enough original content, you have to get it elsewhere. Even if you have enough original content, a little external content can help you round out your strategic message across all your channels.
In the almost certain likelihood that you will need to share others' content to feed your beast a good diet, full of strategy and tactics, your curator becomes the lynchpin of your communications. Just look at sites like Upworthy.com and Twitchy.com to see that curation-only websites are content distribution monsters; so much so that these staff teams are laden with curators.
The secret sauce is to package the content you are sharing (yours or others) in a way that intrigues people, encourages them to share and carries your message forward in the process. You've got to write a catchy caption for that picture, a compelling call to action for that legislative story, and a persuasive fundraising appeal for that disaster. And you've got to write a version of each of these messages for each channel you want to use; a tweet, a wall post, a +1, a tumbl, a dig, a comment, a blog post, an email... and it goes on. Then you have measure performance of messages on each channel and tweak your posts to optimize.
We all need a system that makes it easier for curators to do their job, that allows them to increase their capacity or reduce hours spent curating. For these reasons, I've been working on processes, cataloguing tools and even building out systems with my colleagues that will help content curation handle the explosion of our channels' demands. In the end, we cannot lose sight of our content strategy goals and the tactics we use to achieve them.
Social Advocacy & Politics is a weekly, exclusive column for Social Media Today by Alan Rosenblatt that explores the intersection of politics and social media. Look for the next installment next Tuesday morning.