Content Curation has been hijacked and has been sold as a cheap and easy solution for content marketers plagued by the growing problem of how to produce more quality content within tighter and tighter time constraints.
Photo credit: Red female shoes by Shutterstock
But, just like the fact that you can't really build a world athlete by starting with the food complements, amino-acids, special shoes or the sunglasses, you can't build world-class content, become the go-to-person or organization in a specific niche, or be recognized as a little authority in your field if you have forgotten what sport competition you are into.
For organizations and individuals publishing content online, the sport competition they are in is the one of helping their readers solve a problem they have: by informing, educating or entertaining your audience, you support and guide them to learn, discover and master the topic, issue or problem they are after. Educating and informing them effectively is your marketing strategy.
In other words, what you really are in the business of doing is to make sense, explain, illustrate and point to information that can help them effectively resolve their issue and to realize their goals.
To do this in effective way you need not ever forget what these people are looking for and what they really expect from anyone providing them with an answer, or you risk to be singing and applauding your song all by yourself.
That's why I wrote this article.
Content Curation Is Not a Marketing TechniqueThe purpose of this article is indeed one of helping those truly interested in creating value (by making sense, illustrating, contextualizing and explaining what they discover and find, within a certain area of interest, to anyone searching for greater depth and info on that specific topic) to realize their goal by becoming more aware of the differences that distinguish a truly curatorial approach from a purely content-marketing driven one. To achieve this I have decided to highlight what I personally see as being the traits, method and approach that characterize and define a genuine curatorial approach, in contrast with those borrowing a sub-set of content curation techniques to their publishing strategy with the expectation of gaining greater visibility, following and reputation. Yes, what I am attempting to claim is, that like SEO is not a content strategy, content curation is not a content marketing technique. Those who fail to understand this difference are bound to be proven wrong by history itself. In fact, the big risk for those who do not understand this crucial point, is that by buying into a vision that prizes immediate and superficial visibility, time-savings and increased quantity over in-depth research, vetting, painstakingly detailed curation and a cult of ethics, their credibility and reputation will not likely be able to withstand any serious competitor eventually adopting these traits. In fact, the content curator, as I see him, can't be a skilled editor or a classic journalist as we know him today. The true, value-adding content curator is rather a subject-matter expert researcher, evaluator and reporter, capable of distilling, illustrating and contextualizing existing relevant information and artifacts in a specific field of interest and for a specific objective/application/need.
Content Curator vs. Content Marketer: Characterizing TraitsWhat differentiates the content curator from the content marketer are a number of very distinctive traits and a few starkly different objectives.
The content curator characterizing traits:
- Is not after quantity. Quality is his key measure.
- Does not ever curate something without having thoroughly looked at it, multiple times.
- Always provides insight as to why something is relevant and where the item fits in its larger collection (stream, catalog, list, etc.)
- Adds personal evaluation, judgment, critique or praise.
- Integrates a personal touch, in the way it presents the curated object.
- Provides useful information about other related, connected or similar objects of interest.
- Credits and thanks anyone who has helped in the discovery, identification and analysis of any curated item and links relevant names of people present in the content.
- Does not ever republish content "as is" without adding extra value to it.
- Does not curate, select, personalize or republish his own content in an automated way.
- Discloses bias, affiliation and other otherwise non self-evident contextual clues.
The content marketer characterizing traits:
- Is after quantity. "The more content published, the better", is his mantra.
- Curates, republishes and retweets content without having fully read it.
- Reposts, shares without providing or adding any insight.
- Adds no evaluation, judgment or personal critique.
- Provides no personalization.
- Does not include additional useful info, references and links.
- Does not add credit or attribution.
- Republishes content "as is".
- Uses automation tools heavily.
- Does not disclose bias, prejudice, affiliation and partnerships that may influence his writing.
Content Curator vs. Content Marketer: Key Differences in ObjectivesThe content curator objectives:
- To add new pieces of valuable information to the infinite puzzle he is trying to solve.
- To find, discover and report about new helpful tools, resources and ideas that hold value for his community.
- To curate something that he is personally very passionate about.
- To uncover, locate and identify extra details and not-easy-to-find info about the object / topic being curated
- To vet and to verify accurately any story or info before including it.
- To identify the best, what counts, not just the latest and the breaking.
- To help, inform others discover and learn about valuable stuff. Driven by personal interest and curiosity.
- To be a new kind of journalist who focuses exclusively on areas that he is strongly competent with, and discloses prejudices, relationships, interests and personal bias in order to tell a much more personal and engaging story. Credibility is more important than objectivity.
- To learn new things (in his area of interest) and to share and illustrate them in the simplest and clearest way to others.
- To make sense of the world he lives in by curating and exploring in a sustained fashion, one or more specific areas of interest.
The content marketer objectives:
- To have more content ready to be published.
- To rapidly create content that is viral, that gets lots of likes.
- To write something on the topic he's identified or that has been assigned to him.
- To make the story glamorous, unheard of, and to spectacularize it.
- To select and publish online by using as a criteria what will drive most traffic.
- To bring you the latest, the breaking, the "yet-unheard-of".
- To get more traffic. Driven by hunger for numbers.
- To make more money.
- To outrun others by doing more.
- To save time, produce more content and to obtain more results with less effort.
Risks and ConsequencesThe mixing up and confusing content marketing with content curation presents lots of risks for publishers who take on "content curation" as a "technique" to achieve greater visibility, authority and reputation, while spending less time and resources in creating valuable content. The key risk is that by realizing too late the differences between true content curation and content marketing that utilizes content curation techniques, content marketers may actually be digging a reputation grave for themselves while inebriated by the superficial traffic and visibility gains that adopting this strategy may initially afford them. The problem is in fact much more tangible over the long term, when the extra traffic and visibility afforded by adopting light content curation techniques gently starts to fade away as quality readers start to discover how little vetting, adding value and insight is provided and silently move on to other, higher quality sources. As a matter of fact, content marketers in general, are unconsciously doing a gigantic unorchestrated favour to content curators by polluting the web with so much content that has little or no value, that those who are willing to put the extra time and attention into it, are going to be much more easily recognized from the rest.
ConclusionsYou can't "adopt" content curation techniques to obtain the long-term positive consequences that great curators enjoy, unless you fully embrace also their peculiar objectives and attitudes. Using content curation techniques as an add-on or as a quick solution to the need of producing high quality content can only provide short-lived results, as there will be sooner or later someone taking seriously the information needs of your niche, and who will start to curate it in a professional fashion. In addition, the untold risk and negative consequence of jumping on the content curation train by adopting too many of the content marketers traits and too few of the content curator ones, is the unheralded loss of trust, reputation and credibility that anyone republishing other's people content without adding true value will inevitably suffer. Using content curation to save time and to post more quality content with a smaller effort leads to producing shallow content that offers the perfect ground, for those truly passionate in that topic to jump in and establish themselves as the new trusted points of reference. For these reasons, the only strategy that makes deep sense when it comes to integrating content curation in an online publishing strategy, is the one of taking this path not for the promised benefits of time-savings and reduced efforts, but because it is only by creating real value that deep trust, credibility and lasting relationships can be built. See also: Content Curation Guide
Originally written and curated by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia on Tuesday 18th March 2014 as Content Curation Is Not Content Marketing/.
Photo credits: Content Curation Is Not a Marketing Technique - Road sign "No Entry" by Shutterstock Content Curator vs. Content Marketer: Characterizing Traits - Women in struggle by Shutterstock Content Curator vs. Content Marketer: Key Differences in Objectives - Men arm wrestling by Shutterstock Risks and Consequences - Danger road sign by Shutterstock