Content is the oxygen of social media networks.
Great content is the fuel for valuable conversations and productive interactions between you and your followers. In a world of too much information, the simple act of finding and sharing great content that is relevant to your audience is among the best ways to express and differentiate your brand.
Content curation refers to the process of finding and sharing the best content on a particular subject. When done effectively, it is based on three key activities:
- Discovery of content
- Contexualizing or adding value to it
- Sharing it effectively
This article presents 19 practical suggestions for how to discover, contextualize and share great curated content. While I use specific examples of financial services content because I work in this area, the methods and tools are universally applicable to virtually any subject matter.
How to discover great content
Discovery of great content is the foundation of any curation strategy. You have to learn where to find topical material, then you have to pore through lots of it to find the gems. And this is perhaps the most important point: curation is a human skill that is honed through practice. The more content a curator sees, the more the curator is able to detect when something stands out from the rest.
Here are some tips for discovering great content (with specific examples in financial services):
1. Set Google Alerts to track topics
Set up alerts for search terms and have the results emailed to you daily. For instance, try monitoring for general terms like “personal finance” or more precise terms like “leveraged ETFs”. Try a lot of different keyword combinations and monitor to see which ones are the most fruitful for your objectives.
2. Use Google Reader to subscribe to RSS feeds
Virtually every blog, website and online publication offers the ability to subscribe via an RSS feed which is simply a machine-readable file in XML format. When you subscribe to an RSS feed in Google Reader you will see all the updated articles on the sites you have subscribed to. Some sites even let you subscribe to certain sub-topics so you don’t need to subscribe to everything Forbes.com publishes but can follow a few authors or topics.
3. Review the Alerts and Reader content on a regular basis
Focus on building your knowledge of the best sources of content in your specific areas of interest. The more time you spend reviewing content the more you start to see patterns in the information and can detect when truly novel or valuable information appears.
4. Curate people
Find people who consistently publish and share high-value information and regularly go to them for content. For instance, in curating content for savvy investors I regularly rely on Zack Miller (@newrulesinvest) for insights into financial servicescinnovations, Barry Ritholz (@ritholtz) for macro-economic analysis and Tadas Viskanta (@abnormalreturns) for just about everything. These and many others consistently post and share great content. Ritholtz even posts twice daily his AM and PM reading list for the train ride to and from his Wall Street office. These and other other high quality curators you discover can save you lots of time.
5. Follow the content creators
Follow leading bloggers, writers, columnists, analysts and publications in order to find great information. Virtually all of them will have Twitter accounts, so follow them and then keep an eye on your Twitter feed. Here are some reliable sources of high quality financial content from which to curate:
- Forbes.com produces great content, particularly on their Wall Street and Investing pages.
- New York Times is reliable and also offers the Dealbook and Economix blogs.
- Reuters Business/Finance page is the source of many great articles.
- Wall Street Journal is a treasure trove, particularly the Personal Finance page and SmartMoney.com and almost anything written by Jason Zweig.
- Globe and Mail offers its flagship Report on Business and Globe Investor, along with the personal finance work of Rob Carrick.
- Financial Post still cranks out good content, even with the departure of Jon Chevreau (tip: if you want to know who to follow in financial services on Twitter, check out Chevreau’s amazing list of lists).
- Financial Times has some excellent material, particularly the Personal Finance page.
- For alternative news and analysis, there are numerous blogs of which my go-to list includes: The Big Picture, Zero Hedge, Business Insider and a bunch of others on CNBC’s list of best alternative financial blogs.
- I’ve always loved Fast Company for entrepreneurial takes on key issues, including finance.
- Sometimes, I like to come at my subject matter sideways and Freakonomics is a great place to find content that keeps things interesting.
How to contextualize great content
This is arguably the most important aspect of the curation process. Sure, finding great content is important, but the real value is in putting your imprint on it and making it relevant to your audience.
Here are some things to consider:
6. Add value
Always try to add value to a conversation when you pass on great content. There is value in sharing in and of itself, but there are almost always opportunities to contextualize the information for your audience. Recognizing these opportunities demonstrates a certain understanding of your area of expertise.
Instead of sharing the automatically generated headline that is set in the share code, try replacing it with an outstanding quote from the piece itself. For instance, if you shared this article via the Twitter button on the page, it would say: “Gary Vaynerchuk explains why small-business owners need to stop debating social media and start using it.” Instead, why not use an actual quote from the article and share it like this:
People aren’t looking at billboards, says Gary V (bit.ly/LDxKio) they aren’t even looking at the freakin’ road anymore!
— Jay Palter (@jaypalter) May 24, 2012
And maybe it’s me, but sentences in title case, such as “This Is A Really Great Article That We Know You Will Enjoy”, just doesn’t look natural. It looks like you just clicked the Tweet button and added no value. Remember, markets are conversations. So, start one.
Comment on how you feel about the information you are sharing. Let people know you agree with it; for example, preface your retweet with “Right on” or “Ditto” or end the retweet with “You think?” in order to raise a doubt. Remember, your sharing is part of a conversation, so always be thinking about how you’re adding to it.
How to share great content effectively
Once you’ve discovered that amazing piece of content and cleverly titled your share, you’re ready to network it. Here’s what I suggest doing for best results:
9. Respect the differences between networks
Each of your social networks are made up of different people and each network has it’s own subtle etiquette and conventions. Be mindful of these differences when you’re posting your content to your networks and be careful of tools that blast out your content in the name of efficiency. HOW you share something can be as important as WHAT you share. Should you copy your Tweets to LinkedIn and Facebook? Personally, I don’t do this because I Tweet frequently and don’t want to annoy my LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends. Plus, the hashtags don’t transfer well. Yet, when people in my network copy their Tweets to LinkedIn or Facebook, I often find interesting Tweets that I missed when they were originally posted on Twitter, so it can be made to work.
10. Twitter sharing
Twitter is a superb distribution tool for curated content. It requires expertise in concise writing and a particular knack for headline writing to stay within the 140 character limit. Make sure to use link shorteners and keep your Tweets to 100-120 characters total so your followers can more easily retweet them. Incorporating #hashtags cleverly can help expand your audience and, in some cases, shorten your character usage. Avoid title case in your tweets and always personalize, customize and seek out ways to add value. And don’t forget to give credit where credit is due; cite authors or sources by using their Twitter handle in your Tweet.
11. LinkedIn sharing
LinkedIn also has a status update function and is an excellent channel for B2B curation strategies. Since there is no 140 character limit, LinkedIn allows you a greater opportunity to add some meaningful contextualization. But don’t write an essay here — a sentence or two will do. Remember, people are busy and will appreciate it more if you get to the point.
12. Google+ sharing
Google+ is actually a good place to write a paragraph or two if you really want to add some meaningful context to something you are sharing. Despite some debate about the relative importance of Google+ as a social network, it’s tie-in to Google’s search results makes it an important place to invest some of your curatorial time, in my opinion. If you want to share an article with a two paragraph intro framing it, try sharing on Google+ then tweeting a shortened URL pointing to the Google+ item. To display the Google+ post you want to share, click on its date/time stamp and copy the URL. Similar to Twitter, don’t forget to cite the Google+ accounts of authors or sources for your content when sharing.
13. Facebook sharing
Like LinkedIn and Google+, Facebook allows you to be more verbose when in sharing content. But avoid using Twitter hashtags on Facebook because they don’t work and may even confuse Facebook users not familiar with Twitter.
Start using curation power tools
As content volume grows, the need for better curation and new tools is growing. New content discovery and automated distribution tools are appearing faster than they can be assimilated. Here are some that I’ve used and found to be valuable:
This is one of my absolute favourite tools and one that I rely on daily. What makes Buffer so amazing is that you can cue your curated shares according to a customizable schedule. So, if I want my Tweets to be sent every 2 hours 24 hours a day, but only 4 times a day on weekend — I can do that. Buffer doesn’t find content for you, but it distributes it better than anything else I’ve found. And it works for LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. Google+ is coming soon. Buffer offers browser plugins so you can cue up shares right from websites you are reading, Tweets you want to retweet or from within Google Reader. Try Buffer — it will change your life. [Note: Sign-up for a Buffer account via these links and we both get extra space in our accounts!]
Admittedly, Pinterest is less of a “power tool” and more of a social network in its own right. It’s focus on images makes it a unique and powerful curation environment for many topics. The real challenge/opportunity here is to figure out how best to visualize your subject matter and start pinning.
A service that transforms your Twitter stream into a keyword-based web page, Twylah is a great way to present your curation in a more holistic form (eg., check out my Twylah page). Twylah “power tweets” create an automatic landing page for each Tweet. And if you’re into SEO, here is a very cool way to optimize your Twylah page and get Google to index your Tweets.
Available only as an iPhone or iPad app. Zite is an amazing content discovery engine that tracks what you like and don’t like and can help you discover content more efficiently. You can tweet directly from the app or save links to Evernote for distribution at another time. I use Zite on the iPhone along with the Buffer iPhone app.
In my experience with Scoop.it, I have found the content discovery aspects to be weaker than Zite, but it publishes a nice page summarizing all your shares that represents a great repository. And you can also share to Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook when you curate articles on Scoop.it.
For enterprise class curation, Curata offers a customizable platform for discovery, filtering and publishing of content. Curata can be used to create curated content streams that can be embedded within existing web architectures or to create portal sites for internal or external content consumption.
So, those are some of the tools and methods I’m using to curate, but I’m always interested to hear what others are doing. Please share your feedback and suggestions.