Content Curating Yourself Into Oblivion: Why Most Brands Suck at Content Curation

Content curation is not the be all and end all that curation “experts” want you to think it is. It isn’t going to save your content marketing efforts; it’s not going to build strong thought leadership; and it’s not going to immediately get you 500 new customers. So can we all stop drinking the Kool Aid?

Sorry for the rant, but if I see another content curation platform extol the wonderful benefits of rehashing other people’s shit, I’m going to throw up.

Why You Hating on Curation?

Before I jump in to everything that’s wrong with this massive curation craze, let me preface this by saying that sharing other people’s content is not always inherently terrible. In fact, if you agree with something someone else is saying and you think your audience would benefit from reading it, by all means, share til your heart’s content. BUT (and make sure you follow this tip), don’t ever share something without throwing in your two cents on the matter along with it.

Now, I’m not hating on all types of curation. When galleries do it, it’s great. I can see a range of styles and artists varying by period or aesthetic. When retail stores do it, I get access to a bunch of different brands and types of clothing without having to go to twenty different locations. But when brands do it, I wonder why they aren’t creating their own content. Why are they constantly rehashing other people’s (and oftentimes, competitor’s) thoughts and ideas. Do they have no opinions of their own?

Cheapening Your Brand’s Voice

Your customers and leads look to you to provide them with information about your services, your products, and your industry.

The other big issue that mass curation creates is a problem that Doug Kessler of UK content marketing firm, Velocity Partners, calls “the deluge of content marketing“. This means that companies and individual who create half-assed content (think: rehashing old news or someone else’s original idea just to have something to post) creates a mass of garbage online that’s more difficult for potential customers and clients to sift through to find information that’s actually going to be useful for them.

Side Note: See what I did in that last paragraph? That’s what good content creation should look like.

Do you want to turn consumers away from searching for the answers to their problems online? I don’t. Otherwise, I won’t be in business.

What is Content Curation? (or More Aptly, What Should Content Curation Be?)

Pay attention, because this is important. Every brand is going to use content at some point in time that isn’t original. And that’s not a bad thing. BUT there’s a way to do it correctly and help your brand further its content marketing goals.

Content curation should be about culling pieces of content that 1) help educate or inform your audience to help further your own business goals; and 2) bring your readers back to points that you’ve already made. The best type of content curation actually strengthens your core selling points.

So What’s the Answer?

Moderation. And paying more attention to what you actually curate. I know I’m going to get a lot of shit from content curation platforms for this, but there aren’t any software solutions that I’ve seen that actually do a smart job of curating content. Yeah, you can pull in a bunch of content that revolves around a certain keyword (and I do that easily every day with Google Alerts, but I digress), but curating content in a smart way that will actually help drive your business goals takes putting in actual time and effort to find really great, really useful content that is going to fit in with your original content seamlessly, without distracting your readers and pushing them to another company’s solutions.

And for the love of god, don’t just rehash everything that’s being published in your industry without creating any original content of your own. That’s a worse strategy than having no content at all.

Should I Avoid Content Curation Platforms?

To be fair to content curation software, it can be useful to find interesting and relevant content. And if you’re using it as a research gathering tool, then great. But I don’t think a lot of brands really understand how to best utilize these types of platforms and that’s where the problems arise. Copying and pasting from multiple articles isn’t going to help you create useful content that’s going to help build your brand or sell your services. Neither is trying to automate the content curation process so that you take all of the work out. You get what you put in, and if you’re not willing to invest time and money into curating the right way, you shouldn’t expect to see a positive ROI from it.

In Conclusion

Most brands aren’t using content curation the right way. In fact, a lot of brands are using content curation as a stop gap to avoid having to put real effort into creating useful content (read: content that takes time, money, and internal resources). So when companies try to half ass this process, they get less than stellar results, sour on the idea of content curation, and it becomes more difficult to sell the actual benefits of content marketing (including content curation) as a whole.

What can we do to make this better?

To start, content marketing agencies (us included) can start explaining content curation in detail to our current and prospective clients so that they understand how it works and why it’s important, as opposed to it being a fleeting byline on a proposal. Giving away the process isn’t the proprietary nightmare that a lot of agencies think it is. Content curation is still a LOT of work, and finding the right sources and type of information is what your clients are going to pay you for.

Next, content curation platforms can stop letting customers see their platforms as a be all and end all for their content marketing needs and explain how these platforms are a part of an overall strategy that will help them find and create awesome content. In fact, make partnering with reputable content marketing agencies to act as a resource for their clients a strong customer acquisition strategy. That way, you have access to a perfectly primed pool of potential customers who already understand the benefits of content marketing, and you have a smart agency who understands how to best use your software to get results for your clients. It’s a win/win.

4 Comments

  1. Thank you Lauren for voicing strongly such relevant concerns. I think this is an important job that needs to be done.

    The best medicine to cure it is in my opinion, the systematic showing of good example sand models, so that ignorance and confusion can be dissipated easily.

    Thanks for your provocative insight. Much appreciated indeed.

  2. No flak from me wearing my @listly hat

    I’m 100% with you, but we advocate hand curation over automation.

    Curation and creation are simply a continuum in my mind.

    Reading and writing are also a continuum.

    http://www.nickkellet.com/2012/03/the-reading-writing-continuum/

    We also see Creation, Curation and Listening as a trilogy

    http://blog.list.ly/2012/12/25/content-marketing-needs-to-create-curate-listen-3-ways-use-lists-in-your-blog-posts/

    Real curation is hard. It involves distilling down the essence of ideas from multiple sources. There is no shortcut.

    Automation devalues that. Museum Curators only work by hand. They use artefacts to tell stories and create experiences. It’s a learned skill. Many people forget that is the origin of the term.

    Curation is all about education and disseminating ideas.

    We also believe content should evolve and that your audience want to participate, but that’s just our approach to create collaborative, interactive embedable content.

  3. Hey Nick,

    Thanks for the response! I was hoping to get some comments from curation software people. :)

    I totally agree with your view about curation – hand curation is the only way to curate meaningful content. Until, of course, we develop software that gets really good at reading and understanding context, then maybe I’ll change my mind.

    Thanks for reading!

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