6 Steps to More Effective Content Curation

June 8, 2013

A plan for curating content

Introduction

Whether you’re a corporate brand or a personal brand, it’s important to effectively curate (and share) good content. Effective curation builds influence and authority: share information that enables your audience to learn (and do their job better) and they’ll come back for more. Here’s my six step plan for more effective content curation.

1) Understand your audience.

Keep your captive audience captive

Photo credit: Flickr user Anirudh Koul via photopin cc

Rather than using analytical tools, I build an understanding of my audience less formally. On social media, a portion of my following includes those whom I followed (and they, in turn, followed me back). This segment I know fairly well, since I followed them in the first place.

For others, I develop an understanding based upon interactions: replies to my tweets, comments they add to retweets, etc. In using Twitter over the years, I’ve come to understand that my followers are interested in social media, technology, events and sports. And that’s not surprising, because those are my interests as well!

2) Understand yourself.

You may be saying “of course I understand myself!” And while I’m sure that’s true, this step is really about defining your brand and what it represents. The understanding of your audience is reciprocal: they’re also developing an understanding of what you represent.

Let’s say you’ve been sharing articles on science and technology for the past 12 months and just developed an interest in baking cupcakes. In the past, your tweets were 80% science and technology. Today, it’s 20% science and technology and 70% cupcake recipes.

The shift in interest is fine, but understand that many of your followers “found” you because of your science and technology tweets. This means that you’re less influential (to them) on that topic. If that’s not what you wanted, then you’ll need to re-balance your content sharing back towards useful science and technology.

If cupcakes are indeed your new thing, then I like chocolate peanut butter varieties.

3) Assess title AND content.

Assese both the title and the content

[Make sure both the meat and the gravy are savory.]

The title of an article (or post) is crucial. On Twitter, it’s the only thing your followers may see. I look for a combination of subject matter and compelling headline. Good headlines draw you in, while answering the “what’s in it for me” question at the same time. Of the following two options:

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I prefer the latter.

Titles: to change or not to change.

Occasionally, I’ll share a worthy piece of content for which the title lacks a bit of punch. In my mind, the title doesn’t do the piece justice. So instead of tweeting the article with the supplied title, I’ll share the essence of the article in the tweet. If I’m short on characters, I’ll delete the original title. Doing this results in a higher likelihood of people clicking on the link.

The content (aka meat)

Now that we’ve covered the title, it’s critical to actually read the content (or at least skim it). If the content doesn’t match the title, or if the content quality isn’t up to par, then don’t share it.

Favor quality over quantity when it comes to curation. Even if you’ve “sold” me on a great title, I avoid sharing these types of content:

  1. Content that was written solely for SEO (you know what I’m referring to, right?).
  2. Blogs that have an imbalance between banner/search ads and content.
  3. Slide show content (i.e. want to read our Top 10 list? Click “Next” nine times).
  4. Content that’s too short (e.g. 1-2 paragraphs in total).
  5. Content that my audience would not value (despite the strong title).

4) Acknowledge the author(s).

On Twitter, list the author’s Twitter handle in the tweet. On Facebook, tag the author – or, tag the Facebook Page of the organization that published the article.

Acknowledging the source is a common courtesy, while linking to their profile sends them a little love. Authors will see that you’ve acknowledged them – and in turn, they may follow you, retweet you and share some of your content.

5) Add a splash of commentary.

When users share my tweets or blog posts, I appreciate it when they add their own thoughts within the tweet. Let’s face it: if you’re “merely” sharing article after article, just listing the title and link, you could be an automaton (rather than a human being). So try this:

For every 5 articles you share, include a comment in 1 of them

Here’s an example where I combine commentary (albeit brief) with acknowledgement:

In addition to commentary, feel free to insert relevant hash tags. For instance, if a tweet about event technology doesn’t already contain it, I often add the #eventprofs hash tag. I then change the “RT” to an “MT,” to indicate that it’s a Modified Tweet.

6) Re-share and re-distribute.

For curated content that you really love, re-share it again later on (but not TOO often). I’d love for my Twitter followers to read the great article I just shared, but the reality is that 90% of them missed my tweet.

In addition to re-sharing, provide additional distribution by publishing the content on other social networks. For instance, for an article you tweet, selectively share it:

  1. On Google+.
  2. On your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Pin an image (from the article) to one of your Pinterest boards.
  4. On Facebook.
  5. Write a blog posting and link to the piece.

Conclusion

Think of yourself like a museum curator. Hundreds (or thousands) of people are coming to your exhibit. Select (and show off) the pieces of fine art that you’ve assembled. Leave the lesser pieces behind the curtain.

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How a Pinterest Board Gained Popularity After I Stopped Pinning

November 19, 2012

@dshiao's MLB 2012 pin board on Pinterest

Read my prior post: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest

Introduction

At the start of the baseball season, I created a MLB 2012 pin board on Pinterest. Throughout the season, I’d pin images (mostly of players) as I read articles about the teams I follow.

I’d see a modest amount of Likes and Repins. I’d get more activity around popular or “interesting” players – injured closer Brian Wilson (of the San Francisco Giants) fitting into the latter category.

As the regular season drew to a close, my activity on Pinterest waned. My last pin was on September 30, 2012, before the start of the post-season. Throughout the playoffs, I’d continue to see modest amounts of activity on my board. And then the San Francisco Giants won the World Series.

Current Events Drive Interest in Pins and Boards

Once the Giants won the World Series, activity on Giants-related pins increased

While I’m a diehard New York Yankees fan, I reside in the Bay Area. And that means that I follow the local teams, the Giants and the A’s. Not surprisingly, you’ll find lots of Yankees, Giants and A’s in my MLB board.

The Email Settings menu in Pinterest

My Pinterest account is configured to send me email notifications for activity on my boards. And let me tell you, ever since the World Series ended, I’ve been receiving a daily stream of emails. Users are finding images I pinned (of Giants players) and they’re Liking and Repinning quite a lot.

Of course, shortly after the World Series comes the post-season awards (e.g. Cy Young, MVP, etc.). So it’s not a coincidence to see activity (on my Board) related to the award winners: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (rookies of the year) and Buster Posey (NL MVP):

Activity for pins on Bryce Harper, Buster Posey and Mike Trout

What Makes Pinterest Unique

I found the result counter-intuitive: that activity would pick up on a social network after I ceased my own activity on it. That would not happen on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. And that’s what makes Pinterest unique. Let’s consider the reasons.

It’s Both Timeless and Timely.

I’ve written before about how Twitter rules the roost on the real-time web. Real-time content, however, is “forgotten” a minute, hour or day later. On Twitter, it’s quite rare to receive a retweet on content tweeted a few days (or weeks) prior. On Pinterest, as you’ve seen with my MLB board, the activity continues to occur on images I pinned weeks (and months) earlier.

And while the unit of content (an image) is timeless, interest around that content can be tied to timeliness (e.g. the Giants winning the World Series). So as far as content sharing goes, you have content that “lives longer” than real-time content – and, can spur activity around events happening in real-time.

It Drives a Different Consumption Model.

Twitter (and Facebook, too) is all about the “scan.” I have hundreds (or thousands) of items in my feed and I quickly scan for items of interest, not paying particular attention to any one item. Pinterest also drives “scans” (of images), but because of the timeless aspect, there’s more browsing than scanning.

On Twitter, the half-life of content is short: current events, sports scores and the like, and that adds to the “quick scan” consumption model. On Pinterest, users are more apt to browse, discover and take their time.

Its Attribution Model Facilitates Curation

Let’s compare the retweet to the repin. Here’s how a retweet (that I performed) appears in my profile:

How a retweet appears in the user's Twitter profile

You’ll notice that the original tweet is preserved, including the “author” of the original tweet (@AllthingsIC). Now, let’s consider a repin. I originally pinned this image of Brandon Crawford and here’s how the repin appears on another user’s board:

How a re-pinned pin appears in the user's board

You’ll see that my original caption (about Brandon Crawford) is preserved (although users have the option to change it when repinning), but notice that, unlike in a retweet, my identity (as the original author) is not listed. You have to click on the pin to see the attribution:

The original pinner has attribution listed on the pin detail page

This attribution model facilitates curation because it leaves a “cleaner” board, while providing proper attribution one level deep.

For Marketers, It’s The Gift That Keeps Giving.

My MLB 2012 board has taught me that on Pinterest, content can have nine lives. Online marketers using Facebook and Twitter should consider a Pinterest strategy. Pinterest can create an annuity around your content: an investment that continues to pay out over time.

And here’s the kicker: you pin content from pages, which means that users who find your pins have the option of clicking through to the page (on which the image is found). What does that mean for online marketers? The ability to drive page views – and even product sales, for online merchants.

Conclusion

Let’s recap. Pinterest is an entirely unique social network. It all starts with a timeless “sharing unit” (an image), which can gain popularity around current events. The consumption and attribution models help to drive sharing (via curation). And users (i.e. pinners), can receive ongoing returns for activity they generated months (or even years) prior.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


How I Curate (and Share) Content on Twitter

April 13, 2012

Book store / library image.

Introduction

I once had a pile of old books that I no longer wanted. I brought them into a bookstore that buys and sells used books. After placing my pile of books on the counter, the owner proceeded to examine each one. He carefully examined the cover, opened the book to read the chapter of contents, and then skimmed quickly through a few pages.

I was expecting him to accept each of my books, but he only took a third of them. When I asked him about his evaluation process, he told me that it’s driven by limited shelf space, along with his understanding of what his customers want.

To become a regarded sharer of content on Twitter, you need to act like the used book shop owner. His shelf space has a fixed amount of space, in the same way that your Twitter followers have a fixed amount of attention. The store owner can’t sell every used book he comes across and you can’t (well, shouldn’t) share every single link you find.

So speaking of sharing, I thought I’d share the process I use for curating and sharing content on Twitter.

Curation

The Process

Like many of you, I have a daily “surfing routine,” in which I visit a number of “go to” sites each morning. For the national (and global) scene, my favorite site is NYTimes.com, for which I gladly pay to gain access. For the local tech scene here in the Bay Area, I visit SiliconValley.com, a web site of the San Jose Mercury News.

In addition to these go-to sites, I use the somewhat old fashioned method of maintaining 40+ RSS feeds, which I read via Google Reader.

I then behave like the used book store owner. To gain credibility and respect, I like to share links (content) that my followers (and even folks who are not following me) find useful. If I blindly tweet out a large volume of tweets and my followers don’t find them useful, then I’m sure to lose followers.

Content Review

While I’ve committed the sin of tweeting an article solely based on a captivating headline, I prefer to read the article entirely – or, at minimum, to skim the article to get a sense for it. Recall that the book store owner did the same thing.

When you read the article, it helps you understand what you’re sharing. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to share an article in which the body didn’t match the title at all? Yes, that could annoy followers who clicked on the link.

Another benefit to reading the article? Including a fact or quote from the article in your tweet. I like to include my own thought(s) in my tweets, rather than just tweeting the article title and link. In short, I believe that “curate and comment” is better than just “curate.”

Selection Criteria

For something to be shareable, I look for the following:

Timely: I prefer to share content that’s been published in the past 0-2 weeks. If I find a really useful article that’s 1+ year old, I mention that in my tweet (e.g. “From 2010, but still quite relevant”). Timely also refers to “what’s hot” (a trending topic, if you will). Timely topics that I’ve shared of late include Pinterest, Instagram, mobile apps and Google+.

Interesting: If everyone is writing about Pinterest (and they are), I prefer to share bloggers or journalists who provide a unique spin on the latest trend. Early on during the trend, however, an “introduction to” or a “how to get started” article is, in fact, interesting.

Useful: Related to the introductory articles that I mention above, I like to share content that helps my followers learn something new or do their job better. I often use the rule that if I find it useful, that you may as well.

Sharing

Tweet Button

I estimate that 60-70% of my tweets come from the Tweet button. Almost every site that I frequent (including most blogs) has social sharing buttons. So I share as I read. It’s efficient, because I share as I surf – and, because the Tweet button makes it so easy.

Attribute Authors

If the Tweet button doesn’t include the author’s Twitter handle, I like to search for the authors, to see if they have Twitter accounts. If they do, I like to include their handles in the tweet. This is useful for your followers (i.e. they can follow the author, if they like) and, it lets the authors know that you’ve tweeted their article.

Buffer

I’ll also use a neat tool called Buffer to schedule certain tweets be sent out at particular times. There can be times where sharing becomes too frequent. Buffer allows me to “save up” a bunch of tweets and send them at a later time or date.

You can even schedule tweets with Buffer directly from Google Reader, which I find quite useful.

Retweets

Retweeting (“RT”) is even easier than the Tweet button, as you can perform the action directly from your Twitter client, or from Twitter.com. I use the same selection criteria (listed above) when retweeting. There’s an added benefit here: the act “sends a little love,” if you will, to the person who posted the original tweet.

Conclusion

And there you have it. If you’re still with me, then I hope this insider’s look at my processes (and thought process) was useful. Use the comments section below to tell me how you go about curating and sharing on Twitter.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


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