You’re not a dummy. But maybe you’re new to social media, and that’s okay. On social media, content you post can be broken down into three main categories: content you create (blog posts, white papers, etc.), content you curate (relevant articles from around the web), and conversations you have with other people. Content you create and conversations you have with others are fairly self-explanatory, but what exactly does it mean to curate content, and how do you do it?
You can think of your job as a social media manager like that of a curator at an art museum. There’s a lot of art out there. Not all of it is good. Some of it is great. But in all cases, it’s your job to figure out what you like and what your audience wants, and go through the art out there to pick what’s best and put it in your museum.
Social media curation is very similar. There is a lot of content out there, and like the art I just mentioned above, some of the content is good, some is great, some is bad, and a lot is probably good but is irrelevant to the audience you’re trying to get in front of. Much in the same way that a museum curator can use his or her own tastes to pick what’s great and present it, so can you use your own tastes and judgment to find what content would be useful for your audience and share it with others.
You’re the gatekeeper. You decide what your audience gets from your business on social media and what it doesn’t. Given that a large majority of the content you post on social media should be curated, here are a few tips for finding good content:
Find an aggregator, and stick with it. Enter the social media curator’s best tool: the content aggregator. Put simply, a content aggregator lets you create lists of sites you want to receive updates from and piles all their articles in the same place. If you put HuffPo, the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Gizmodo all on one list, you’ll receive any articles that come through those sites, which is a great way to see a lot of content all in one place. Many tools also allow you to search by topic, industry, and more. Our favorite tool is feedly, though there are a number of others to choose from if that doesn’t tickle your fancy.
Also recommended: finding staples to regularly curate from. You don’t want these to be your sole sources, but they can be great sites to reference when you’re making a first pass through for the day. Your staples may be, for example, Harvard Business Review, MIT Tech Review, Wired, Ars Technica, and TechCrunch, and every day, you start by checking those sites to see what’s interesting. This gives you a framework to start on and a fallback in case you don’t find anything you’re particularly interested in on feedly or your other reader.
Learn to quickly qualify. If an article doesn’t pique your interest in the first five seconds of reading it, it probably won’t pique your audience’s interest, either. This skill will come with time, but while you’re getting started, find out what makes articles interesting. Does it have a catchy headline? Does it have any images or graphs? Is it a wall of text? Does it have a hook? Knowing what makes articles more likely to be read is very helpful.
Which brings me to a parallel point: read what you curate. If you find an article that seems interesting and has a catchy headline, don’t stop and post there. The body content of an article can sometimes be very different than the headline or even the introductory paragraph. You don’t have to write a book report on the article, but you should be familiar enough with it that you don’t get yourself in trouble by posting content you thought you agreed with. Plus, reading lots of articles is a great way to stay up on what’s happening in the world!
Take hints from what other people are sharing: Want to know what kind of stuff you should be curating? Look at what others in or parallel to your industry are talking about. If the New York Times Innovation Report is all the buzz, or if everyone’s talking about that new gadget taking your industry by storm, it probably wouldn’t hurt to talk about it. Keeping an eye out on your competitors is just a good idea, anyways.
What I’ll personally recommend on this front is also looking at what other people are sharing, and intentionally sharing content that differs from those trends. Sometimes, it’s great to weigh in on what everyone’s talking about. But you can also distinguish yourself by talking about parallel issues or sharing articles from unfamiliar sites. Use a healthy mix of both to stay interesting and keep your audience on its toes.
Use analytics to track what works, and what doesn’t: You may think it’s the best content in the world, but your analytics may tell a different story. Social media management tools like Sprout and Hootsuite provide robust platforms for tracking things like clicks, shares, retweets, and other great indicators that your audience cares about what you’re sharing.
Wait a month or two (a week or two is too small of a data set) and take some time to look back at what you’ve posted and how it’s been received. You should be able to find trends of topics that go over well with your audience, topics that get less traction, and even which sources are more and less likely to be clicked. Use this to inform your curating strategy moving forward and tailor your content to the people you want to get in front of. Remember though that your headlines and posts can affect these metrics too, so it may be your own posting that needs a look.
Because there’s so much content around today, it can be difficult to sort through what’s good and what isn’t. We’re all drinking from the firehose. Where you can help and position yourself as a useful resource for your clients and customers is in identifying what makes good content, tracking it down, and sharing it. If you can sort through what’s good and cut out what doesn’t matter, you’ll go a long ways towards proving to readers that you’re a source worth paying attention to. And that’s a great thing for your brand.
Getting good at curating takes time, experience, and a little bit of instinct, too. But once you set a routine and figure out a quick way to find good content and share it, you’ll be well on your way to honing in on a great social media presence for your business.