Content Curation vs. Content Creation

If you are involved in content marketing on any level, no doubt you have seen the phrase “content curation” being tossed about.  General consensus is that a content curator sifts through all the available content to serve up what is most important to your customers.

The benefits of curation are many; with an infinite digital universe of information, you definitely need someone to not only sort through it but to search out and find it.  Call them curators, quarterbacks, captains or cowboys; this person excels at being able to ferret out valuable information and transform it into the most relevant context and format.  Where do they find it?

1)     Inside your company: Think of all the touchpoints you already have – they need to be a part of your content publishing machine.  Establish a process or protocol for soliciting and gathering content to make it easy to participate.

2)     Competitors: You are already scanning the competitive landscape to stay one step ahead.  If you have a point of difference that gives you an edge, play it up and let your customers know.

3)     Research: Whitepapers that are easily downloaded show off your company’s smarts and help establish you as a leader.  Post it on your social channels, as well as SlideShare – it’s all free.

4)     Industry resources:  If you think it’s valuable, chances are so do your customers so share what’s meaningful.

But does curation actually lead to more original content?  After reading an excellent post on content curation by @joepulizzi, we’d like to expand on this point for a minute.  If you are really lucky, your content curator can filter and create content.  But most likely, true curation involves more than one person.  Curation acts as a filter of all available assets; creation is writing, producing, developing ideas into valuable assets.  These are two different functions that require different skill sets.  While curation is a full-time job, content creation can come from several resources: sales, marketing, creative, agencies or user-generated.  And as @joepulizzi notes, original content is still key but remains the biggest challenge for marketers.  The answer may lie in dedicating the right number of resources to get the results you need.

What do you think?  How many people at your company are involved in content curation?

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5 Great Reasons Why Content Rules

If you are responsible for generating content for your company or even just thinking about it, you’ll find Content Rules a great guide and reference tool.  Written by Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) and C.C. Chapman (@DigitalDads), it combines real-world experience with practical application.  Sure, everyone can talk about content…but not everyone can actually create it.  Here are some great takeaways we gained from the book – in just the first five chapters:

Chapter 1: The Case for Content. Everyone is the media, whether or not you want to acknowledge it.  Learn that good content is a competitive advantage.  It’s your instant differentiation that no one else can claim.

Chapter 2: The Content Rules. Content is about reaching your audience in an authentic way – use these common-sense rules to guide you.

Chapter 3: Insight Inspires Originality. Before you can talk to your audience, you need to understand who they are and what motivates them.  It isn’t really different from any other type of marketing.  Develop buyer personas and then bring them to life by asking the right questions: What are they craving? Where do they spend their time online? How do they access the web? What do you want them to do?

Chapter 4: Who Are You? Your words matter and so does your tone. Be personable and speak conversationally – in other words, speak like a human.  And lose the 18 business buzzwords described in this chapter: It’s an impactful way to leverage key learnings in order to maximize client solutions.  Well, you get the point.

Chapter 5: Reimagine; Don’t Recycle. Now we like to think we’re just as green as the next company, but Ann and C.C. have some great points here.  Repurposing content is a great idea, but you need to understand the form and context you are putting it in.  Developing a schedule will help you to not only better plan and produce great content, but also to reimagine it.  Feed the content food chain – repackage and rebundle content appropriately.

Now that you know you need content, think about the “who, when, where and why”.  Want to learn more?  Read the book – available online and in-store now.

3 Ways to Get Smart on Content Marketing

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by information overload?  Content is the new black, but the sheer volume can sometimes make it difficult to keep up.  Because there are only so many hours in a day to read all the tweets and posts swirling around in cyberspace, here are three great ways to stay focused:

1.     Scan the Socialscape. The beauty of the web is that you can access great people you may have never otherwise heard of.  The bane of the web is that there are so many of them. Concentrate your time on a handful of experts who continuously deliver great ideas and unique perspective. Here’s a short list of people who add value to our day:

  • @charliecurve Hello Hello, it’s Charlie Wollborg.  He’ll not only share great tips on social media and self-branding, but he also serves up a healthy dose of motivation daily.  A self-proclaimed troublemaker and renowned idea generator, Charlie is also a driving force behind Detroit’s social media scene.
  • @unmarketing Scott Stratten is pretty much awesome covered in awesome sauce. He’s a nationally recognized author/speaker who is known for his sometimes humorous, yet always engaging style.  If you haven’t yet read it, Scott’s book Unmarketing is a how-to guide on integrating social media into your marketing plan.
  • @marketingprofs Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, an info-packed site that consistently delivers great insight, downloads and well, content.  Ann recently launched Content Rules with co-author @cc_chapman – a must read for anyone responsible for producing content.
  • @juntajoe Joe Pulizzi is a content marketing evangelist who founded Junta 42 and the Content Marketing Institute – both valuable resources for all things content.  In his spare time, he also writes one of the subject’s most popular blogs, just authored Get Content Get Customers and speaks worldwide on the subject.  Seriously, you can find just about any content you’re looking for in Joe’s vast resources.
  • @chrisbrogan Chris Brogan is probably more well known for his personal brand than his successful company Human Business Works.  He offers great insight on a variety of topics: business, marketing and the social web.  But more importantly, Chris sheds a bright light on the people side of business and how you can use social channels to build business relationships.

2. Virtual Conferences. Can’t attend every conference?  No problem.  Many are streamed live online or you can follow the event discussion and comments on Twitter by its hashtag.  Some of our favorites include:

  • @futuremidwest is now in its third successful year and it’s the region’s largest digital business conference.   You can expect to learn not only about upcoming trends at FutureMidwest, but how to successfully put them into practice.
  • @tedx events are independent offshoots of TED, a conference that brings together people in technology, entertainment and design.   TED’s mission is to create “ideas worth spreading” and TEDx lives up to that mantra on a local level.  The format is a series of short talks by pretty brilliant folks; you can find many of them on YouTube or the TED website.
  • @sxsw SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST is the annual spring mecca for music, film and interactive devotees in Austin.  This year’s show offered a ton of both professional and social activity on Twitter.  Anyone worth following will be at this conference so look for some great ideas to surface afterward.  Or you can just read SXSWORLD, a great digital publication on their website.

3. Vendors. Social channels offer vendors a new way to ply their wares and many are doing it by spreading their knowledge.  Offering whitepapers, e-books, webinars and newsletters will not only showcase a company’s smarts, but also helps them develop a pipeline of qualified prospects.  Even if you are not currently in the market for their services, you will know who to turn to when you are.  A couple companies we’ve learned from include:

  • @hubspot is a marketing resource that happens to offer a software platform that will help optimize your content.  On their website, you’ll find whitepapers, research, webinars and even free tools to help you evaluate your inbound marketing.  Check out HubSpot’s Website Grader to see how your site measures up.
  • @zmags is one of the leading providers of rich media marketing software.  Their site has insightful webinars, research and whitepapers on how to effectively deliver online and mobile content – Read On with zmags!

What about you?  Do you follow any of these leaders?  Feel free to share who you follow to get and stay smart on content marketing.

Bridging the Digital Divide

While social media has presented marketers with dozens of options to connect with customers, how well are they connecting inside their organization? Some companies have dedicated resources (either internally or externally) that specialize in all things social; others add it onto an existing job description – either in marketing or media.  The reality is social/digital marketing is a cross-functional discipline and finding any one person or department who can pull it together effectively can be a difficult task.  Consider these points:

  • Legal. Creating a social media policy helps establish boundaries for tweeting and posting that help, not hurt your company.  The attorneys also come in handy for reviewing a client’s social policy, which may differ from your own.   You can find some good guidelines from Social Media Explorer.
  • HR. While legal sets the policy, HR needs to enforce it.  That requires consistent monitoring of all social channels and dealing quickly with any situations that arise.  And if there is a disgruntled employee spreading bad vibes, you need to step in quickly and find out why.
  • Media. Social can help amplify existing media plans in broadcast and print.  Careful planning to integrate online and offline activity will boost results much more quickly than work done in silos.  Listen to some great insight from Scott Monty, Ford’s Social Media Director, at BlogWorld 2010.
  • Marketing. This is perhaps the most important area that can benefit from building a digital bridge.  Often, those well versed in social media do not have a marketing background.  Conversely, many senior level marketers may not be in their comfort zone with the ever-changing digital world.  How can your company adapt? By building internal partnerships that combine the best of both social and marketing.

By pairing a social media expert with an experienced marketer, both can benefit in a number of ways:

  • Knowledge Exchange. Both parties need to recognize that they can learn from each other.  A healthy respect for what each person brings to the table is essential. So check the egos and listen so you can learn.
  • Best Practices. In both disciplines, there is some key learning in each that needs to be shared, i.e. timelines, language, tone.  These need to be tweaked where necessary to form new, hybrid guidelines.  This is a test and learn proposition, so be patient as you are ramping up.
  • Improved Product. Any work that is created with both social and marketing objectives in place is going to spur engagement vs. wasted impressions.  And a customer who is engaged will feel valued, love you longer and tell more friends about you.

One thing that holds companies back from this partnership opportunity is that the participants may work in different departments.  But don’t let this stop you – it’s not that daunting if you think it through first:

  • You’ll need to decide whom each person will ultimately report to.  Ideally, this is someone with big picture thinking who can appreciate the end goal and customer benefit.
  • Tweak job descriptions to set expectations before you get started. It’s also important to clearly delegate responsibilities to avoid any miscommunications.
  • Compensate on results so that each party has a vested interest in working together.  It will break down internal barriers much more quickly.

So start building bridges and break down the silos inside your company.  Your customers will be glad you did.