If you’ve beaten around the Internets on your lunch break or while ignoring your children and significant other after dinner, chances are you’ve noticed the insane amount of content being shared by everyone. From aunt Denise who tweets about kittens, Greenpeace and Vagisil to your local plumbing shop delighting their “fans” with links about toilet safety and the latest in PVC piping.
Somewhere along the line, marketers were sold on the idea that we must curate. So, now we’re battling the plumbing shop, aunt Denise and millions of other brands and businesses for a piece of your attention by hunting for and sharing an endless stream of links.
But is this really sound advice? Or does curating content make you appear bland and unimaginative?
What does curation say about you?
Let’s just touch on this first: Researchers from Humboldt University [PDF of study] found that 1 of every 3 people felt worse and more dissatisfied with life after visiting Facebook. Due to envy, jealousy and frustration. And that… is due to the way people portray themselves on social media.
We have an opportunity to create a persona — that is wealthier, better looking, smarter and just more awesome then we really may be — through the pictures we post, status updates we write and links we share. Every piece of content you share says something about you, your values and ideological alignment.
Brands do the same thing. The types of content they curate creates a type of a persona. The way they wish to be perceived. Intelligent. Friendly. Funny. Innovative.
It’s a hunter-gatherer game — where the community manager or the marketer in charge seeks out information that will (hopefully) be of value to their customers and shares it with them.
Most of the time though, it seems like a half-hearted effort on the behalf of the already-overworked marketing person who now has to “manage the community” on top of updating the website, instagramming and running a print campaign. So the value proposition diminishes for the customer, and ROI diminishes for the brand.
Is there a place for curators?
Your customers may look to you to filter the massive amount of content being published every day — inundating us with links, photos, graphics and videos to the tune of billions per day — in order to create some clarity for them, and do the hard work of sifting through it all.
But this only works if your customers are aligned with your worldview and see consistent and perpetual value in the things that you share. On that note, let me ask you this: when is the last time you followed a local plumber, and stuck around for 24/7 toilet news?
You see, the role of a curator isn’t just cutting and pasting links. If you want your customers to stick around, you have to cater to them and invest time into actually researching the right content, asking what they may find useful and adjusting course along the way.
Taking this concept to the next level — why not provide some context with the materials you share? So, rather then passively relaying information, chew through it first and include your own thoughts. Your customers will appreciate it more and this approach offers an opportunity to engage in conversation on your own turf. For an example, look no further then Mitch Joel’s Links Worthy Of Your Attention series. He’ll share links, but also add some context to each one.
Thought leaders don’t curate.
Here’s a thought… all those links being shared, they had to come from somewhere. Someone had to do the research, write the blog post, shoot the video, publish the podcast, design the infographic. It’s their content we’re sharing. So then, who is it that ultimately reaps the benefits?
If you have a look at Seth Godin or Simon Sinek for example, you’ll find that most of their social activities are around sharing the content, materials and ideas THEY produced. It’s their content that gets shared by the curators. So the question is: are you a curator, or a thought leader?
Which would you rather be?
There are over 4.75 Billion pieces of content being shared on Facebook alone every day. As a brand, or an individual, it’s hard to stand out and capture a scrap of customer attention.
Curation does have its place and utility. However, it’s often nothing more then a way out. A hoax. A way for brands to pretend to engage socially without putting in the effort to create their own materials or converse with customers on social media. If you factor in solutions like Buffer and Curata and entire companies dedicated to “social media management” (codeword for content curation) – brands that actually do the work of a curator are few and far between.
So, be clear about your role – and what your actions say about it. We’re swimming in curators. What we need are more, and better creators.