The art of content curation: mind your p’s

How do you handle existing content so that you add value to what’s obviously already out there? In this post I’d like to distinguish several aspects – levels if you will, or approaches – of content curation. I’ve handily summarized these aspects as the 3 P’s of content curation: pick, prepare, and present.

Some content curators stick to one or two aspects, but for best results, add a measure of all three ingredients.

Pick: content selection (social media)

content curation: pick, prepare, present

Pick, prepare, present – image on Flickr

Many tools, from Twitter search to Scoop.it’s suggested content or Squirro will help you make a selection of content for republishing on social media.

  1. Some accounts on Twitter will retweet just about anything about topic X.
  2. Experts make sure they build their reputation and keep it intact by (re)sharing only quality content.

The actual content stays where it is: on someone’s website.

Pick: content selection (websites)

On the other hand, a number of websites are basically one big RSS-feed by the looks of them – and some of them republish complete articles. If you’re looking for quality content and want to republish articles from certain websites on a regular basis:

  1. you’ll need to arrange something with the content creators and expect them to want something in return;
  2. your content creators may appreciate their logo, a link, and perhaps a banner on your website. One good turn deserves another?

Prepare: edit, edit, edit

Sometimes you just can’t help yourself – you’ve got to edit if:

  • the original content is so crappy you don’t want it on your own website without a bit of editing. You try to keep the good ideas while editing out the bad spelling, abysmal grammar, and bone-headed typos.
  • quality content has gone stale and it’s easy to update it. Sometimes all it takes to freshen up an article is two lines and a link to refer to recent developments.
  • a few headings and subheadings would facilitate easy reading. Some articles just aren’t written for online reading, certainly not on – say – a mobile phone.

Edit existing content on these points and it’s hard to see how you can’t improve on the original.

Present: recreate your content for your audience

Content curation is also about writing and tagging articles for your own audience:

  1. Would your audience use certain phrases – or is it better to literally rephrase parts of existing content to suit your readers?
  2. Does that mean you need to rewrite the whole article to fit new keywords?
  3. What does that do to the tags you add? After all these are based on the actual content – which you’ve changed.

Present: where content curation meets content creation

We’ve come a long way beyond ‘simple’ content curation. Writing for a different audience may involve editing existing content beyond recognition. At some point you’ll need to consider whether you need to keep the original thought only, and write your own point of view in a brand new piece of content.

This is especially true if your audience is interested in, say, video’s or infographics rather than written content. You could argue that summarizing existing information in front of a camera or designing an infographic around it is (high-level) content curation. Or could you?

Pick, prepare, present – how to balance your content curation efforts?

Alternate between levels or aspects of content curation. Finding a balance is important in order to:

  • share your own view on a range of topics;
  • avoid exhausting yourself trying to do everything every single time (unless you’re a pro blogger I guess)

After all, you are your readers’ go-to expert 🙂

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Blogging stew: mixing content creation, curation, and marketing

If content is part of your profession, you need to keep an eye on all aspects. Not just the bit you happen to be responsible for at any given moment. Why?

  1. Because these different aspects are glued together and you’ll get asked sooner or later: “But what about X?” Although you could say that’s out of your jurisdiction, that answer won’t get you anywhere nice.
  2. Because it’s actually nice to stay up to date about topics that are related to what you do for a living, or for a hobby – like blogging.

Blogging stew: content ingredients

Great-looking ‘Mayan stew’. Click to view on Flickr [cloud2013].

As a content enthousiast you’re involved in content creation, content curation, content marketing, or all of them mixed up into a (hopefully) savory stew. What’s the result of putting in your time and energy? Continue reading

Using content management to improve your content creation

How do you manage your content production?

You may feel you’re cranking out plenty of content, but do you manage to cover all the topics you need to cover?
The wider your range of topics, the more you’ll need to keep a tab on all the content you’re creating or having created. Getting organized is the key factor if you’re to deliver regular, relevant, quality content. How to manage your content (marketing) efforts?

How to create enough content for every topic

I’ve written before about the importance of content management for your content (marketing) strategy. This time, let’s start with my blogging habits. I publish two posts per week on this blog. Since I’m interested in different topics, I have several categories on my blog. With ‘just’ 8 categories, it would take me a month to do one post about each topic.

Content management - use it to get enough variation in topics

How do you create content for every topic? – Flickr image by HikingArtist

It’s unlikely that any (business) blog has the same number of blog posts on every topic. For each topic, the question is: how often do you have something new to share with your readers? Have you:

  • read anything new about a topic?
  • been involved in a project with aspects relating to a topic?
  • attended an event?

If not, you’re less likely to come up with a brainwave for new content. No events also means fewer opportunities for making short interviews which you could share.

Content management for a business website

If you have a business website with dozens of topics which you all need to keep updated with fresh content, gaps may form while you’re busy on other topics. You don’t want to be confronted with content gaps in specialized areas which you then need to fill – which may take days, or weeks, from the moment you contact a relevant subject matter expert.

Every piece of content has to meet your quality standards, right? That means investing time in research and in editing your content.

You can rarely serve every visitor with one format for your content. For every piece of written content, you need a picture that adds interest in the shape of information, entertainment, or a new angle on your written content. Start with visual content and the opposite applies.

First, test-plan your content

Use an Excel sheet, a whiteboard or even a sheet of paper to:

  • List all of your topics horizontally
  • Lists the days (full week or weekdays) vertically.
  • Try to plot one piece of content per topic per month. Use something like yellow sticky notes, because this is just your first step.

You could be looking at anything from 8 to 50 pieces of content per month, and in the latter case you’ll be publishing new content every weekday of every month.

How often do you publish new content now? On your blog? On your website? Elsewhere?

You could tweak your overview by:

  1. dropping your required amount of content to one piece of content per 2 months.
  2. using fewer, less specific categories.
  3. only creating content for topics your customers are interested in. A website that aims to attract customers should start with their needs.

Get your business content organized

  1. Meet your subject matter experts (SME)
  2. Plot every event.
  3. Brainstorm for topics with every SME.
  4. Determine whether each SME is able and willing to write content to specific requirements, talk about their topic(s) in front of a camera or for a podcast. How much of their time do you need?

Take your SMEs for a testdrive. And (although I read this too often) this is a rinse-and-repeat process. Experts are by definition extending their knowledge base, rather than your content base 😉

Plan your content creation process backward

Plot every idea for, or piece of, content on the overview you made earlier – on the day you need it published. Then, we travel back in time…

  1. When do you need this content to be delivered?
  2. How much time does it take to get interviews transcribed, images selected, text edited?
  3. When do you need to contact or meet anyone?

Now you have a simple Content To-Do and the start of an editorial calendar (add details as you go). Using things like colors for different kinds of content helps. Organizing and planning your content gives you insight into:

  • the effort it takes to get your content published.
  • why your company’s content creation efforts seem less successful than you’d like.
  • whether you need to delegate, streamline, or skip tasks.

That’s why you need to testdrive – not just for your SMEs to get used to contributing. You need a trial-and-error phase (or call it a pilot) for everyone. Doing everything at once may be a bit steep.

[Content inspired by this article on Huffington post]

Storytelling in the age of content marketing

Has content marketing changed consumers?

My version of the customer decision journey

My colorful version of the customer decision journey. Click to view McKinsey’s version.

The question popped into my mind while reading this blog post on Pamorama. Pam neatly shows two models for the process a customer goes through before (and in the second case, after) they make a purchase.

There’s quite a difference between the two models. But does that difference reflect a change in consumers? If so, did content marketing cause that change?

The pre-content marketing sales funnel

The pre-content marketing sales funnel shows a straightforward process with a beginning and an end. At the end, you’ve bought something. Congratulations! Goodbye – and you never hear from the (web) shop again.

When, if ever, did this sales funnel model match reality? Under what circumstances is there no contact between ‘shopkeeper’ and consumer after the purchase – or, would one map only this part of the process? Continue reading

How a content strategy will help your blogging career

Suppose you want to turn blogging – or let’s call it content creation – into a career. The first thing it means is that you need a business attitude at least where it comes to how much content you’ll create about what topic(s). What you really need is some kind of plan for your content.

A Content Strategy is important for your blogging career. So is Meditation. Relax...

What are the characteristics of a (good) content strategy anyway? I ran into a nice, possibly helpful definition on Business2Community, to which I’ve decided to add my own perspective in this post.

A content strategy for your blogging career

Having a content strategy means you

  • deliberately create content
  • which you have optimized for search. This means that you base your content on keyword phrases that drive ‘organic search traffic’ (and conversions) – this is what the article I mentioned focuses on,
  • that demonstrates an understanding of your potential customer’s knowledge acquisition at various stages in their buying cycle. Don’t worry, I’ll explain later 😉

This means you don’t write whatever you like – a different approach from what you’d do on a personal blog. Instead, you start by finding out what keyword phrases your potential customers are probably using to find the information they need.

What kind of content is your potential customer looking for?

Put yourself into your customers’ shoes for a moment. What information you need depends on several aspects:

  1. Whether you’re already familiar with a type of product or service. Do you need to know what different smartphones do, or do you own one and do you want to compare the latest smartphones with yours?
  2. Whether you’ve already decided which product or service you want, or from which company you’ll buy.
    1. You may want to compare prices to get the best deal regardless of the brand so long as the product meets your demands.
    2. Or you know what product you want. All you need to know is which site or company offers you the best deal.
    3. Or you’re fed up with the lousy service you’ve had from company X and you need to make sure you find a company that does know that “customer service” contains the word “service” for a reason.

Every different situation means you’ll be using different keywords while looking for information.

A content strategy that is optimized for search means you take your potential customers’ search behavior into account even before you start creating content for your blog (or website).

What do you know about your potential customers? Can you ask any of the customers you already have?

Delivering your content to your potential customers

Next: you deliver your “optimized” content to your potential customers in a relevant and compelling way.

What is relevant depends on what your readers and/or your potential customers are looking for, not what you feel is important for you to tell the world.

Compelling is a word I’ve seen too often since I started reading about content marketing, and relevance takes care of a lot. True, it doesn’t help if you analyze quite interesting stuff down to the level of atoms for potential customers who either want you to help them or to entertain them. On the other hand, maybe you’re doing exactly the right thing to attract the people you need for your business. Do you know?

What kinds of content can you deliver on your blog?

A couple of categories of content that could work in the context of your blog are:

  1. Case studies that show how you dealt with a particular kind of issue. This lets people know what to expect from you.
  2. The ‘how to’ posts are familiar and they can be quite popular. However a post doesn’t become popular just because the title starts with “How to…”. Again, relevance to your potential customers matters most.
  3. White papers that give in-depth information to those readers you’ve selected as possibly interested in more than the average blog post.
  4. News about events you attend or organize, so people know where/when to find you.

Final considerations for a blogging career

If you’re serious about a blogging career you also need to consider which format suits your potential customers, and where they hang out for preference.

  • Are they the reading kind or do they prefer video?
  • Do they write lengthy comments on your blog or do they drop a short line on Twitter?

If, like me, you’re writing for the fun of writing, or to help your thinking process along, these considerations are probably not for you. But if you’ve decided to try to make money blogging, you’ll need to cater for your potential customers’ preference rather than stay in your own cosy comfort zone wondering where they went.

How content management will help your content strategy

How is content management related to content strategy? And how can content management help your content strategy? The answer to the first question differs depending on your professional background.

Before going into the connection between content management and content strategy, here is how I see the two in their respective roles.

What is content management?

Content Management - Content Strategy - Content Planning

A content inventory allows you to find content gaps and planning to fill them

Content management inside an organization is pretty much an administrative role.

Although content management systems (CMS) help you structure the content your organization has, the role of content manager hasn’t gone away – people who have trouble structuring information generally find the cure, or system, worse than the disease.

Not getting your categories, keywords, tags sorted means you and your coworkers will have a hard time finding stuff back. It’s a major reason why many people keep their own little archive – to make sure the information that matters most to them, or even to their coworkers, won’t get lost.

What is content strategy?

Content strategy is a word from the realm of content marketing – just like search engine optimization (SEO). Content marketing is about how and when to bring your message to your audience.

Some basic content marketing questions are:

  • What audiences do you want to attract?
  • What does their customer journey look like?
  • What kind of information do they need at various moments?

Your content strategy is also about more fundamental issues, like defining what you will share at all and why (not). This means structuring what you have and planning what you don’t yet have.

The article “How to build online engagement with health care communities” makes clear that you should realize who you, the organization (or person) providing content to your audiences, are.

  • What types of content you can offer to what audience flows from your organization’s identity – the roles you play in the careers and lives of your various audiences.
  • Then there’s the topics you want to publish about – the services or products your organization offers. Which topics can you share with which audience?

How will content management help your content strategy?

Any decent kind of content management (using tags and the like) will help you take inventory of the content you’re already publishing. The first time you see your content inventory and your content strategy laid out side by side – what you have versus what you should have – you’ll probably find quite a few gaps in your published content. These gaps are the should haves you don’t have yet.

You may also find that your content management is fine in traditional (administrative) terms. Thinking ahead in order for your content to be found later on is part of content management. You may still need to look at your content (tags and all) and wonder: where is my customer? If you can’t find them, make sure you put them in.

Next step: use your new knowledge to fill in the content gaps

You now have a good view of your content landscape. Simply put, what you do next is: fill in the content gaps, add tags that make sense to you and to your audiences, and plan ahead to keep the flow of content going.

Why tools fail: learning curve in knowledge management

Getting to know a tool for knowledge management – or for anything which sounds as if your organization should be doing it – is like receiving a present. It’s gift-wrapped and looks very promising on the outside. But there is an issue.

Big Tools for Knowledge Management?

Using Big Bait for Knowledge Management? – Flickr | HikingArtist.com

Continue reading