Skip to main content

The Confounding Practice Of Content Curation

By January 28, 2015February 1st, 2018Podcast, Readings, Social Marketing
The Confounding Practice Of Content Curation

I have a question for you today.

What do people in your industry do that drives you nuts? Perhaps a common practice that makes you wonder where common sense went. Or a borderline unethical one that sometimes makes you wish you had nothing to do with your industry at all.

How about something straight-up controversial that has folks in your world coming down on one side of the fence or another?

Think of that thing and write it down. Think about your position on that thing and write that down, too. When you’re done reading this tell me about it in the comments because today I’m going to share precisely that type of thing with you.

Today, as part of my monthly Word Carnival, I’ve been tasked with writing about something controversial in my own industry – marketing – and taking a stand.

So today, I’m going to tell you why content curation as a social marketing strategy is silly, fruitless and something you should stop doing immediately. So come on and step over the line and join me in the land of lead generation and practical marketing tactics!

*Note: I decided to edit that bit out because it seems there are some content curation defenders who will hang me on it and ignore everything else I’ve said. I’ve had more conversations about the word “silly” than about whether or not content curation works. I concede. The word silly and its cousin fruitless have been rescinded. In place of arguing a word choice, I challenge you to prove me wrong on anything else I’ve said here. In other words, show me the money.

The Controversy That Isn’t

The small problem with this controversy is that there really isn’t one. And that’s actually the bigger problem. Content curation has been beaten into our heads so often and with such conviction that we take it for granted as a must, the same way we know we need a website and know we need a logo. (You may not need those either, but that’s a whole other conversation…)

And so it gets included in marketing strategies everywhere by people who think they’re doing the right thing. In fact, entire industries have sprung up around teaching you strategies for content curation.

What I do find controversial is the eagerness of some people in the marketing space to defend the practice of content curation as if their very existence as marketing professionals depends on it. They try super hard to convince us that curation is a grand strategy, a must-do, a real results-getter.

That’s why I want to take this subject head on and tell you why believing in the magic of content curation is a mistake.

Part 1. The Buts

Whenever I argue that content curation may not be the best road to success and give people ideas for creating original content instead, the inevitable arguments pop up. Arguing some of these is sort of like trying to disprove the flying spaghetti monster but hey, I’ll give it a shot.

But nobody wants to see pictures of me and my dog all the time.

Nope, they probably don’t. And yet “pictures of me and my dog” is not the opposite of content curation. Nor is it the only viable alternative. I’ve listed a number of these before so you can read them yourself and please try not to translate anything I’ve said as promoting endless selfies, dog selfies or anything otherwise narcissistically selfie-like.

But I don’t have time to create original content.

Again, we’re assuming that content curation is either the opposite of, or the only viable alternative to, massively head-spinning, energy-sucking creativity.

Not true.

I plucked that myth out of brains everywhere in another recent post so you’ll just have to go read that one, too. To sum it up, you can use social media to interact, to listen, to engage and none of that has to involve content at all.

Plus if you’ve ever really sat down and tried to find quality content to share you’ll know that’s neither fast nor simple either. I admit, I’ve done my share of curating, and I’ve hated every moment of it. Forcing myself to sift through endless junk in search of that one gem was pure torture. I’d rather create something on my own any day.

But it builds authority.

This one baffles me. Substitute “shows expertise”, “establishes thought leadership”, “builds trust” or any such similar thing and you’ve got an argument worth crushing. I’m not clear on how sharing content that someone else has put time, brainpower and expertise into makes you look like a hero. There is no transitive power of authority. There is just you sending people to someone other than you for insight and intelligent discourse.

But the internet is so crowded with content. We need people to get to the good stuff and act as trusted resources.

Ok. But I’m busy. I’ve got an actual job and a business to run and clients to work for. I’ve got money to make and a mortgage to pay. I’m not sure how “be a resource” got into my job description but I didn’t put it there and I never promised a client or prospect I would be their personal content vetter. I bet you didn’t either.

Being your resource is not my job. Being someone else’s resource is not your job. If that’s the goal of your curation strategy then ask yourself how much you’re getting paid to spend hours researching and aggregating content for “your audience”, who, let’s be honest, is probably comprised of many thousands of people you don’t even know.

But you have to put the needs of your customers first.

Even more baffling than before. I am putting the needs of my customers first – by doing the job they hired me for. By adding value to their lives the way I promised. If this argument is circling in your brain, flush it. Then go and give your customers what they really need from you. I bet it’s not an RSS feed.

If you really want to give your customers what they need then figure out what that is and give it to them. Write the blog post they need to read. Answer the questions they need to understand. Do that and you’ll be far ahead of the curating herd.

Part 2. The Challenges

When the arguments fail, people start to attack things that I do regularly – like sharing other people’s content. They look for loopholes in what I say to prove just how amazing content curation really is and how wrong/hypocritical I really am. Because, remember, their existence depends on it.

Here’s what I get all the time.

So you’re afraid of the competition then?

No, not really. What I’m afraid of is thoughtless-leaders who insist on selling a one-size-fits-all strategy and calling it marketing gold.

What I’m afraid of is people who read books called “21 Days To Success With Any Random Thing You Want To Learn” and then selling their sudden expertise to unsuspecting people.

What I’m afraid of is that one of my clients will spend another second or another cent on trying to build authority by sending people to look for that authority elsewhere.

I quite enjoy the competition. They’re some of the smartest people I know. I’ve learned a lot from them and – yes – from reading their content.

This is yet another topic we’ve hit recently. You can read that, too.

I’m a fan of embracing the competition. When it’s worthy, competition is a powerful ally. You can build relationships and partnerships and share in each other’s success.

Sharing opportunities proves you’re not afraid of the competition. Not sharing their content.

If curating is so bad then I shouldn’t be sharing your content.

But why? Don’t you want to be an authority? And build your credibility? And prove your resourcefulness? And be a thought leader?

Ok, I really hope you caught the joke there.

But seriously. If you’re sharing my content I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I appreciate your generosity. But if you’re sharing my content because you think some of my brilliance will wear off on you and your audience will think you’re a magical unicorn for bringing them such amazing blogs and podcasts… you can stop. I mean, if that’s the only reason you’re doing it then I think you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Also, sharing is not the same as curating. I’ll get to the in a minute.

What about Triberr; isn’t that the same as curating?

At last, my favorite challenge!

I love this challenge so much because I love Triberr so much. Thanks to meeting up (online and in real life) with some super smart content creators whose content I share diligently, a world of opportunity has opened at my feet.

I’ll share my tribe mates’ content a dozen, two dozen times every day.

So what’s the difference between that and curation?

The difference is that I don’t consider it curating. You may think I’m splitting hairs but when I share people’s content from Triberr, it’s because I’ve built some kind of relationship with them, because I find them worthy allies and because I value what they say and I think more people should hear it.

It’s because we cross promote and share each other’s content to help each other expand our reach. It’s a relationship building strategy that works because I’ve witnessed it working.

It’s not about looking smart or authoritative or being a resource or filling a social stream.

The same is true of any content that I share – and I’m all for sharing. This is where sharing diverges from curating. Curating is done for all the wrong reasons. Sharing is done out of loyalty, appreciation, cross promotion, relationship building. I share because I want to. Not because I’ve made some weird assumption that “my audience” wants me to. I share because I believe that what I’m sharing should be seen, read, heard and listened to farther and wider and I’m glad to be part of that chain.

That is not the same as sitting in front of an RSS feed combing through stuff to post because “that’s what you do”.

Part 3. The Reality

As I mentioned earlier, I used to curate. Partly because I try lots of things and partly because I drank the Kool Aid, too. Somehow the word “curating” as it pertains to social media got embedded in our brain cells long before we had a chance to actually think about it.

Want to know what I discovered and why I’m so serious about helping you get out of the curation trap now?

Because nobody cared but me.

Right here on this blog we used to curate five blog posts each week about business and marketing. I would easily spend half a day searching for the best of the best and writing short summaries so my audience would fall in love with how resourceful I was for bringing them amazing content.

I hated putting those posts together. It took me forever. I would much rather have been sharing my own thoughts but I busily looked for other thoughts to share.

For a year and a half I curated those posts. And the result of all that effort?

They were the least trafficked and least shared posts of everything on our site.

Not even the authors cared. A few of them would stop by to thank me for sharing (and those were the ones I already had relationships with) but mostly nobody noticed. It didn’t help me build new relationships or expand my reach or build my authority. It just cost me a crap ton of time and I was never so happy to abandon an idea as to give up those roundups.

Because nobody ever mentioned finding us through something we’d curated.

Lots of people contact us through our website and when we ask how they found us not one of them has ever said that our curated posts or curated content did it.

They sometimes “Googled us and we came up”. Mostly they pointed out a specific post we wrote that inspired them to take action.

Because there really is a lot of crappy content out there.

Holy mackerel, is there ever. But instead of trying to sift through it all, we’ve decided to create our own, not-crappy content. All those hours spent curating never led to a single lead or sale that I can determine. But I can give you a dozen posts that directly led to a sale. Or at least a conversation. And two dozen more that led to some really beneficial relationships. And even some that stirred the pot a little. Like this one. Maybe I won’t make any friends by telling people to stop curating and to stop paying their marketers for doing it or to stop buying “strategies” or ebooks or courses around it. But I bet someone will email me and have a light bulb moment when they realize there’s more to life than “other people’s stuff”.

Because real brands don’t curate.

The next time someone tries to feed you that line about building your authority or being a thought leader or some such similar nonsense, I want you to point them to Coca Cola. I want you to ask them how much of Pepsi’s content Coke curates just to prove how unafraid of the competition they are.

I want you to point them to Whole Foods. I want you to ask them how much authority Whole Foods is building by sending you to the Food Network so you can learn to deep fry or chop peppers.

I want you to point them to Starbucks and ask them how much content Starbucks is curating so they can be the everything-coffee resource for their fan base.

I dare you to find me one recognized brand that curates the way we as small businesses have been brainwashed to do.

So if you want to share, then share. The internet would be a much sadder place without it. If you want to build relationships and cross promote or just be a nice guy, then share.

But stop doing something just because someone sold the idea to you. Start asking logical questions like, “So how does someone else’s smart content make me look smart?”

Approach your marketing with a bit of healthy skepticism. Never marry an idea. Date it for a while, then break up if it isn’t working out. Commit only when something is really, truly, measurably working.

Heck, don’t even listen to me. Just get out there, try something and see what happens. If you’re not seeing a real return, stop. It doesn’t matter how many “experts” tell you otherwise.

This post is part of the Word Carnival, a monthly group blogging event where some of the smartest business owners you’ll meet get together to dish on a topic. This month’s topic: Dirty Deeds and Due Diligence – what to watch out for in 2015! The New Year is bright with all sorts of new ideas, but in certain circles there’s still plenty of shady tricks and underhanded practices that we think should be called out. Read the rest of the fantastic carnie articles here.

Join the discussion 59 Comments

  • Brett says:

    I think what I’ve mostly done (especially for my nonprofit insurance blog, is to share content that I think might be helpful. I try to keep it all under my big idea of ‘Protecting Your Vision’ (and try to offer some additional insight or opinion about the deal). That sharing is mostly in the context of Twitter. My blog has always been my content. Another reason that I’ve enjoyed sharing content is because it’s a nice way to make an introduction. Occasionally, conversations happen from that (I believe this is how I ran into y’all…. by referencing you in a blog post on my side project.

    By the way… thanks for the shout out a couple episodes back! I continue to enjoy and learn much from the W.S.S. perspective. Solid. Solid. Solid.

    • “Solid. Solid. Solid.” I’ll second that motion, Brett!

    • YES, well that’s precisely my point – sharing is about starting conversations and building exactly these kinds of relationships. That is a perfectly valid reason to share and cross-share. But the idea of authority and trust and all that nonsense that’s supposed to spring from curation is just so detached from reality. And I have news for you, if I share someone’s content and they don’t respond, don’t engage, don’t even manage a “thanks” then I don’t share it again. There’s lots of good content. (yeah, there’s lots of crappy content, too…) but I’ll share content from people I have a relationship with any day. Otherwise it falls into the “curation” trap where you feel you need to share just to share.

  • Wonderful addition to the word carnival!

    I think the “reality” of content curation surrounds “confusion”, Carol Lynn.

    With every cell in my body, I believe people don’t fully understand the difference between social media sharing and curating. And I’ll never wrap my brain around someone wanting to spend hours on end researching other peoples’ content — when they could devote that precious time more productively to creating and building up their own content.

    “Real brands don’t curate.” NO, they don’t. I can’t imagine Nike sending their customers or prospective customers to Asics for information, resources, or expertise. That would be totally foolish and fruitless and, in fact, would hurt their branding and it certainly wouldn’t help their marketing, either.

    • That’s because their brands are already established. That’s the whole difference and something that this article completely misses.

      • It probably won’t come as a surprise that I completely disagree with that assessment. I bet Coke, even as a one-bottle-show, never curated content from competitors. And of course that’s a bit of a far reaching analogy because they didn’t have the option as we do today when the company first started. But the point is the same. Curation as a practice has only been invented recently by marketers who want to sell it. And businesses buy it because it’s the internet, and businesses will buy just about anything that comes with a small enough price tag and a big enough promise.

        I want to change that. I want people to stop to think about what they’re doing, why and for what measurable purpose. There is no rule book that says to be a successful, authoritative, established, well known brand that you have to start off by finding and disseminating content belonging to other successful, authoritative, established, well known brands.

        You cannot build authority by riding on the coattails of authority. And I can prove that at a small business level over and over. I can point to business after business that has built an incredibly strong brand through zero curation. On the other hand I can’t say the same about businesses that curate. They are often so busy proving their authority through someone else’s content that they neglect to ACTUALLY build their authority.

        Real curation, good curation is an incredibly time consuming effort. If you truly want to prove your resourcefulness and find the best of quality content for your audience, that requires a tremendous time investment to find, read, source and publish. Imagine how much more a business could accomplish with even half of that energy devoted to their own blog, their own messaging, their own relationship building efforts.

        Small businesses have been brainwashed to think of themselves as something “other”, something perhaps not as worthy. So what if Coke or Starbucks is an established brand? Should I sit here at my desk and apply my energy to less effective tasks because I’m a small, unknown business? Should I back off self promotion, back off creativity, back off my own content and my own knowledge because I have to establish myself first? By telling everyone that I’m a small, unknown business but hey, at least I know who the smart ones are!

        Small businesses have an extra responsibility to BE authoritative. To BE the company they want people to trust. To BE the experts. Not to source them. Otherwise we are just one in a large sea of noise.

        I haven’t missed the point. I’m making the point. Small businesses need to stand up and be the best of themselves – not the best of someone else. I simply don’t buy into the mentality that I have to establish myself by first proving how good I am at recognizing when someone else comes up with a worthy idea.

        I’ll conclude with this thought, which is something I tell everyone who will stop to listen and is willing to think for themselves: don’t take my word for it. Don’t believe a word I say. If you’re curating content and it’s turning into revenue and business growth, keep curating. If it’s not, or if you can increase revenue and growth with an alternative, then do the alternative. But please don’t tell me that you’re building authority, building trust, being a “resource” or any number of inexplicable reasons people use to defend a practice that only exists to feed the marketing machine.

      • Kevin says:

        I am not a marketing professional. But what I can tell you is that I am completely overwhelmed by the amount of information out there when I try to learn about something. Any product, any company, any service… leads me down a rabbit hole and I get frustrated and wind up walking away. If I want to purchase a product or use a service or join a club, I can tell you now that if I went to your website or blog or FB page and it was a lot of information about OTHER people that you curated I would X out immediately. I want to know about YOUR company, YOUR brand, what makes YOU special. That is why I went to your page in the first place.

    • Melanie, I agree that sharing and curation are often confused but they are two different things in my book. I tried to make that point in the article, which is that I share all the time. I share content from a number of people whose opinions and relationships I value. But I do not “research” as you said to find content to put at the center of some kind of social strategy. I used to… don’t get me wrong, I bought into the idea too. And then I took and step back and wondered why on earth I was doing it and I never looked back. Maybe what we need is clarity on curating in the first place so people recognize it when they’re doing it. And can stop immediately 🙂

  • I’ve never bothered with curation. It never occurred to me. And I didn’t realize how much of a “thing” it is until now. I’ve ALWAYS written about what I know, when I blog. I only share articles that are, in my professional opinion, helpful to my audience.

    The ONLY time you could say I curated content, wasn’t so much curation as making sure I had my facts straight before writing something. I refuse to put anything out there that could mislead anyone.

    Also, I’ve never heard of Triberr until now and will definitely check them out! Great post!

    • Hi Janice, you are probably the first person I’ve met who never thought about curation! Consider yourself lucky. You could have wasted a lot more time! I definitely research, too. Even if I don’t need “facts” I always like to see what other people say, to find out if an opinion is worth exploring, including or rebutting as the case may be.

      I really enjoy the relationships I’ve built through Triberr. I admit there’s a learning curve… it’s not always intuitive out of the gate. But reach out to me if you need help getting set up, I’m happy to help!

      • While I’m big on quality website content, I’ve always been big on writing my own content (or my customer their own content). Not spending time seeing what everyone else is doing and saying, rather than having your own, unique thoughts on the page.

        And thanks, if I get stuck on something with Triberr, I’ll give a holler.

  • Yep, curation is totally misunderstood. I DO share a LOT of links, but only as they come into my awareness. I don’t really go searching for them. That’s the distinction here. Beyond that tho, I DO think that the content we share (other’s content too) does help folks understand who we are, what we know, and how we can help them. It becomes a layer of your branding when you become “known” for sharing quality stuff about X vs. funny cat videos or raunchy jokes. And when you share something that’s thought provoking and ask for a conversation around that, that too, helps develop your authority and branding. Should it be the #1 priority in your long list of marketing tasks? NO. But in my opinion, sharing this way can be useful in generating leads — especially if you share something one to one with someone you’re hoping to develop a relationship with. Great topic!

    • You know, I thought way too late that I probably should have started with a darn definition. That’s why I split out sharing from curation. I will share every one of YOUR posts but I don’t “curate” them. I guess it sounds like semantics but I share your stuff because 1. it’s great and 2. everyone should read it and 3. if you get more exposure and business out of it I would be the happiest person on earth. It has nothing to do with my brand or being a resource or anything of the nature.

      You made a good point though about the quality of the things you share – if it’s only junk then that will certainly reflect on your brand. I also am all for starting discussions. Still, I think if there was something worth having a discussion about I’d create my own content around it, perhaps referencing the other content but not making it the center point. Still, that could be personal preference. But people who sit around spending hours “sourcing” content – I just think you’d better server everyone if you created your own. And making it a central strategy is a bad idea.

  • Love this perspective, Carol Lynn. I think curation has its place, but is not a substitute for creating your own shareworthy stuff. I use curation tools to find content I might have missed, for my own info, but I don’t share any curated digests. Do I sometimes find thought provoking articles to share? Yes! Do I skate over a lot of stuff unread? Yes!! Tools are only as good as the use you make of them. (OK, I’ll stop now before I get into a circular argument – or is it too late?) 🙂

    • I get what you’re saying. I think in part curation is such a “thing” because it’s sold as easy. Look at all the tools out there to make it simple as can be to cram your social feeds full of “good stuff”. But that is not an end as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes you can say nothing at all! I do the same as you – if I come across something I think is worth sharing, I will share it. But I don’t actively seek out sharable content like its some kind of strategy that’s going to work magic on my relationships and branding and bottom line.

  • Krithika Rangarajan says:

    I enjoy sharing articles – not because I HAVE to, but because I WANT to. If a particularly interesting nugget catches my eye, then I believe it’s only fair that the rest of the world gets to appreciate that author’s brilliance too. In no way do I believe that curation builds MY authority – naah…(at the most, people will think I read a ton of articles! LOL )

    Thank you for educating us about the subtle, but significant difference between sharing and curating. The former is a strategy, the latter is a time-zap!

    But, again, I will NEVER share someone’s article SOLELY because he or she is an influencer (aah – a term I hate! 😛 ). I don’t share with the intention of building relationships. I share because a particular article empowered, entertained, encouraged or educated me, and I want others to experience similar emotions! 😀 The relationship will be a byproduct…(and I HAVE built lots of relationships by sharing content (AND adding my original thoughts) to it without expecting any rewards)

    Thanks for another enlightening conversation, Carol (indeed, the Comment stream in YOUR site is not just a random list of disparate notes…it’s a DISCUSSION, an INTERACTION, a CONVERSATION – thank youu for giving us an amazing experience on your blog)’


    PS: Maybe you should take on that dastardly 80:15:5 rule (or whatever! 😛 ) next

    • LOL, you cracked me up with the 80:15:5 rule! Sounds like something we’d better coin and sell!

      You made a point even better than I could have – sharing great content is showing off the author’s smarts – not intended to make YOU look smart. Exactly! When I share content it’s because I want people to look at the author. Go enjoy them, sign up for their email list, buy their stuff, even if they’re the competition! How weird is it that we’ve turned sharing into a self-centered act under the guise of curation? This is a point I need to bring up on our next podcast! Brilliant.

      Oh, and don’t even get me started about “influencers”. I’ve written about that before, too. So tired of all these tropes that people sell as gospel. How about BEING an influencer instead of latching onto one?

      By the way, you and I connected through your generous sharing of my content 🙂 So sharing is a good thing! We need more sharing, less selfish “curating”.

      • Krithika Rangarajan says:

        I do apologize for all those CAPITALIZED words – oops, didn’t mean to yell! But I did throw my fists in the air excitedly while devouring your article 😉 – Kit Rodgers (hehe)

  • Brooke Ballard says:

    GAUNTLET THROWN! (As said by Ralph when telling me about using this topic for our upcoming podcast recording)
    Seriously, though. I see what you are trying to say but I think some of the statements you make (content curation as a social marketing strategy is silly, fruitless and something you should stop doing immediately) are a little too generalized for me. There are plenty of smart and savvy companies and marketers who use careful curation as a tactic to lend to their overall marketing strategy. These are real experts (not the “experts”).

    Furthermore, I think sharing is done AFTER curation. We curate the best and relevant content for our audiences, from our trusted network, from influencers, etc. and then share it for a myriad of reasons. I think there’s lazy curation (filling streams to fill streams) and careful curation (filling streams with intent and purpose that lends to a bigger strategy). That’s the distinction here — not curation itself.

    I’ll have a rebuttal out on the blog shortly! This is a great topic and I’m looking forward to discussing it with you more.

    • You made my point in part, Brooke – curating done well is a tactic that you may want to include in a larger marketing strategy. But it certainly doesn’t have all the wonderful, amazing, magical properties that it is often sold to have. And curation in itself is not a strategy. You don’t need a strategy to curate. It’s a tactic you can use but that’s about it.

      Sharing also has nothing to do with curation nor does it spring from it. I share content that comes to me – not content that I dig out of a slush pile in my RSS feed. Great content comes to me through the relationships I have and through the people I actively engage with. I never purposefully seek content to share for any of the – silly and fruitless – reasons I’ve listed here.

      You’re right – there is most certainly a difference between thoughtless curation that fills a social stream and thoughtful curation that really does provide value. Again you’re sort of making my point for me here. The second kind, the only one I’d be able to accept in any way (and trust me, that’s a small way) is a lot of work. It takes a lot of time and it’s time I’d much rather invest in myself – my own content, my own business. It’s what I would recommend to any business. If you have two hours a day to devote to digging out “the best of the best”, how about writing the most amazing blog post you can? Of Your own? To share?

      Rebut away, but I’ve worked with too many businesses and seen too many curation failures and… uncuration?… wins to be convinced at this point. I look forward to the ensuing jello fight 🙂

      • Brooke Ballard says:

        Jello fight ON! 🙂

        I think we are looking at the same thing and calling it something different. I don’t want to divulge too much here because my post is ready and waiting to go out.

        I will say this about dissenting opinions: A very wise therapist (I own her my sanity) once explained perception to me in a total “ah-ha” way. She said something like:

        We’re both looking at a steno pad, only I am on one side and you are on the other. I keep telling you it’s a rectangle that’s yellow with little blue lines, and you keep telling me that it’s a rectangle that’s brown and looks like cardboard. We’re both right. We’re both looking at the same thing. Our perspective doesn’t allow us to see the other side, so we have to work together to understand what’s between us.

        I don’t think it’s fair to say something is an absolute no-no and doesn’t work (unless it’s plagiarism or something of that nature) because it hasn’t worked for you. I also think if it’s worked for others, that we should be respectful of those professionals and not try to belittle what they’ve done.

        This is a conversation, right? I hope so, because that denotes two-way dialogue and an open exchange of ideas, not a “my way or the highway” line of thinking. If it’s a conversation, it’s clearly one worth having!

        • Red jello, though. The green stuff is nasty.

          I do think there’s a nuance here and no doubt curation is defined differently depending on which side of the steno pad you’re sitting on…. (hey, I tried!) I’m talking about it here in the traditional sense. As much as something that’s only been around for half a dozen years can be considered traditional. I’m talking about curating in the “let me go out and research stuff to share because I don’t have time for original content and I have to post something plus this will make me look good and smart and trustworthy” sense. I cannot get on board with that. Period.

          That’s why I distinguished between genuine sharing and relationship building vs aggregating for these odd and badly defined purposes.

          I quite enjoy conversing about debatable topics. I love opposing opinions – sometimes I disagree and sometimes I get food for thought and learn something new. So converse away!

          Like you, I am not a fan of absolutes. We don’t advocate any specific strategy or a tactic around here. We advocate on behalf of the businesses we help. A thing only works if it works FOR YOU. I will no more sell someone on the idea of curating than I will on building a website or having a Facebook page or building an email list. It’s all situational and depends on what’s in the best interests of a business, their (paying) audience and their goals.

          Don’t hang me on the “silly and fruitless” thing. It was a hook to get started. Hopefully the points I made were valid on their own. Besides, it IS silly if you’re doing it for the reasons of filling a social stream or blindly following some “expert” advice. And that’s the greater point, which I hope is not missed in the debate.

          • Brooke Ballard says:

            Okay. I’ll save the rest for my post and our chat. Can’t wait for the jiggly jello.

          • Can one of you explain what a “Jello fight” is? Here in the UK we call “Jello”“Jelly”. And that could lead us into a conversation about the differences between jelly, jam and jello which we might be best to leave for another time! But why fight with jello/jelly?!

            Anyway great conversation here, I’m going to have to read it many more times to properly get my head round it.

            I wanted to thank you, @carollynnrivera:disqus just for writing the article. I’m sure there will be quite a few who will disagree with you at first- perhaps if they skim read the article, but I wonder how many people would disagree if they really read everything you’ve written.

            As for me, I think the argument lies at the molecular level- it’s a very fine line and one that can get us all confused all too easily.

            Hopefully we can all agree on the fact that doing something in marketing just because everyone else is doing it and without any thought at all is not good practice. Just because everyone else is supposedly doing content curation doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for you and your business.

            But firstly, what is content curation? To be honest I was confused. Is it:
            – Sharing a number of articles that others have written in one article (with or without your thoughts)?
            – Sharing articles via your social media channels using Triberr?
            – Sharing articles via your social media channels that have been pre-selected?
            – Sharing articles via your social media channels automatically via an RSS feed?
            – Content curation using tools such as paperli and scoopit, maybe listly

            Are all of the above types of content curation? Possibly, but what do you think?
            I certainly share via Triberr and I share articles I’ve discovered on Feedly to my Twitter account. Both of these methods have allowed me to build on relationships and get involved in some cool conversations. It probably does demonstrate that I’m interested in social media, digital marketing and web development- and maybe it shows that I know a little about the topics. Can I measure the ROI of this technique? Is this going to generate leads for my business? Difficult to say, but if this is content curation, I don’t have this as my main marketing plan. It’s part of my plan, but certainly not the whole plan.

            I wondered what you thought of sniply? It’s an interesting tool that adds a bar, button or a form at the bottom of the articles that you share with a call to action. If I do share an article that someone else has written, then there is a link back to my website at the bottom or a form to sign up for my newsletter. It’s a way of driving people back to your website even if you share other people’s content. I’m not sure what I think of it at the moment and I’ve yet to see if it is effective.

            Many years ago I used to do automatic sharing via an RSS feed. It was a very lazy way of sharing content and I can honestly say it does not work. It’s obvious that it’s automated and so people switch off- including the people who wrote the articles that your sharing.

            And that brings us on to Triberr. I can kind of see the distinction you make and why you think Triberr is different to content curation. However I think it’s a little tenuous. Perhaps Triberr is content curation, but with that comes lots of really amazing advantages which means you can stomach the content curation part? Is that how you would see it? Certainly I totally agree with you in how amazing Triberr is. It’s been amazing for my website and my business. It’s given me such a boost in traffic and leads to boot. Even more importantly it’s allowed me to meet some amazing people- I wouldn’t have met you, @facebook-1155715715:disqus as well as @ralphmrivera:disqus and @brooke_ballard:disqus if it wasn’t for Triberr.

            Thanks for again making us think. Even if people disagree with you, they’ll at least be thinking why they adopt content curation as their strategy. As for me, I’ve got more thinking to do. Looking forwards to reading more comments- that’s where the magic starts to happen (not that your article wasn’t magic!).

          • Jello…. it’s that gross wiggly gelatin stuff that starts out as powder then you add water and put it in the refrigerator and it gets solid sort of like pudding but kind of slimy like jelly 🙂 Jello fighting is sort of like mud wrestling…. but with jello. I bet you’re glad you asked.

            On to curation!

            I totally agree that doing something “just because” is the worst kind of doing something. Or doing it just because someone told you to (and you think they know better). Or doing it because it’s “fast” and you don’t have time to do something meaningful.

            Calling curation a strategy is also weird to me. It’s like calling email a strategy. To me it’s a tactic that’s part of your larger marketing strategy but I guess when people want to sell you stuff they have to make it sound important.

            There is a pretty wibbly wobbly (jello-like) line between sharing and curating. I’m making the distinction because sharing is something we’ve done since the dawn of time. Even before the internet. we shared our favorite books with our friends. We shared newspaper articles. When the internet popped up we started sharing everything we found via email with every person we knew. We said look at this! And what’s that?

            So for marketers to wake up now and start calling this “curating” and put a spin on it that makes it sound like you’re doing it to make yourself looks smart and authoritative and to get leads is …. well, let me not get in trouble by saying “silly”… how about I just say it’s very odd to me.

            And they don’t leave it at that. Now you have to TRY to curate. You have to purposefully go out there, find all these thought leaders and share their stuff. Not so people can read their stuff but so YOU can look important. I’ll go back to what Kit said in an earlier comment: she shares because she read something that moved her and she wants other people to enjoy the author’s work. She doesn’t share because she thinks some magical properties of the author will wear off on her or because it will make her looks smart. And there is the crux of the problem.

            Sharing is other-focused. Curating is me-focused. I’m sharing YOUR content to help ME get social marketing results. In what world other than the internet can we make up something so absurd?

            Curtating in my mind is the brainless (and yes, I do mean that) task of sitting down with the Mashables and Copyboggers and Forbes of the world and picking out the smart stuff so you can call it marketing strategy. Because you don’t have “time” to be creative. Because someone told you that’s the way you get trust.

            Sharing is what we do all the time. Reading something we enjoy and sharing it with other because we think it should be enjoyed elsewhere.

            So it’s partly intent, yes. But the intent is what leads to results. If my intent is to share something so I sound smart and trustworthy and so I can be a resource for everyone and show how well I can vet content, then that is a long slide down into obscurity. And a lot of wasted time. If my intent is to share something because it merits sharing, with no expectation that this reflects on me in any way, that’s when you open opportunities to build real relationships.

            As for Triberr, I’m sure people use it for all different reasons but the intent is to share your audience with others whose content is worth sharing. I know there are some people who are all about the numbers and do nothing but click click click but still, the intent is “I’ll share yours if you share mine.” I know very few people (maybe nobody!) who “curate” and would share if the sharing wasn’t reciprocated.

            If people stopped sharing my content and all the relationships dried up, I would stop sharing those, too. There is an actual, tangible benefit to that kind of sharing even if it’s not drawing a straight line to sales.

            Sometimes people conflate the two, curating and sharing. Smart “curators” will tell you that it’s about relationships and that you can’t just fill a social stream. But I feel like they’ve attached this label to something that didn’t need a label, that we could put in the category of relationship building or even call it influence marketing if you want. Pick a category and you can package and sell it.

            Most commonly, though, are people who find the influencers, the authorities, the Copybloggers and Mashables and Chris Brogans, and share because they need to say SOMETHING and they’re just too busy to do anything original. And they think this has a purpose – a beneficial marketing purpose.

            But lets say you find one of those articles because you read them regularly and you share it, whether you write a blog about it or put together a Google Plus post with your thoughts or questions. I hate to burst the curation bubble but at that point it’s CREATING. You just happened to create based on something that inspired you in another article. It’s what we did in high school when we referenced our sources!

            I suppose I want to make the distinction in part because there are useful ways to share and not so useful ways. I would like to stop them from being lumped together as the same “strategy”.

            I realize this is turning into a whole other blog post. So I’ll wrap up (for now) by saying I have not heard of sniply and if I understand correctly you’re saying that when you share someone else’s blog post, it directs people to YOUR website and email list? If that’s the case then it’s an underhanded win for curation but I find that dishonest and not far off from Other Dude just stealing and using your content for his profit. Wow. If I’m wrong please tell me.

          • There you go again, writing a whole blog post as a comment. I’d never do that… 😉

            Thanks for clarifying. I am all for bursting bubbles and thinking through processes. But it looks like you’re making me do more thinking again. I need a break!

            As for sniply, I’d love your opinion. I remain to be convinced by its purpose, its morality and whether it will actually generate quality leads. It’s been recommended by Social Media Examiner- specifically by Michael Stelzner who says:

            “Sniply allows you to share other people’s content and still easily bring them back to your own content.”

            It’s certainly not plagiarism- it effectively adds a bar or a button to the bottom of the content. I am going to assume you will hate it, but I’d love to know because I respect your opinion. I am giving it a go on my Twitter feed at the moment- basically because I am reviewing it as a tool.

          • I went to the sniply site and watched the demo and I’m pretty outraged right now! If I can get this straight… sniply lets YOU add YOUR contact info and web link and photo and message to MY website as a floating popup! HELL NO! This is a content curator’s wet dream but it is an ethically questionable one at best. If I can find a way to specifically BLOCK someone from using it on my site then I will. If someone has a different opinion I’d love to hear it but my initial reaction was pretty visceral and pretty negative.

          • Thought you might say that. Interested to know the thoughts of other smart people! I expect others will say the same.

        • I want to fight you now, but I can’t stop thinking about Jello. If you mention Oreos, I’ll have to admit defeat.

          I’ve spent the past two years debating this specific topic. I’ve changed a lot of minds by demonstrating evidence yet none have swayed mine. There are reasons for that and I am fully ready to share them….

          When you are a guest on The Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast.

          See what I did there? That’s called a tease.

          • Brooke Ballard says:

            Y’all can’t put a pre-emptive strike out before the podcast and NOT expect me to weigh in. But I’ll save the rest for my post and our recording. 😉 Jello and Oreos now better be present (but only if they’re double stuffed).

  • Annie Sisk says:

    What makes me crazy: People who say “content curation as a social marketing strategy is silly, fruitless and something you should stop doing immediately.”

    Sorry. You asked! 😉

    • Kevin says:

      If you feel that way then defend your position in an intelligent and thoughtful way. Making a comment like this isn’t helpful to a productive conversation/debate.

  • This is why I am always incredibly grateful when you share anything I’ve written, Carol Lynn! I appreciate the distinction you make between “curating” and “sharing.” It’s so important to consider why you’re doing it.

    • Totally agree, and isn’t that what we (collectively) say about everything… think about it! Why are you doing that? At least know that much, even if it’s not a good answer!

  • I want to continue reading and listening to more of your insights Carol Lynn! You’ve really got me thinking on so many levels about how I both curate and share content, as well as creating different types of content too.

    I’m a big reader, but I decided to listen to you read your blog post—what a delightful difference of experiencing your thoughts.

    • That makes my day, Blaze – the “thinking” part, I mean. I love to get people thinking and you know what, you may disagree in the end, but if you’re thinking then you’re not blindly doing and THAT is the key to real success.

  • I am so glad that I don’t have to come up with something to talk about. I like to just say what I want to say and talk about what I want to talk about. I had myself on such a schedule for a while and I know that I need to get back into posting on a more regular basis. I will once I am settled. But, I won’t be as rigorous this year as last as far as what I post. I want it to reflect more of my personality and less of the business side of things. I want people to see more of my wonderful and charming smart alec side… 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Great topic, and I love the controversy sparked around it! Having worked for magazines and community newspapers, I’ve often felt like a lot of what I did as editor was curate content for readers. And that’s what those readers were looking for: the most interesting news, organized by the topics that matter to them, all in one place.

    When it comes to using curation as a marketing strategy for a business, however, I agree with you. I used to curate tons of articles, infographics, and general content for my brand on social media. One day, feeling burnt out on the whole process, I decided to just…stop. Now I only share content that’s spot-on with my brand’s message, and that I come across authentically (i.e., not searching for it). The rest of it is all me: blog posts, social media updates, etc.

    I love your analogy of the larger brands (Coca Cola, Pepsi) not “curating” each other’s content in order to have more “authority.” It’s a bunch of hooey. Down with content curation, up with content creation!

    • Really love this, Molly: ” Down with content curation, up with content creation!” 🙂

      Seems this topic is causing a lot of hair splitting and controversy. And I suppose that’s healthy on some level in the blogosphere. But what’s apparent to me is all the vociferous and emphatic defensiveness. I wish those defending content curation would share at least one specific case FOR curation where it proved to positively and lucratively effect someone’s bottom line. I’m more than willing to listen. Show me the dollars in curating content and I’ll jump on board. I’m no dummy, after all. I’d like a piece of that action, too!

    • Molly, here’s the thing I always come back to: so many people – like you – have done curation, figured out it didn’t work and gave up. NOBODY has ever told me they got results from curating. The only people who do that are marketers who sell it.

      I used to do it too. I curated constantly, for my business and for clients. And at some point you sit back and realistically ask yourself WHAT you’re doing. Is this gaining me anything? No, but it’s costing a lot of time, that much I can prove! I’m still waiting for someone to tell me that it works to do any of the things the curators promise. Authority, trust, leads… You don’t need to argue with me about it, just back up your side of the story.

      I might be waiting for that until the cows come home and pigs fly…. at the same time!

  • SandyMcD says:

    I’ve just been laughing at my naivety. Been grateful too that I haven’t been exposed to the content curation police as you must have been.

    Come to think of it, maybe I’ve just weaned myself off and as far away as possible from all but the most interesting, authentic content around from bright people I like and respect who have original ideas and write so that I want to read.

    Useful thing to do, to change your email address and not subscribe to anything. Policy from last year.

    Anyway, back to my naeivty. When I first heard the term, I wrote enthusiastically about the concept, but I now realise what I was writing about was content sharing. It wasn’t from the perspective of doing it to be seen as super smart and authoritative, but from the idea that sharing good stuff is a helpful thing to do.

    • SandyMcD says:

      Brilliant article BTW. Written so it just needs to be read, agreed to or not. I agree.

      • Thanks Sandy, I really appreciate that! Isn’t it interesting how we somehow figured out how to share and communicate and engage with people BEFORE someone gave it a name and packaged it and sold it? I love sharing good stuff. Heck, if nobody shared my stuff I’d be in big trouble! But the “curation” that people sell is a whole different animal. Someone made it up, called it a good idea and now people everywhere think they have to do it. I’m calling shenanigans!

    • You know, I keep up with web trends rather well. But content curation wasn’t something that really popped up on my radar. Sure I look for quality links to share with my audience.

      But it’s not like I spend hours doing this. Just, as I run across a site, I put the link in Evernote so I can spread out the posts out over time instead of spamming my audience constantly.

  • Preach, preach, preach the word, Sistah! That’s why I’ve been unsubscribing a lot lately. I look at it like this:

    If I subscribe to “ABC’s” blog, to get information directly from the horse’s mouth, why should I continue to subscribe to “XYZ’s” blog if all they’re sending me is content I’ve already read on “ABC’s” blog. Whenever “XYZ” starts doing that my response to them is “See ya, bye!”.

    As a matter of fact, I don’t call it content curation. I call it L-A-Z-I-N-E-S-S.

    • Sometimes it definitely is. One of the advantages of content curation is supposed to be that creating content takes too much time so curation fills the void. And that says lazy to me. If you don’t have time to create then just don’t post anything. Or open up a conversation with people. There are options!

  • Accurate, but I think your detractors have a good point based entirely on semantics (and this, conversely, is why the Word Carnival works so well).

    You mentioned “I would easily spend half a day searching for the best of the best and writing short summaries” — that right there is adding a CRAPTON of value to the activity commonly, buzz-wordingly referred to as “Content Curation”. I wouldn’t do this weekly, I’d do it monthly and give out an award for the best original thoughts in marketing – and limit it to like 5 in the recap. Boom. Instant traffic builder that has everything to do with the right connotation of “Curation” and nothing to do with the cheap-ass marketing tactic.

    To be clear the “Content Curation” buzzword has commonly come to mean: find anything at all to do with your niche, fill your social feed, and share as much as possible like 20x a day so you get noticed for sharing all those great links (a la Guy Kawasaki – who I called a *business d-bag* on Twitter in 2010 for copy-pasting/cherry-picking the good parts out of original content and resharing his edited version as a “new post” on Holy Kaw, one of the first aggregator sites. Guy himself is probably a very nice guy, I wouldn’t know because his marketing tactics make me so mad I could spit).

    It’s a sleazy tactic to generate traffic and on the other end you have Gary V, who can’t stop creating original content (but also seemingly drinks no end of coffee to do it). He also “curates” “content” in the form of no end of Twitter conversations.

    Somewhere in between, Seth Godin, who “curates” ideas and posts daily long-form blog posts. It’s amazing and inspiring to see, but he always draws on something – some idea, some book, some movement, some effort, some new company, or some soundbite.

    100% original content is tiring and hard to keep up with. 100% “curation” has no value-add because you’re not saying anything new, you’re just bringing it all together; and only in very rare cases does either succeed.

    Playing off of other’s content in a blog post (90% original in the form of a tangent or a rebuttal, or even like 70% original – like a review) – is also content curation but not the same “Content Curation” as the buzzword implies.

    So, yes – you’re quite correct “Content Curation” the buzzword sucks and will burn down your business. But the idea of bringing together content or ideas and riffing off it – that’s actually pretty powerful and you demonstrate it by being part of the carnival 😀

    Finally, and most importantly: when do I get an invite to the podcast? 😀

    • Well. I have to say, I think you are right that this boils down to “what you call it.” In my head, all that stuff with the “adding value” part is not in the same camp as curation. It’s just something we do and have always done. We find something we like. Or don’t. We have an opinion. We reference another person. We review something.

      In the marketing space, curation is all about the fill ing of space – and I won’t rehash, but all the odd reasons I listed in my post. Filling a Twitter stream doesn’t make you look smart!

      Given my audience – who are NOT other marketers, who are just business owners wanting to make some damn profit from all this marketing crap they’re being sold – I want to make a clear point that this idea of “curating” is strictly a for-profit-for-marketers tactic. Every single client I work with thinks they have to curate to fill streams and look important and when they get no return they wonder why. Because your links out to everyone else are not saying a thing about you or what you do.

      So yes, I do want to change the semantics. I want people to be ok with having thoughts and opinions and commenting on them and referencing other people if need be – but NOT be ok with content for content’s sake.

      And you, sir, may join us on the podcast any time! We’re booked out a few weeks but let’s put a date on the calendar 🙂

      • YES! That: filling a Twitter stream doesn’t make you look smart. That requires analysis/review/rebuttal/commentary. Work, in other words! 😀 More than just raking the leaves from one pile into another.

        Curating with the intent to build relationships: that’s good work.
        Curating with the intent to review/rebut/analyze/learn: that’s good work.
        Curating with the intent to add fluff: noise-generating nonsense.

  • I love, love, love this line -> “I’m not sure how “be a resource” got into my job description but I
    didn’t put it there and I never promised a client or prospect I would be
    their personal content vetter.”

    To me it sums up everything that is wrong with saying content curation is must do. Too often people throw all these things into their to do list that have nothing to do with running their business, or more importantly, making a profit!

    And add me to the list of people who never did worry about content curation. Like you, I’ll share the crap out of anything that’s good and worthwhile for my audience. But researching to simply write a post about other people’s content – nope.

    • Anything that is sold as a “must do” automatically gets on my radar in a “say what?” kind of way. If nobody ever came up with the idea of content curation, people would still share. They just wouldn’t do it based on someone’s rule book and formulas. And I bet it would be a lot more productive!