Chances are, you curate content every day without even realizing it — when you tweet a link, share a funny photo on Facebook, or when you pin a pair of cute shoes on Pinterest. You’re sharing content you know your “audience” will like: a link your Twitter followers will appreciate, for example, or a pair of shoes that will make your fellow fashionista followers on Pinterest, drool. This is content curation in its most basic form: finding and sharing relevant content with a target audience.
Content curation is hardly a new concept. Entire sites (Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.) have been forged on the power of content curation. Yet most major brands have yet to harness the power of strategic, brand-focused curation. If you haven’t been sold on content curation, get ready to become a believer: behold, the power of strategic content curation.
How a Family of Stormtroopers Garnered One Facebook Page 7,000 Shares and 1,000 Fans
Before January 23rd, Expo Comic Mx had fewer than 2,000 fans. The page occasionally posted trailers, links, and funny geek-themed photos — posts which generally received anywhere from 5-50 likes.
On January 23rd, the page posted a cute photoset featuring a happy Stormtrooper family (as seen in the screen shot below).
The photoset was a perfect example of targeted content curation. Not only was it perfectly targeted for fans of a comic convention, it was share-friendly, instantly accessible and something the audience hadn’t seen before. The image went viral, garnering 13,000 likes, nearly 750 comments, and over 7,000 shares as of February 6th. By February 3rd, the page had gone from just 82 people “talking about this” to nearly 20,000. Today, the page has over 2,900 fans. Pretty good for one image, eh?
Learn from the Masters: George Takei, Maria Popova, and Scott Beale
We’ve already seen the power of content creation in a single image. However, some individuals have built an entire online presence through targeted content curation. Let’s look at the success of three master curators: George Takei, Maria Popova, and Scott Beale.
Remember George Takei from his role as Mr. Sulu on Star Trek? Yeah, neither do many of the actor’s 900,000 Facebook fans. The actor/director has amassed a huge Facebook following thanks to the countless funny images Takei posts daily. Images range from Trekkie jokes, memes, inspirational photos, and fan submissions. Some are enlighting, some are groan-inducing, but all are immediately comprehensible and incredibly share-friendly.
Popova is the main brain behind brainpickings.org. A self-described “interestingness curator,” Popova collects and shares a variety of links with a decidedly intellectual feel, from a 1928 letter to Jackson Pollock (written by his father) to a video of Christopher Walken reading Where the Wild Things Are. The result is one of the most unique and varied curation sites on the Web.
Scott Beale is the man behind the curtain at Laughing Squid, a curation site devoted to “interesting art, culture, and technology.” Beale’s curation pickings and widely varied and is impossible to categorize, but Beale has a gift for spotting highly shareable content — the funniest new series on YouTube, a 2-headed cat video, or the latest collection of street art. The site has a real knack for spotting would-be viral content just before it goes viral.
Make Your Curations Work For You and Your Target Audience
From Takei’s Trekkie art to Popova’s literary darlings, all three curators have an eye for spotting the type of content that will catch the eye of their target audience — and all three have developed reputations for finding and delivering stellar content on a daily basis.
The key is to harness content curation that works for your brand. Expo Comic Mx has learned to post share-friendly, geek-friendly photos that attract the comic convention’s target audience to their Facebook page. Whole Foods pins foodie-friendly recipes on Pinterest, knowing customers will come to Whole Foods to find the goat’s milk or organic quinoa called for within the recipe. Time posts retro photos and vintage articles from the archives on their Tumblr. It may be someone else’s work (or, in the case of Time, previously written work), but it still needs to actively work for your brand.
The Dark Side of Content Curation
Let’s take another look at the heartwarming Stormtroopers photoset postsed by Expo Comic Mx. There’s a dark side (pun intended) behind this kind of content curation: though the photo received 7,000 shares, the original artist– a talented photographer by the name of Kristina Alexanderson — received no credit whatsoever for her work.
Responsible curators should always, always cite cite the source if the original source is known. Ideally, content creation would be mutually benefical for both creator and curator: the curator receives content to share and the creator gets increased exposure of their work. You or your brand is benefitting from the work of another creator — the least you can do is throw them a link.
For Creators: How to Protect Yourself
Of course, content creators can’t expect all curators to follow such a gentlemanly code of conduct while curating. Though text plagiarism certainly exists, it’s often done less often and with more malice than image plagiarism. Most users recognize that copying and pasting an entire paragraph without crediting the source is plagiarism. If they want to quote or share an article, most will copy and paste the link, not the text.
Image sharing, however, is more casual: most Pinterest, Tumblr, or Facebook users won’t think twice about pinning or blogging a cute photo or funny cartoon they’ve found online. So how can an artist, photographer, or graphic designer still ensure they’ll get credit for their work? It’s simple: watermark your images. We’re not talking a massive watermark through the center of your image — a simple link to your site in the lower lefthand corner is all it takes to ensure you’ll get the credit you deserve.
For those readers arguing that a corner watermark won’t do anything if a user really wants to pass off your image as their own, you’re right — a determined thief can easily crop that watermark out of your image. However, most sharers have no intention of passing off your work as your own — they just like your work and want to share it with others.
Sound Off: How Do You Curate Content?
What types of content do you share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.? What types of content brings you the biggest response? Who are your favorite content curators? Share your thoughts on the rise of content curation in the comments.
Nicki Porter is a working writer, fledgling foodie, and admitted alliteration addict currently living in the greater Boston area. She spends an alarming amount of time pinning — er, “curating” — pretty dresses on Pinterest. You should probably follow her on Twitter at @nickimporter. Or better yet, you can come see what CopyPress is curating on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr!