Over the past few years I must have heard the phrase ‘everyone is a publisher nowadays’ a thousand times or more. It’s largely accurate, due to the rise of social media, but I think we are mainly ‘curators’, as opposed to ‘publishers’.
Content curation is something that many of us will be familiar with, even if we don’t think of ourselves as curators. We instinctively find and share interesting content with our personal and professional networks. We follow others who share the kind of links that engage and entertain.
Yesterday the clearly charming Adam Vincenzini described my Twitter feed as "all killer and no filler". I know perfectly well that a bunch of my tweets can be filed under ‘utter rubbish’, but I must be doing something right.
As such here are my 17 tips to help you become even better at content curation, with one eye on Twitter, my platform of choice for sharing.
Set up some feeds
It is a good idea to automate content discovery by plugging feeds into your dashboard of choice, be it Google Reader or some other tool.
All blogs and news sites offer feeds (either full or partial text), but you can be a bit more specific than that as search queries on the likes of Google News and Twitter can also be turned into RSS feeds, for example: ‘content marketing’.
Make the most of email alerts
If you are a heavy user of email then the likes of Google Alerts should come in very handy. Results can be filtered by type, e.g. ‘news’, ‘blogs’, ‘video’, or ‘everything’.
For example, here’s a Google News search for ‘content marketing’.
Get to grips with Twitter Search
Twitter Search is remarkably useful for unearthing great content (and great content curators, for that matter). I use it every day.
You should also save your regular search queries, using Twitter’s ‘saved searches’ feature.
Use advanced search queries
When searching it is a good idea to make the most of Twitter’s advanced operators, which allow you to filter out the rubbish.
For example, here’s one of my saved searches for the exact match phrase "love this" and ‘marketing’.
- Note that I have included ‘http’ to only return tweets that include links.
- I have also used the minus operator twice, ‘-youtube’ and ‘-RT’, to remove any tweets pointing at YouTube, as well as any retweets.
- See if you can spot which other minus operator we need to add to that query, based on the screenshot below...
Follow the 70/30 rule
There is more to life than talking about yourself. Promotion is not curation. For this reason I don't share all new Econsultancy blog posts on Twitter.
Todd Defren says it best: “70% of content [should be] curated, 30% branded. Why? Because the rest-of-the-world is at least 70% more interesting than your brand; and, promoting external content builds social capital, makes grateful fans of influencers.”
Smashing Magazine does this brilliantly on Twitter, by pointing to third party content rather than directing all links at its own (excellent) website.
Find the right tools for the job
One of the best tools I’ve discovered recently is Buffer, which allows you to pre-populate your Twitter feed. You can determine your publishing schedule, and there’s a neat bookmarklet for Chrome. It means that you don’t need to share interesting content the very second you’ve finished reading / consuming it.
There’s another fantastic tool out there called ifttt.com, which is well worth checking out if you’re interested in creating a rules-based content curation ‘dashboard’.
Here are a bunch of other Twitter tools which many prove useful.
Own a niche
Craig Sullivan is a master of this. He shares lots of wonderful posts that will be of interest to e-commerce / user experience professionals.
Don’t be afraid of exploring subjects beyond your niche – a little personality can go a long way.
Read, read, read!
My mantra to all new recruits is that “reading is 20% of the job”. Our own blog and the reports we produce are crammed with the kind of insight and tips that should appeal to anybody interested in digital marketing and e-commerce. There are many thousands of other sources out there too. Expand your mind!
I use the Byline app on my iPhone as a mobile RSS reader. Once synced it can be read offline - perfect for the London Underground.
Write, write, write!
In school I was absolutely terrible at revision. Teachers would tell me to write things down in order to remember them, sage advice that I totally ignored. However, as somebody who has been a blogger / writer for the past decade, I can confirm that this works!
You can really explore a subject by writing about it. You will discover lots of new sources, tips, techniques, insight and tools along the way. As such I recommend writing to everybody interested in content curation.
Timing is crucial
This is about the distribution and digestibility of your tweets, and the content you share.
It is really important to understand that what works at 10.30 on Monday might not be appropriate for 4.30pm on Friday.
Also, with regards to timing, it is essential that you do not overcrowd yourself. Avoid sharing three tweets in quick succession.
A good curator will leave plenty of space between tweets, and will share the right kind of content at the right times.
Aggregate the good stuff
Since you have gone to the trouble of finding all of that hooky content, why not create a special home for it?
Tune in to the right people
You can do this via the RSS feeds I’ve mentioned above, if these folks are blogging, but I’ve found that many experts don’t have the time to blog. But many do have the time to tweet, and the links they share have definitely helped me to wise up in certain areas. Use your network as a filter.
Twitter lists can come in handy for sorting experts by topic or sector.
Mix up your tweets
Let’s keep in mind that Twitter is inherently personal in nature (or at least it should be). If I think I’m following an automated feed then I’ll slowly start to tune out, or maybe unfollow the ‘person’ in question.
One of my best friends, who shall remain nameless, barely uses Twitter other than to push out his own blog posts using Twitterfeed or similar. There’s no real communication or conversation beyond that. I frequently tell him to mix things up with his own brand of observational comedy, and to chip in to discussions. Otherwise he risks losing followers.
Don't be afraid of the detail
We’ve written about button optimisation on this blog before, but we haven’t written about the psychology of rounded corners vs right angles! I researched this topic and there are a surprising number of in-depth blog posts out there. I’ll be sharing them in a forthcoming blog post (which is another way of curating content). Dig into the detail.
Consider repeating yourself
I used to think that posting the same tweet twice was akin to spamming your network, but my views have changed. I think it is acceptable to share content at different times of the day to appeal to people in different territories.
Try to avoid the obvious
I don’t tend to share Mashable links because so many other people do. There’s not much point in sounding like a broken record. Instead, I try to find eye-opening posts on niche blogs. Mine the gold.
Also, beware dragons. I don’t care how good that Mail Online article is, I’m not sharing it. Ditto Fox and Business Insider. I think ever so slightly less of people who point me at these sources.
Use a notebook
I thought up this blog post last night at about 2am (that’s the kind of saddo I am). On the train into the office this morning I spent a good five minutes trying to remember what it was. Word to the wise: it is important to take notes.
Invest in a Moleskine and keep it close at all times. Mine is full of notes from events, headline ideas, wireframes for the 50 web apps I want to build, URLs to check out and topics to explore.
So there you have it, 17 tips that I hope you find helpful. What else have I missed? What's working for you?