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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?

We’ve talked about the importance of feeds. Consider plugging your own Twitter feed into something like paper.li, or setting up some rules on ifttt.com to populate your very own Tumblr blog. 

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?

Chris Lake

Published 16 May, 2012 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (19)

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Johnney

Very Nice, I actually found this article through my google alerts. I use twitter, but not as effectively as you point out here, very good points and tips that you have shared and I thank you taking the time.

over 4 years ago

Michelle Goodall

Michelle Goodall, Online PR/Social Media Consultant at EconsultancySmall Business Multi-user

Incredibly useful post Chris.

I'd also add that Google+ and the Circles feature is a great source of content.

I categorise people/brands/media into subject-based circles as well as the relationship that I have with them.

Love IFTT. What a tool!?

over 4 years ago

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Remy Kelvin

Successful online marketing requires lot of practice. One has to commit mistakes and learn from them. Nice post..

over 4 years ago

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Rosemary

I also found this post through Google alerts. Content curation is a continually evolving practice so these are great tips to add to that growing practice.

over 4 years ago

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Aaron

Great post. I always find myself thinking up blog ideas in the night and never get round to writing them up!
Maybe one day soon!
I also use ifttt, such a powerful tool. It's especially useful for separating your personal ad professional tweets and posting ont some to Facebook (personal, obviously) through the use of the tweet with hash tag tool. Well worth checking out!

Aaron

over 4 years ago

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Adrian Kingwell

...Or you could use a tool like Scoop.it which finds all the relevant stuff from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, web, blogosphere, and you just pick out the good stuff. You can tweet each posting if you want, or add it to your Facebook or LinkedIn page. It saves a lot of time, and sadly content curation takes up a LOT of time, even for a relatively specialist subject. There are plenty of other tools out there. Paper.li is also good. The important thing is to keep the quality high and be the first to each scoop. You will find you are not the only one to be curating your topic, but you will beat the others if you are timely and of high quality. Plus, by reading ALL the content for your curation topic, you will quickly become an expert on it.

over 4 years ago

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Rachel buck

Great article thanks. I find that to be effective at content curation you have to be focused. There's so much great information out there that you could spend your whole day hunting for it. I pick three or four subject areas and set up searches for those only. This helps me to cut through the noise to what's most relevant.

over 4 years ago

Mat Oram

Mat Oram, Head of Customer Care at Peto

Fantastic article - thanks for sharing. I agree with some of the earlier posts, there's nothing like learning from your mistakes - you simply need to learn quickly!

over 4 years ago

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Russell O'Sullivan

Great tips and tools for twitter and automation

over 4 years ago

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mike litson

The notebook is definately a sound investment. If only I ever remembered to pick mine up.....

over 4 years ago

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Guillaume

Great list Chris! Thanks for sharing.

Guillaume here, one of the founders of Scoop.it (thanks Adrian for mentioning us! Yes, we do have a number of these tips "built-in").

One thing you didn't touch upon is the destination for your curation (or maybe you implied it is your twitter feed?). What we found is that having a site or a page that could be the recipient of your curated content was very helpful to drive engagement. It allows you to show much more context and meaning by displaying the related posts on the topic (or the niche as you rightly pointed out) you want to cover. You can do that on a blog or on a dedicated curation page (we support both models as integrated with Tumblr and Wordpress) but, based on the stats we observe from our users, there's definitely demonstrated value in doing that.

The other thing that helps curators over time is to develop a community around their topic. Again, that's something which takes time on Twitter alone as it's a people-centric model, making it difficult for other people to find you if you're not a celeb. Being on a platform which is topic-centric and where your curation work is easy to read helps you connect with strangers who share your interests.

over 4 years ago

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Cendrine Marrouat

Excellent article! Great reminder of what being a great content curator means.

I have followed the Pareto Principle (80 - 20) for years and it is really effective!

over 4 years ago

Adrian Bold

Adrian Bold, Director at Bold Internet Ltd

Excellent tips Chris. Thanks for laying out with such clarity.

over 4 years ago

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Sven Decaestecker

Talking of content, here's some great advice to kickstart your quest for useful information on topics that matter to you and your business. Thanks!

over 4 years ago

Jeremy Spiller

Jeremy Spiller, MD at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Great post Chris. Some really excellent tips there and looking forward to your post on detail in UX, also a favourite topic with me.

over 4 years ago

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Kent Hermes

Chris I enjoyed your article! I agree with you on many points and you gave me some more things to think about. Especially liked your 70/30 rule as many people think they need to produce 100% of their content.

over 4 years ago

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Kelly Hungerford

Hi Chris, Kelly Community Manager from Paper.li here. This a great post with a lot of actionable steps. I will pass this on to our community at Paper.li. I know they will benefit from it. And thank you for mentioning Paper.li :)

I would argue that "everyone is a publisher" is alive and well, and accurate too. We as individuals are controlling the production and distribution of content, be it original or curated, as it is no longer in the hands of the traditional media houses or publications. And as publishers we are then naturally placed in the position of an online curators, selecting the best mix of content for our audience(s).

I see Paper.li is serving as a great tool for people to easily jump in the "publishing" game, so to speak, and publish a collection of content around their topic of interest. The majority of our papers are based heavily on shared content via Twitter and you are right: it is really easy to configure Twitter into a paper.

The best papers come from those publishers who spend a lot of time curating fantastic lists ahead of time, or those who have a solid content plan in place that covers a specific topic.

I am continually inspired by the dedication of our users, as well as the dedication users spend on other services to maintain high quality publications. I am fascinated with the way that curation is transforming the way we organize and discover content and look forward to seeing where we are in a few years.

about 4 years ago

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Kevin Leary

All great ideas Chris,

Do you always recommend merging curated content with branded content, or do ou think that the two be separate and labeled as such?

almost 4 years ago

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Julie Simmonds

When I blogged for a magazine website, I used to "reply" to content on my blog. It might be a reply to a radio show, a book or another article (I always referenced). I found this helpful in carrying on the conversation and adding something new.

over 3 years ago

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