Originally posted on Pre-Commerce.com (8/11/11)
According to the dictionary, the word Curate is defined as:
Verb: Select, organize, and look after the items in (a collection or exhibition)
The noun form of the verb “curate” is “curation” and it translates into the act of “selecting, organizing and looking after items in (a collection or exhibition).” For hundreds of years, museums and art galleries hired people called curators who decided which pieces/exhibits to show and which to tuck in the basement. This makes sense because if a museum were to display all of its art or all of its collectibles at the same time, you wouldn’t be able to make your through the physical building. You also wouldn’t have the benefit of seeing similar pieces or periods being grouped together. Instead, you’d get a hodgepodge of things that ended up looking like clutter versus art or something educational.
Over the last few years, this concept of curation has enjoyed a resurgence as it is being applied to content. Given the trillions of megabytes of information that make up the internet, you can only imagine how hard it is to find anything of value out there. Without this problem of course, there wouldn’t be a need for Google or Bing. But with so much data out there, oftentimes a search engine isn’t enough. We need human beings to help us curate content with computers assisting us on the back end.
All types of data can benefit from curation. In fact, I’ll argue that data becomes exponentially more valuable once it has been curated. Here are a few examples:
- Slide presentations: some people think that if some slides are good, more are better. Not true. Just today I took a 100 slide presentation down to 25 slides. It was hard deciding which slides to consolidate and which to put in the appendix. But six hours later, I had a strategy deck that was easily three times more effective at telling the right story.
- Twitter streams: there are over 200 million Twitter accounts out there. Some are valuable. Most are not. Unfortunately, finding the ones that are valuable is a little like looking for a needle in the haystack… unless of course you have the right tools or know the right people to follow. An easy way to find people that tweet about a particular topic is to use Listorious. It’s not perfect but it will give you a good general sense of who’s talking about what. Once you find a few people you like, start looking at the lists they follow. Twitter lists are a fantastic form of curation.
- Photos: I love taking pictures. Because pictures are mostly digital now and storage space is either free or next to free, you think it might make sense to just upload all of my pictures — good and bad. But by doing so, I make it hard for people to find the wheat amongst the chaff. In fact, I ran a contest several months ago to help me find the best of the best (uber-curation) in my Flickr account. The result was the pictures you see below.
Why Companies Should Care
While many businesses have learned the value of outsourcing over the last 30 years, many don’t believe in ceding control of their content to third parties. I’ll caveat that by saying, many companies do trust their agencies to help them create content but almost all of it is blessed by the brand and is white labeled as the brands own content. What doesn’t happen much is companies endorsing other peoples’ content. Or better yet, curating third party content on their “owned” or “rented” properties like their website or Facebook pages.
The biggest argument I hear against using unbranded content is, “what if they say something bad about me,” or worse yet, “what if they talk about my competitor?” But here’s the rub… people trust third party endorsements much more than they trust a brands opinion of itself (thus the popularity of sites like C|Net, Consumer Reports and Yelp). So don’t you think that putting other people’s content — especially if it’s well-curated — is more valuable to your customers than your own infomercials? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk about yourself and include your own product information on your owned and rented properties. But rather that you’ll make yourself a whole lot more interesting if you treat your “patients” or customers more holistically and give them content at the category level versus the brand or product level.
An easy way to pull this off is to find bloggers or Twitterers that you like and find valuable. It’s not hard to grab an RSS feed off their blog or a Twitter list you’ve created. In the case of a blogger, you might reach out to them and ask if they mind if you syndicated their content into your site/social media properties (chances are, they won’t say no). If you have a brand that has strict guidelines about keeping the content family-friendly, you may want to employ a tool like those offered by companies like FeedMagnet. Or if you really want to have human intervention, you can use tools like Co-Tweet to pull in feeds, and approve the tweets that you want and kick the ones you don’t.
How about you? Are you curating content either for yourself or your company? If you have a great example of curation, please include it in the comments.