Why curation matters - tips and tools to get it done

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed July 11, 2014
Summary:
For the enterprise professional, curation isn't a luxury. It's about establishing topic authority, while bringing fresh ideas and content to our employers. Here's some tools and tips to get it done.

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I don't know about you, but  'curation' strikes me as a pretentious wrapper for something most are already doing: posting the highlights of our day to our networks.

But is there more to it? Short answer: yes!

For the enterprise professional, curation is about establishing authority in topical areas, while bringing fresh ideas and content to our employers (and beyond). Sound a bit more compelling? Good.

So how do we go from 'share good stuff with our network' to 'semi-professional curator'? Let's start with some definitions.

Curation is the art of:

  1. filtering incoming content and ideas that match our specialties and interests
  2. tagging/organizing the best ideas and content so they don't elude us when we need them later
  3. sharing the best of that content on appropriate platforms (including internal networks)

One big argument for diving further into curation:

we are already doing step one, albeit with varying degrees of effectiveness, so why not establish processes for #2 and #3?

We can also take a big enterprise step by slicing out a chunk of our expertise and sharing it on a specific channel (versus simply sharing random/funny bits on Twitter or Facebook). More on that in a bit.

Filtering - create your own 'content net' for relevance

Filtering is a massive problem I have already covered. Why? because our networks are bogged down in oversharing flotsam where a few nuggets of professional gold linger, and occasionally surface, but not as often as we'd like, because popularity - the only algorithm the big social networks can fathom - is not always the best path to relevance.

Tagging matters - for ideas as well as content

Assuming the filtering problem is solved, we move on to the tagging and organizing part. Not all of us need this step - some just skip it entirely and move onto the sharing. But there are two reasons to reconsider this tagging step:

  • Not everything we spot is worth sharing immediately. Some content may take on greater importance down the road, when a new project or new client emerges. Tagging is ideal for such items.
  • With a bit of set up effort, we can easily add a tagging step to our current sharing practices. That could be an corporate social or curation tool, or perhaps a third party website.  Example: for the content I select for my enterprise newsfeed, I quickly tag it with keywords and commentary and post that on a public #esnw Delicious page. It takes a tiny bit of extra time and now there are 6,000 curated 'best of enterprise' pieces there - all searchable. That Delicious page then feeds out to my jonerpnewsfeed subscribers on whatever platform they want.

But there's another tagging headache that Copyblogger brought into focus for me: how do we tag and organize our own ideas, those random bits of genius that pop into our head when we are joggging or shampooing our hair? Traditionally, this is called a Commonplace book, and lots of historically famous people have used them to jot evil plans. I haven't found a perfect solution for idea capturing, but many swear by Evernote, which can tape audio notes  (just turn the shower off first).

I have a separate tagging system for my research - Google Bookmarks which is cloud-based across (most) of my devices - super handy for browser crashes and working quickly across platforms.

Sharing - don't just hit the send button!

Once we decide on our tagging system, we're on to the sharing part. For most, the sharing step seems easy. We already have our own preferred networks, and a good idea of which types of posts go over well (or badly) on which channels.

For companies - and to some extent individuals - the final question is about whether to schedule posts, whether to repeat them, and whether to cross-post. We can debate that till the cows moo. The answer comes down to your stats - but also your audience feedback. If your audience is sick of running into your same posts on different platforms, you'll hear about it.

Whenever possible, add your own commentary and/or reasons why you are pushing content through. That matters for context, transparency, and reader engagement.

But if that's all there is to sharing, we're falling way short.

Take it one bold step further: as you're sharing, keep an eye on the content patterns that emerge. If you are regularly sharing a particular type of content, chances are there is a valuable community of experts out there who would follow/subscribe to such content. This works well for enterprises also, where sharing information on certain verticals can be pulled into a content play.

Trap.It is one such enterprise-ready tool I've kicked tires on that could work for content channeling, Scoop.It is another. Flipboard, very popular on mobile devices, is another option for content channel creation.

Examples: NetSuite's Alan Mann has a very nifty Scoop.It Cloud ERP channel. I'm liking Scoop.IT more and more - you can get started on a free personal account, then upgrade to pro or enterprise. The layout has a mobile-friendly graphical dimension and you can include your commentary on each bit. It's easy to follow and track the content. I liked it enough that I started an experimental channel, #ensw diversions - questionably relevant, edgy fodder to brighten your enterprise slog. Update: Also added a channel for digital media news with enterprise relevance - digital media disruptions. Again, was simple to setup and now easy to add to as I'm filtering this topic already.

I was already tagging this kind of content, as I include the best of it in my diginomica Hits and Misses column. Instead of randomly tweeting some of it, why not have a channel that folks can follow and make it easy to find edgy bits I am already collecting anyhow? I could easily set up channels for certain industries and given how well my experiment is going so far, I may well do so.

Just tread carefully, if you set up a channel relating to your company: either share a range of content beyond your corporate agenda, or make it clear to audiences that you have a specific corporate focus. But: in general, a broad range of articles which includes the best stuff from your internal content will do the trick. That broad collection will give you a leg up not only for research, but for 'best of' features and curated newsletters people may actually want to read.

Verdict

I frequently hear objections that it takes too much time to effectively curate. It probably does take some kind of genetic disorder to try to curate enterprise news in its entirety, though Dennis Moore and Jarret Pazahanick manage to do it and they seem, unlike myself, to be pretty well-adjusted individuals.

But most of us are actively sharing our favorite links somewhere, so I'm not sure if the time argument holds up. A bit of time setting up your channel and you are good to go. Since the best channels are usually narrower, you can pick one that suits your company's goals or your interests - without boiling the content ocean.

Filtering, which I glossed over here, is not simple - I would encourage readers to make sure there is a 'stumble factor' in your filtering systems so your reading scope isn't too narrow.

Yes, there are riddles to sort in terms of which tools to use, whether to curate individually or as an enterprise team. But that's all solvable, 'no excuses' stuff. A byproduct of quality curation is that we will extend our own audiences, knowledge base, and topic authority. Not to mention the goodwill gained by bringing others' work to light. But that's not the right motivation to do it.

The right motivation is simple: get smarter and better on the job. Curation whips stagnation.

End note: If you want to dig in further, the four part podcast series on curation on Copyblogger is a valuable resource that informed this piece. My ongoing diginomica series on filtering, productivity and breaking through the noise may be of use. This article was steeped in curation banter I had with our own Dennis Howlett while staying in his casa in Spain. Howlett is the one who urged me to take a closer look at Scoop.It. Sucks when he's right, gives him way too much satisfaction, but credit where it's due.

Image credit: Fine portrait of cute little boy in retro style © Jasmin Merdan - Fotolia.com