Curating content and The Art of Building An Audience.
There are many different strategies and tactics that can be implemented when executing a curation campaign. Those who read my blog know I like being authentic when using social media. Being authentic means you’ll get a lot of my personality injected into my curated posts. I know there are social media people who because of company policies need to post according to specific style guides. However, I believe harnessing the personality and style of a social media professional will lead to a more organic feel and therefore seem more authentic.
In this article I’ll go over some of the tactics, behaviors, and theories I use when curating media for social posts.
I do quite a bit of content curation. This is primarily what I do on Google Plus, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I’m also starting to share more on StumbleUpon and some on Reddit too. Fortunately I have also had some success on the first two platforms and I am beginning to see some traffic from the last two as well. Reddit looks like a very promising platform. I plan on writing more about the different social sites I use over the next 12 months.
Finding worthy content
Finding content that’s worthy to post can be quite time consuming. I spend about 4 to 7 hours a day finding content for Google Plus and between 1 and 3 hours looking for content to post on LinkedIn. Recently I have been trying to keep my content prospecting to no more than 4 hours a day. I will usually re-post at least some of the content across the rest of my social sites. The new content discovery workflow has me doing a lot of this work in my downtime. Now I am looking for content as part of my recreational social media time. I imagine this pushes the hours up way past the 4 prospecting hours I was planning on.
When curating information and media I usually post content that I enjoy and think my fans will also like. I have to admit that the categories of content I curate is influenced and shaped by what my friends and followers share and like. If one type of post gets a lot of shares, comments, and likes when another doesn’t, I will start posting more of the popular one.
Reinforcement Schedules in Content Curation
I imagine I’m responding to a well documented schedule of reinforcement in the way I post. I had not thought about it before writing this, but I can see my posting influenced by the reinforcement schedules of the various communities and platforms. There is definitely a response pattern linked to reinforcement schedules and their associated extinction pattern. Also of interest is the difference in posting frequency on the different platforms.
I imagine the platforms are tracking this and modifying their algorithms to manipulate the posting rate. If they are not doling out reinforcement now they soon will be as Artificial Intelligence becomes more widespread.
Curating content is a constant give and take in a reinforcement feedback loop.
I locate and post content I find reinforcing and that I think my fans will like. My fans vote with likes, comments, click-throughs, and shares. My fans and followers’ engagement reinforces and shape my posting behavior. If I get no response from friends and followers then posting that category of content undergoes extinction and I try something else. Performing a lot of behavior will usually lead to finding something that works. Like Thorndike’s cat in a puzzle box, finding the solution eventually begins to happen quicker and quicker. That is, until the rules change. Then other variables come into play, such as past conditioning and successes.
Past successes can get in the way of finding a new solution to what looks like an old problem.
Sometime what we have done in the past works so well and for so long that it can get in the way of doing something new. There are many reasons for this, but it’s best if we can learn to identify when the rules have changed in a way that requires us to change our behavior.
Experience teaches subtle patterns that influences our decision-making.
Experience can also expose you to patterns that let you see a clear path to a new way of responding. The benefit to experience is that you develop the ability to recognize patterns before it’s too late. Data can also serve this purpose and is becoming ever more popular.
In theory, the more familiar you are with experiencing the extinction of behavior the quicker it occurs and the sooner you will start using more effective responses.
When a behavior is no longer rewarded it begins to undergo extinction. The process of extinction has some rather interesting characteristics. One of these is that the behavior will often increase before it begins to decline. Another useful aspect of the extinction process is that the topography of the behavior changes. This change in the shape of the behavior is very important for developing new more effective responses.
As behavior increases and changes we can see what could be described as exploratory behavior.
Exploratory behavior is a leadership trait found in many species and cultures.
Exploratory behavior is part of leadership and is a necessity when finding what will work for your online audience. You need to constantly test older forms of content while exploring new content categories. In addition, social media professionals need to continuously explore new types of responses, interactions and platforms.
I frequently experiment with new categories of content. Sometimes I’m quite surprised at finding a new category that followers in one of my communities like and find engaging. I also post and curate some content that I really enjoy, even if I think it won’t be a big hit with my fans. I do feel it’s good to let my followers see some of my personal likes. This is especially true because in the future I hope to share with my fans television shows and video that I create about these subjects.
Curating content can be much more time intensive that one would expect. Not only do you need to find the content but you often need to add information to give the post context. It’s not uncommon for me to look at over 800 pieces of content a day. Investigating a great deal of content is often needed to find what I will curate and share for a day. It’s a constant and never ending search for high quality content. My work flow does change according to what platform I am primarily using and where I am sharing it. I like to manually share to Google Plus and LinkedIn. I usually use a scheduling service for Twitter posts. One of the advantages of scheduling content for twitter is that is incorporates a link shortener and I can better track engagement. With Tumblr I usually schedule within the platform itself.
Sharing is part of the curation workflow.
Curating content is a more refined form of sharing than hitting the share button.
As a general rule I recommend always adding a summary or reason you’re sharing content. However there are always exceptions to the rules and queuing content for curation is one of those. Earlier in part 2 where I talked about engagement on social platforms, I mentioned that it’s best to always add commentary to your posts. Well, this rule is not necessarily true if you have an account used only for archiving and queuing content for future posts.
I have several social accounts where I don’t add much or any additional information or commentary. Some people may think these are low quality shares, but they have a very good chance of getting re-posted to my larger audience. Being shared to my larger audience could earn them far more views and much more exposure than if I did a higher quality reshare on the accounts in question.
Post Collection Accounts
These are usually accounts that are used to hold or queue content for future examination and use. I sometime need to read the post better before I’ll share it to my fans. At other times I want to check the user experience on a different computer. If the site offers a good user experience on a tablet but is a spamomatic advertising-porn machine on my desktop, I usually won’t share the site. I also use these accounts to hold post that need added commentary before they’re ready for my main accounts.
I am always adjusting my use of social media and I am starting to add more commentary to these holding accounts. I imagine using these accounts differently is because I have started to collect new types of analytics and data.
Another scenario where I will do a simple re-share without commentary is if I’m only using an account to add visual interest to a website’s sidebar widget. There is not much benefit to this other than making a site just a little more interesting. In general I would say this last type of sharing is not really worth the time, unless you have a very specific reason for doing it. Using these widgets may even be a bit detrimental to the user experience and SEO (Search Engine Optimization.) When using a social sidebar widgets make sure you have a good reason and understand the consequences.
What’s Your Style?
Once you find high quality content to share with your fans you’ll need to determine how you’ll share it. What style will you cultivate? I suggest giving author attribution to your content source or at least not claiming it as your original content. I will usually quote the original post. I also recommend not posting or curating content that has an obvious copyright on it.
When curating content it’s useful to provide additional information about the post to give it context and/or help people understand the information. Often it’s the contextual information that makes the post popular. At other times you can spend hours researching additional content only to have a low context photo outperform your researched piece. It is not uncommon for me to research some interesting and hard to find information and then have few people appreciate it.
Research is often only the first part of adding context. Sometime you will have a photo to share but the only information you can find is on a site with a copyright. When this happens you’ll need to rewrite the information in your own words. This process may require distilling information from several sites and writing a short or long post depending on the subject. At other times you will need to rewrite/edit a translated text. I have several curated posts in the queue waiting for me to find time to write a worthy post. Most of these curated posts are too spectacular for a short description.
Curation is a form of quality control
Curating content is giving other people a glimpse inside your online world.
A very important but not often mentioned added value of curated content is providing a certain level of quality control.
The quality of much content found online ranges for down right terrible to life-changingly good. I find Google Plus collections have fairly high quality content compared to most groups. More and more Google Plus Collections are becoming my go to source for content discovery. This is especially true for information about business and marketing. Many years ago I used twitter as my content discovery engine and for several years I have used Tumblr, but Google Plus collections seems to outperform the rest. This is at least true for business content, I still like Tumblr for other content. I would say that my two main discovery sites are now Google Plus and Tumblr with Reddit moving up quickly.
About half of my curated LinkedIn post are now found on Google plus. Another half of my business posts are from Tumblr. Many of the websites I review during the day are either low quality or the site provides a very poor user experience. I try not to share these low quality sites or sites I find aversive.
Tactical use of curated content
I sometimes will use specially chosen curated pieces of content to attract, test for, and identify my target audience. I have some fairly large communities and I always like to know if those who I someday will be creating video for actually follow me. I am always experimenting with ever more refined uses of social content for audience segmentation.
I have noticed that my demographics have changed over the last several months. I think my core demographic might be getting younger.
Because of the poor user experience on most marketing websites I am starting to think about creating more content for my Google Plus Marketing and Social Media Collection as well as LinkedIn. Even if it’s rewriting content from other sites. I am not a big fan of this kind of content, but I also value my followers and I don’t like referring followers to sites with excessive popups and popovers.
Since starting this article I have added an ad blocker to my browser, now it’s harder to weed out the spammy sites. But the internet is now a lot more usable. Without the ad blocker many sites where totally unusable. An interesting development is that Google has recently started to penalize sites that use intrusive pop ups and popovers.
Creating your own content is the most time intensive form of media. I will need to talk about content creation another time. It may be of some interest to those reading this that I have invested over 50 hours producing this three article series.