Why Startups Should Curate Content

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Robert Scoble is a prolific content curator. By curating and sharing the latest news about technology and startups, he has developed a remarkable online following. For instance, he has 244,149 Twitter followers, is included in 728,494 Google+ circles, and has 146,000 subscribers on Facebook. Scoble has an active following on at least a dozen other social media services, from Quora to FourSquare.

This tremendous online following provides Scoble with an expansive channel to convey information and ideas. His reach is so valuable that Rackspace employs Scoble simply to attach its brand to Scoble and his ongoing technology evangelism.

Just like Scoble, startups can use content curation to catapult their online presence and influence. Content curation is a useful approach for all companies, but especially for startups. Here’s why:

  1. Thought leadership: Curation is an excellent way to establish your startup as a thought leader in your space. If outsiders view your company as a key source of industry information, you will quickly build your brand recognition, as well as develop trust and goodwill among customers. In addition to the branding benefits, curation grounds you in a domain, learning the field as you review and share content with others. This helps ensure that your expertise remains relevant and at the cutting edge.
  1. Hub of information: Many startups are competing in frontier, niche markets. In these markets, it’s unlikely there are established, consolidated sources of high-quality information. By being first to market as a content curator in your space, and by hosting curated content on your website, you can quickly rise as a primary destination site for those interested in your industry.
  1. Resource constraints: Instead of curating content, you could create all original content, from authoring blog posts to white papers. But, for startups in particular, it’s difficult to find enough time to produce enough original content in-house and it’s equally challenging to allocate funding to contract writers. By complementing your original content with curated content, you can accelerate your content marketing efforts using fewer resources. In this way, content curation is an ideal approach for the lean startup.
  1. Breadth of coverage: If you decide to focus exclusively on creating original content, you’ll be unable to cover all the important trends in your niche that are critical to your customers. By bringing together your original content with curated content, you can round out your coverage with valuable 3rd party content. Furthermore, by combining your content with others, you can add a new level of richness and flavor to your content marketing efforts.
  1. Repetition: The amount of material available online is so vast that many topics have already been well covered by others. In this case, you’re better off pointing your audience to other articles and sources versus creating a nearly redundant article on your own website. Your customers will appreciate you sharing high-quality content and you’ll also gain the attention of the 3rd party source, potentially sparking a new relationship in your industry.
  1. Momentum: Since you can only post so much original content, content curation can help you sustain daily and weekly momentum with your content marketing efforts. While original content will attract new customers, curated content will ensure your audience is regularly engaged and your company is top of mind. In short, curated content will help you engage customers on a steady basis so they remember you if and when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision.

In addition to these six benefits, here are 10 other reasons why startups should care about content marketing, the umbrella under which content curation falls.

So now that we’ve described the benefits of content curation for startups, let’s review several different approaches to content curation.

  1. Link lists: A link list is a dynamic and structured list of links on a particular topic. The list can either be curated by a company (e.g., Techmeme) or by a user community (e.g., HackerNews or Inbound.org). Techmeme is one of our favorite sources of technology news, and according to Compete.com generated about 50,000 unique visitors in January, 2012. Not too shabby.
  1. Collections: A collection is a bundle of articles, images, videos, or websites, that relate to a specific theme. For instance, SEOMoz created a “Social Media Marketing Guide” that lists 101 of the best social media sites that you can use to market your business online. By creating this list and keeping it updated, this page has become an important resource for budding social media marketers.
  1. Periodic summaries: Periodic summaries are daily, weekly, monthly or annual summaries, often including a list of links, around a particular theme. These summaries can be presented online (e.g., The Lede by CopyBlogger), via email (e.g., The Moz Top 10), or in magazine format (e.g., HackerMonthly). An excellent example of an email summary is the CEA SmartBrief, put out by the Consumer Electronics Association. The CEA SmartBrief is an excellent way for the CEA to stay in touch with its primary audience in between its major trade shows, such as CES in Las Vegas.
  1. Content with Commentary: Content with commentary is when you identify one or more 3rd party articles (or other media) and then add your own point of view. Microblogging often follows this approach. One of the best examples of content with commentary is Daring Fireball, a blog that focuses on covering Apple. With 3rd party content and commentary, and the occasional full-length blog post, DaringFireball generates significant traffic (30,000 unique visitors in January, 2012, according to Compete) and revenue (about $300,000 in annual revenue).
  1. Social media sharing: Another approach is to share curated content (with or without commentary) via social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.  For instance, the Inbound Marketing Agency, Kuno Creative has developed a nice following of nearly 8,000 followers on Twitter by sharing its own original content along with related content from HubSpot, SEOMoz, and other sources in the inbound marketing space.
  1. Hybrid: Last but not least is a hybrid approach that combines original content and different forms of curated content. Because a hybrid approach combines a variety of content, both original and curated, it creates a particularly rich experience for viewers. A nice example of a hybrid approach is CMO.com, a website developed by Adobe targeting marketing professionals, which presents original content along with high-quality 3rd party content. According to Compete, CMO.com generated about 10,000 unique visitors in January, 2012.

These are six common approaches to content curation. Successful curators often employ several of these approaches and then combine curation with producing engaging original content.

Although there are many benefits to content curation, there are also a few pitfalls to watch out for. Two common pitfalls are the effects of duplicate content on search engine rankings and potential copyright violations. There are many SEO firms and lawfirms that have studied these pitfalls in depth, and in the spirit of content curation, we’d like to point you to several helpful resources. For avoiding issues related to duplicate content and search engine rankings, here is an excellent video and article by SEOMoz. For issues dealing with copyright and “fair use,” here are several useful resources.

We started this post by pointing to Robert Scoble, who has used content curation to develop an enviable online following. This following has afforded Scoble with significant influence in the tech community. He is also well liked, because he’s developed his following by promoting others, not himself. Like Scoble, you can use content curation to quickly elevate your own company and brand. We hope this article has provided you with some valuable tips to help you get started with your own curation efforts.

If you want to learn more about content curation, you can check out these links:

Please let us know if you found this article helpful or if you have any tips that we forgot to include in our post.

If you’re interested in staying current on the latest news about content marketing, please follow us on Twitter @intigi.

If you’re a tech founder, and want to learn about the latest tips for building a successful tech venture, please follow us on Twitter @foundersnetwork or click here to learn more about how we can help your startup.

A version of this post first appeared on the Intigi Blog.

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