How to Build A Massive Following with Effective Content Curation
The internet is inundated with content. The challenge for today’s internet users is not finding information, but discovering quality content that they can trust, learn from and share. And herein lies an opportunity for content marketers to build a following of loyal subscribers.
Content curation has helped Dave Pell of NextDraft build an email list of over 160,000 subscribers and earned Maria Popova of BrainPickings over 350,000 Twitter followers and 150,000 plus email subscribers. It also helped Rand Fishkin of Moz rack up an impressive 374,000 Twitter followers (and increasing!) and build a highly engaged audience.
It’s no wonder then that 68% marketers swear by content curation as a content marketing tactic, according to a report by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. But great content curation doesn’t come easy.
This article discusses how you can discover the best content, save it in way that it is easy to share and the best tools to help you get the job done.
Discovering Great Content
This step involves a major chunk of work, and is perhaps the most difficult to crack.
Most content curators either share great content that everyone’s sharing, or average content that no one’s reading. Your job is to hit the sweet spot: find content that people will devour with a passion, from sources they are yet to discover themselves.
In this section we explore four major sources to discover content that separates the good curators from the great:
Communities are virtual meeting points for like-minded people sharing content they’re passionate about. Sounds like fun? It is!
Communities give you access to a great deal of content relevant to the subject you’re interested in, all in one place, and you can instantly see what type of content resonates with your audience.
Here are a few examples of the most popular communities:
Billed as “the front page of the internet”, Reddit is an all-too popular online community for link sharing and discussion. While the front page of the site itself can be a little daunting, it’s great to keep a tab on the hottest news on the internet.
You’ll have to dig a little deeper than the front page though to find really unique pieces of content for your curation efforts. Reddit has various subreddits for specific topics, from broad ones such as Startups, Books, and Movies, to niche topics such as Personal Finance, Visual Representations of Data and Android.
Reddit has a robust set of moderators and strict posting policies, keeping spam content at bay. Be sure to check out not just links with the most upvotes, but also those that look promising to you. Subscribe to a few subreddits and check in for a few days to see if it makes sense to stay. Beware of subscribing to too many though, or you’ll soon have a front page cluttered with pointless links.
Quora is more than a question-answer website though. It expertly blends fascinating questions with expert and first-account answers that make for a great read. Some of the things discussed on Quora include life in prison, global warming, making of TV shows and a crew’s opinion on a film they worked on.
I’ve found Quora to be a great tool for finding new writers, blogs, personalities, most importantly insights into things I’ve never thought about myself. All in all, Quora is an awesome tool to add to your content curation box.
While the first two communities are general in nature, you might want to branch out into niche communities to find highly targeted content for your audience. Some examples of these include Growth Hackers, a community that dissects startup growth, and Hacker News, a place for tech geeks.
There’s a community for everything; you name it and you’ll find it. A simple Google search will throw up niche communities on any topic you’re interested in. For instance, my search for “online community for dog lovers” lead me to the 18 Social Media Networks for Pet Lovers.
Email is still one of the most popular means of receiving and consuming content, and curated newsletters are a gold mine of interesting links and news. Newsletters go a step further than communities, with their content. Instead of simply aggregating and serving you the most upvoted links, newsletters provide you with the cream of the crop.
Now, your goal with newsletters is to discover new sources, blogs and websites that you’re unfamiliar with, rather than simply copy-pasting or tweeting out the links they contain. You might be tempted to share one brilliant article or two, but don’t make it a habit.
Here are some examples of great newsletters that you might want to dig into:
Dave Pell, writer of the Next Draft, refers to himself as the “Editor of the Internet”, and rightly so. His newsletter is packed with the ten most important links of the day, along with his often-entertaining views on the same. The email is peppered with news that is relevant, fascinating and unique, on a wide spectrum of topics such as politics, entertainment, and business.
A personal favourite, SwipeFile is a newsletter for “people who want more from their work”. It contains riveting links on topics such as business, self-improvement, productivity, and just great content in general. Overall, I find this newsletter a great source of new websites, blogs, and writers to follow.
Just as there are niche communities, so are there niche newsletters. Ones that have a laser sharp focus on a particular topic. One example is Hiten Shah’s SaaS Weekly, a staple for SaaS businesses. You can use a tool like Letterlist to find a newsletter specific to your niche, or try good old Google search!
Content Curation Tools
While each of the sources discussed here can be referred to as a content curation tool, the ones in this section are a bit more specialised in nature. The other sources mentioned are good sources of content discovery, but the following tools are designed specifically to simplify your job as a content curator, helping you find and save great content with ease and share it in a jiffy.
Here are some of the best content curation tools to add to your arsenal:
Feedly is one of the best tools out there for staying up-to-date with all your favourite sources in one place. If you’re unsure where to start, the app has a handy set of collections you can explore. Collections are tagged and arranged into topics such as fashion, marketing, news and tech. Each of these contains a huge list of sources you can choose from.
Once you figure out which sources you want to follow, be it a blog or website, you can then create one of your own. When you click on a collection, it looks something like this:
With Feedly, you can also see how popular a particular website or blog really is,how many posts it puts out per week, and also how popular its individual posts are. Additionally, the tool offers save-for-later and quick sharing options that are a boon for curators.
The premise of Nuzzel is simple: a daily email with the most popular stories from your Twitter network. Instead of sifting through a barrage of tweets from everyone you follow, you get to see the most popular stories of the day, all in one handy email.
Not just that, you can also choose to follow Nuzzel feeds of people you like, and get updates from the people they follow. The website also has other features such as “Recently Read Stories” and “News You May Have Missed”.
With so many useful newsletters out there, keeping track of the best ones, or simply finding one in your niche, can be a bit of a task. LetterList does the work for you by featuring some of the best newsletters on topics such as design, growth, startups, travel, tech, and more.
It features a lot of the regulars that you might be familiar with such as Austin Kleon’s Weekly Newsletter, SwipeFile, and NextDraft, and others I hadn’t heard about such as Breaking Smart, Strands of Genius, and NowIKnow.
While Feedly is more of a replacement for Google Reader, Flipboard is your tool to keep track of news from all your favourite sources. This means you can select topics you’re interested in keeping a tab on, and Flipboard will present you with stories on them. You can organise articles into read-it-later lists and even create your own magazine if you like.
One of the features of Flipboard that I’ve really found useful is the newsletters they send. They have various newsletters such as a Daily Digest of all topics you follow, and Ten for Today, Flipboard’s own picks of the most interesting articles for the day. You can choose to unsubscribe whenever you like, or change the frequency of the emails.
This one’s a no-brainer, but most people don’t use social media for the powerful content curation tool it is. The key to finding great content on social media is to use its various filters and keywords, and focus only on the people who share the type of content you want to read.
Let’s take a look at two of the best social media tools for content curation:
If you take a look at the list of people you currently follow on Twitter, chances are it isn’t half as organised or focused as you’d like it to be. Result: only noise that drowns the great stuff. Even if you’re following a whole lot of people on Twitter, be sure to arrange them into Twitter lists so you can read the tweets of your most important sharers in one go.
As far as finding people to follow is concerned, there are a couple of ways to go about it. You can search for keywords you’re interested in and look for people who share content related to it. Another good tool to use is Buzzsumo, to see who all have shared your favorite articles and then check out their feeds.
Avoid following news outlets that you already follow on Flipboard or Feedly. And remember to keep refining the list of people you follow from time to time, to stay on top of the best content. Don’t be too obsessed with follower counts, go for interesting, share-worthy content instead.
You might know Pinterest as a tool to collect recipes and home decoration ideas, but it can be a lot more than that. The website can be a great source of finding new content to share, that is relatively fresh and hasn’t been shared a million times already.
Pinterest is not really a mainstream social media tool and thus, less saturated with done-to-death links. You can expect to find off-the-beaten path links, and websites and blogs that are yet to be discovered. You can use its refined search feature to find highly targeted content on topics you love.
Saving and Filtering Content
While you now know all the various sources to discover brilliant content, it will all amount to nothing if you don’t know the art of saving and filtering content. This is critical and what separates you from the average content curator.
Read on to find out how you can best select and save content for your own curation:
Choose A Few, But Reliable Content Discovery Methods
There are so many ways to discover content, but if you subscribe to every newsletter and download all of the apps above, you’re likely to get little else done during the day. It helps to try out all of the tools one by one and see which ones stick.
Try not to have more than three to four ways of discovering content, including communities, newsletters, content curation tools, and social media. If you have more than that, all you’ll be doing is sorting and filtering content. Also, for tools that offer targeted content, throw in a few offbeat topics in the mix, to “accidentally” help you discover new favorite sources.
From time to time, you will come across a website that you absolutely love. To know if this particular website is worth bookmarking, all you need to do is look around and find out how often they post, how many comments and shares they receive, and if the website is well-designed and formatted. These aspects usually provide a clue to a website’s reliability.
If it does check all the right boxes, add it to your own list of go-to websites. On days when your feedreader is barren, it helps to have your own little arsenal of websites with great content you can always rely on.
Find Your Hidden Gems
If you’re sharing content that everyone else is, you aren’t doing it right. Your audience really needs you to find the hidden gems for them, so that they don’t have to plod through a dozen websites. This may take a little, or a lot of, digging and reading.
Look at how the pros do it: Maria Popova of Brain Pickings reads a whopping 10-20 books a week, in addition to gleaning articles on the internet.
And this is the daily routine of Dave Pell, writer of NextDraft, as shared on Product Hunt: “Each morning I open about a 100 news tabs and then begin my process of finding and sharing the day’s most fascinating news in the NextDraft Newsletter and App.”
As you can see, great content takes time to find. That doesn’t mean you spend hours every day simply finding content, but dedicate a reasonable amount of time to find truly unique content.
Save Articles To A Read-It-Later App
It helps to save all the articles you find interesting in a read-it-later app. This prevents you from getting distracted with other links while reading.
Apps like Flipboard and Feedly give you an option to save articles for reading later. If you don’t want to keep switching back and forth between apps, you can save all articles together in Pocket and then read them. This also makes it easy to share content; more about it in the next section.
Sharing Content Quickly
As important as it is to spend enough time on finding and reading quality content, so is it essential to spend as little time as possible on sharing all of that content.
In this section, we explore tools that take the hassle out of the content sharing process:
Tools For Social Media
If you’re sharing a large volume of content on social media, say tweeting every hour or so, you can’t expect to do it manually. Even if you do use a social media scheduling app, manually adding links one by one to the app could take a while.
In this section, we’ll discuss tools to help you speed up the process of sharing on social media, so you spend no more than 15-20 minutes on sharing per day. There are two types of apps you need for automating the sharing process on social media – if-this-then-that apps and scheduling apps.
Remember we told you a read-it-later app would be handy? Here’s where you’ll know how. The premise is simple. When you perform an action on an article in your read-it-later app (Pocket, for example), your if-this-then-that app is triggered to add that article into your scheduling queue.
For instance, let’s say I mark an article as a favorite in Pocket. This action triggers it to be added to my social media scheduling queue.
Let’s take a look at two of the most popular if-this-then-that apps to understand this better:
IFTTT, or If This Then That, helps you to connect two services so that when you perform an action in one service, another action is triggered in the other service.
IFTTT already has existing ways you can automatically add articles to your scheduling apps. For instance, you can add articles you favorite in Pocket to your Buffer queue, as well as automatically Buffer articles you save for later in Feedly.
Zapier is another popular way to “make your apps talk to one another”.
And now on to the social media scheduling app:
You may know what Buffer is by now, an app for scheduling posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.
After automatically adding all of your content to your Buffer queue, you can customise each post so as to add value, add images of your own and then schedule it for a suitable time.
While there are many social media scheduling apps out there, Buffer is easily the most popular, and also has ready workflows for adding articles automatically on IFTTT as well as Zapier.
Tools For Email Newsletters
Emails existed way before social media did, and so did these tools. In this section, we look at the different tools you can use to make an appealing curated newsletter:
MailChimp is one of the most popular email software, letting you automate tasks such as welcoming subscribers, running ads, and engaging with subscribers easily. While it is more of a specialist for ecommerce and online selling, itcan also be used to make simple newsletters.
TinyLetter is a specialist for newsletters, with a simple email writing experience. Additionally, it also has features to help you build your list with landing pages and social media.
Campaign Monitor gives you beautiful email templates to work with, that look great on all devices. It also provides you with signup forms and more to grow your email list.
How To Be A Content Curation Rockstar
If you really want to take your content curation to the next level, you need to do more than subscribe to a few newsletters and schedule content quickly. You need to infuse curated content with your own personality and present your own side of the story, so that it truly shines.
Here are a few tips to become a pro content curator:
Pick A Niche
NextDraft is for the day’s most important news, SaaS Weekly is for SaaS, and Austin Kleon’s newsletter is for creatives.
As you can see, picking a niche helps readers know what to expect from you and decide if you’re worth following.
See how NextDraft’s Dave Pell picked his niche for the newsletter:
“I felt like, “Well, if I want to be somebody’s news source, I need to cover everything and make sure that, if there’s something happening at the US Embassy in Iran that’s on the front page of the New York Times, I have to cover that because it’s big news.” But then I decided, “No, I just want to focus on what I have something to say about and what I found particularly interesting that day.” That’s really when NextDraft started to take off.”
Don’t try to make your newsletter or Twitter feed “a little something for everyone”. Try to cast your net too wide and you’ll end up being a generic newsletter, that no one finds any value in.
Add Your Own Point of View
One of my favorite comics, Zen Pencils, provides an excellent example of how you can add value to existing content. The comic illustrates a famous quote, in a meaningful and interesting way. While this is not exactly a curation example, you get the point.
You don’t necessarily have to be a cartoonist in order to make it more valuable, but it’s important to add value to the content you’re sharing. Merely sharing the headline of the content, on social media and elsewhere, is plain boring.
Take a cue from Austin Kleon’s Weekly newsletter:
The newsletter contains ten links about creativity, writing and reading in general, along with the writer’s commentary, related links and reads, making for an overall, highly valuable newsletter.
You can also add your favorite snippets of the content, just like Jimmy Daly from Swipe File:
If you’re looking for inspiration for better sharing on social media, take a look at how Rand Fishkin shares articles:
Source: Rand Fishkin’s Twitter
Note that he even adds a new image for good measure.
The bottom line is: tweak headlines, add your own viewpoint and jazz it up!
Make it Interesting With Visuals
While you have may heard over and over the importance of visual marketing, here are a few statistics to consider, from an article on the Buffer blog:
Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets, 89% more favorites, and 18% more clicks.
Images also help you add additional value to existing content. While you can always use images existing in the article (which tools like Buffer help you with), you can also take it a notch higher by finding your own images.
There are various places to find royalty-free images. Be sure you always cite sources of images, and play with different visual forms such as videos, infographics, GIFs, and more, to keep it interesting.
We hope this article provided you with enough fodder to kickstart your content curation efforts. Do let us know your own ways of discovering, sharing and curating content in the comments below!
About the Author: Farheen Gani is a freelance writer and content marketer.. She writes about the best tools for startups, marketing and PR, and major startup ecosystems at StartupBlink. Say hi on Twitter!