Content Curation Tools: Possibilities and Pitfalls

Jun 19, 2013


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Article ImageAs organizations and individuals work to build their Twitter followers they eagerly watch for mentions and RTs (retweets). And then they spot something like this: "XYZ E-publication is out today! Top stories by @thisperson @thatperson @YOU!" Your first inclination is to quickly RT the tweet to all of your followers and respond to the poster with a heart-felt "gee, thanks so much for including me!" But, wait a minute, is there any real value in this kind of exposure?

Robert A. Geller has contemplated that question through his own personal experience. Geller is president at Fusion Public Relations in New York. He writes a content marketing column for Windmill Networking. He says he is "growing weary of all those automatically-generated newsletters that clog Twitter and try to pass as clever curation."

Geller first learned of these tools, he says, when he started seeing his own posts and tweets mentioned in them. After following up to thank one of the newsletter sources it became obvious that she "had no idea who I was or what my content was about," he says. She explained to him that the content was automatically scraped and included based on keywords. Going back to check the newsletter he couldn't even find which story had been referenced as a new version had already been generated.

The experience, he says, gave him a bad taste.

Still, he acknowledges, there is a place for these tools when used wisely. "I am very much in favor of tech that brings down costs and improves effectiveness of curation," he says.

Dr. William Ward is the professor of practice of social media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University "Our 15th century counterparts experienced less data in their lifetimes than we do in a single day," he says. "Content creation tools allow users to organize the fire hose of information and create something that is useful in order to turn the noise and clutter into something of value." When content creators do this well, he says, they can "benefit by being a trusted source for filtering the information overload and becoming subject matter experts."

Although the tools (think Paper.li, Storify, and more) are increasingly easy to use, using them well requires training and education, says Ward. "Training and education on digital literacy and social media etiquette are important for harnessing the positive benefits of content curation and reducing the negatives."

Robert Moritz is editorial director at Saatchi & Saatchi LA. Paper.li and similar services, says Moritz, are best viewed as content aggregators. "What they really do is package relevant content into a good-looking, easily digestible format." Like others, he says, "like every other tool from the hammer to Twitter, the efficacy entirely relies on how well you use (these tools).

"If you're lazy you just end up with a bunch of junk that nobody wants to read." But, he adds: "If you have a good eye and take your time to curate a mix of stories that create a new, uniquely original narrative that complements your own brand, then it's a total win for both you and the original content creator who gains new eyeballs."

Those who think these tools can be put on auto-pilot to create content to boost brands and bump up marketing efforts, are likely to be disappointed.

"I think there are better ways to approach content marketing that will have a much stronger impact," says Maciej Fita, SEO Director with Brandignity in Naples, Fla. "Sure it will require more budget and time spent but a winning marketing approach is never going to be easy."

The bottom line: yes, curation tools can be helpful for content managers who, as we all know, find the proliferation of information as well as communication options to be overwhelming at times. But, says Geller, these tools need to be used with care. "Good content creators have a keen eye for relevant information," he says. "When simple keywords are used to automatically grab content and send it to everyone you know, the result is not very interesting or useful." Brands, in particular, he says, need to exercise caution. "The carrier of their messages speaks volumes."

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)