Printing Blocks“Publishing is a lot harder than it looks” — so says Josh Sternberg over on Digiday. It’s true, so apparently brands are turning toward content curation in a bid to feed their ever-growing need for information to push to Facebook and Twitter streams.

The problem, as always, is that you get what you put in.

Unique content takes more out of the business because it gives more back to the business. (Well, it should.) If I wanted to be a content purist, I’d say that content curation is the equivalent of me turning up to a bake-off with a store-bought cake and saying “Look! I baked a cake.” Nobody’s impressed (or fooled) by me pretending I’m a cake expert having never broken an egg.

Even looking at it in more sympathetic terms for the time-poor Digital Marketer, in the age of customization most people are quite capable of curating their own information — just the way they like it. There’s very little a brand can do to add value to the original content once curated. If I want to find healthy recipes online I can do that for myself, I don’t need to turn to a toaster brand — as one of the article’s interviewees suggest– for their perspective on healthy recipes (no doubt all with a strong toast bias). 

Content curation has a number of practical limitations: 

  • Becoming tarnished with the “me too” factor: What started as an attempt at customer dialogue can very quickly seem like noise for noise’s sake. Even worse, incorrect accreditation of sources can just downright annoy content originators.
  • Driving traffic off-site: What’s the point of your content strategy? As the article points out, most brands are using their curated content on third-party sites like Tumblr — most likely linking out to the original. This defeats the purpose of bringing people toward a brand to have an interaction and disconnects them from a possible commercial outcome.
  • Limiting content planning to what’s already available: If content usage is based on curation, then content planning will be limited to what’s already available. (I’d also suggest that if your content isn’t unique then how are you going to achieve cut-through anyway?) 

Curating content is no substitute for a proper content plan 

Publishing and editorial-type functions can feel uncomfortable to a brand previously unused to creating media but it’s now an essential part of interactive marketing — in the same way building and maintaining a website can be a challenge but it’s just too important not to tackle.

Content’s value is diminished when brands forget to use content across their whole interactive brand ecosystem. Yes, it can take a long time to create a blog post, but if the post is part of your natural search, email marketing, and social media strategies then all of a sudden that content is working harder and cost-per-use gives greater ROI.

Content curation can be part of your content strategy but your own content creation should come first.

[Image credit: Bob Doran]