As a marketer, producing a constant stream of high-quality content can be a strain. Whether it’s writer’s block, lack of time, or lack of budget, creating enough content to keep your social audiences engaged is not always an easy task.

This is where content curation comes in. Content curation is the process of finding interesting content around the web, organising it in a relevant manner and sharing it with your audience.

By supplementing your own content with secondary content compiled from other blogs and websites, you can uphold your commitment to your posting schedule and keep your audience engaged with your brand.

How much of the content you share should be curated?

While there’s no definitive answer to this question — it depends on brand, posting habits and audience— the short answer is this: don’t let links to your own site dominate your social media feeds. While opinions on the exact figure vary, they all agree on this point.

One popular guideline is the social media rule of thirds, which suggests that 1/3 of social content should be sales-orientated or promotional, 1/3 should be curated, and 1/3 should be interactions.

There’s also the sweet spot suggested by Convince & Convert, which advises linking to your own content 25-50% of the time. Companies that link to their own content more than 50% of the time see lower engagement rate and fewer conversions.

If you create content quite sporadically, then it’s absolutely fine to lean more heavily on curated content during quiet times.

What content curation tools should you use?

For small businesses, content curation can be managed easily enough without any paid tools. The two tools we’re going to suggest here both have free versions that are perfectly adequate, and can be upgraded for a very reasonable fee.

Feedly

Describing itself as “a personal space where you can organise your favourite blogs and publications and connect to the news, knowledge and ideas that matter to you,” Feedly (pictured) takes all the work out of content discovery.

Feedly

With all your favourite feeds and blogs arranged by topics of your choosing, finding content for your audience is easy. You can preview articles from your Feedly dashboard, which is good news if you’re easily distracted.

With a Pro account ($45/year), you get Hootsuite integration, an advanced search function, and quicker article polling.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is strongest as a post scheduler, but it can also be used for content curation and easy, multi-platform sharing.

Hootsuite’s Hootlet extension is a tiny owl icon that sits in your toolbar. When you come across an interesting article online, you can share (and schedule) to a range of social networks without leaving the page.

I like to use the two together: by discovering and curating content through Feedly, then scheduling and sharing through Hootsuite. If I come across something shareable when I’m browsing the web, I can schedule that through Hootlet as well.

Deciding on content to curate

Even if you don’t see yourself as a marketer, there’s a good chance you already have experience with content curation. If you post news articles to your Facebook profile, bookmark interesting sites to read later, or embed other people’s YouTube videos on your blog, you are — one way or another — already curating content.

Whether or not you consider this at the time, the reasons you share content are probably a combination of the following:

  • You find it interesting
  • Your friends will find it entertaining
  • It’s something people need to know
  • It indirectly tells people something about you (beliefs, taste in music, opinions, likes, or affiliations)

When you’re curating content for your brand, you need to go through this same process, but a little more cautiously. Watch out for things that will trip you up, like topics that will offend your audience (always play it safe) or won’t apply to them (e.g. an article about a pizza promotion in the Nottingham, when your brand is based in London).

Curated content can reflect positively or negatively on your brand, so it’s wise to choose carefully and read everything before you share it. You can’t judge a post by its title, and unless you know the source and trust them with your reputation, always take the time to skim-read before you schedule.

The content you curate needs to align with your branding and business objectives. This means you should judge it as critically as you would judge content you created yourself.

It’s also best to avoid sharing content that will outrage, upset or anger your audience. This negative emotion can get transferred quite easily to your brand, and when this happens, it’s easy to lose control of the conversation that follows.

So: aim to delight, entertain, and educate your audience — whether that’s with the content you create or the content you share.

Refining your technique

You can use Facebook and Twitter’s in-built analytics platforms to keep track of the types of content that generate the most engagement. Don’t be demoralised if curated content gets the lion’s share of the likes — this is normal.

When evaluating the success of content, focus on engagement (likes, comments, and shares) and click-through rate. After a while, it’s likely that patterns will emerge — certain types of content (long-form, infographics, tutorials or videos) may be more successful than others, and the same can happen with topics.

In addition to using this data to inform your content curation in future, you can also use it to help plan the content you create yourself. From the popularity of other people’s content, you can get a good idea of what works — and what doesn’t — for your audience.