Author | Marketer | Speaker

I help companies turn data, ideas and relationships into reach and influence. 

Social self-importance: Why content curation will never be king

Let’s be clear: Content curation will not save any of us from having to author our own content. Anyone that attempts to position curation as a shortcut, to any extent,  is wrong (and probably trying to sell you something). Expecting people to care what you read without first earning their attention with your own work is nothing more than self-importance gone social. No one gives a damn what content you’ve shared if you haven’t brought considerable value to the table first. And determining what constitutes “considerable value” isn’t your call to make. Amber Naslund summed this up nicely in a recent tweet:

@be3d that value has to be in the eyes of the reader. Not your own "brand" viewpoint. #techchat

One of the most well-known curation efforts to date is Alltop. Creator Guy Kawasaki, however, was popular long before Alltop. People wanted to know what he was reading because he had established his thought leadership working at Apple and by writing books like The Macintosh Way. Similarly, I read Jay Baer’s link curation emails because I’m a fan of his work, I’ve seen him speak, and frankly, I want to be more like him professionally. So getting a sense of the things on his mind is important to me, and one way to find out is to read what he reads.

Successful content curators have proven themselves, in whatever space they inhabit, prior to their success in curation. There's the rub. No matter how interesting the 3rd party content you collect is, no matter how insightful your added commentary and critique seems to be, your audience-building strategy will fail if curation comes first.

What we’re dealing with here, to a degree, is the unfortunately-entrenched myth that “content is king” in social media. Brian Clark tried to wake us up from this sweet dream with his piece, What’s a Content King Without a Kingdom?

"Yes content is indispensable, but the entire environment is powered by people. If you have no people on your side, your content isn’t king… it’s just a lonely loser with delusions of grandeur. (...) Content marketing is all about communication. You need to attract the attention of prospects and communicate your subject matter expertise."

You need to build a kingdom of interested readers before you can expect your content to thrive on a consistent basis. A post might get picked up every so often and make a splash on Twitter, but this does very little for your overall efforts. Seconds later—minutes if you’re lucky—they’re on to the next blog competing for their attention. But if you routinely demonstrate your leadership through your own efforts first, you’ll eventually cultivate an audience that will also be receptive to the external content you share with them through curation.

Have I become disillusioned with content curation? Quite the opposite. None of this should dash your dreams of content curation mastery. You still have two clear paths to success:

1. Focus on the spaces in which you already have cachet. If people already see you as a leader, they’ll be receptive to your guidance through the universe of related content.

2. Earn area recognition through creating content that stands on its own instead of waiting for your curation work to be noticed.  Once you’ve got the audience, devote more time and effort to content curation because it's likelier to pay off.

The latter option makes more sense for me and most of the people I know. What about you?

© 2016 Ian Greenleigh