Curate and be curated.

By Eric S. Arcidiacono Remember that fuzzy screen and scratchy noise that came out of your TV whenever you had no reception?  Okay, maybe you don’t.  Just in case you don’t, here’s what I’m talking about. With the abundance of emails, status updates, tweets, blog posts and old fashioned advertisements being hurled at us constantly all day long, it all starts to effectively become one big grey and white mass of noise, just like that TV out of tune.  As a result we have adopted ways to cut through that noise and have begun to seek out content curated by someone we trust.

Social capital and expression We also see people curating collections of articles, web sites, videos and blog posts as a way of expressing themselves or to build social capital.  Because of this shift in the way we seek, collect and consume content, in order to remain competitive your brand will not only need to be curate-able but will also need to become a curator as well.

Blogs, Bookmarks and Beyond Blogs are a common form of content curation.  Of course people create original content for their blogs, but a large percent of the content on many blogs is a collection of links, videos and photos that the blogger has curated.  Social bookmarking is another, very basic form of curating content.  Sites like Delicious, DIGG and Reddit are simple, easy to use, and millions of people use them to curate lists of links ready to be shared with anyone who follows their feed.

You may be curating without knowing it! Have you ever clicked the thumbs up or thumbs down icon for a song playing on Pandora?  If you have, you were curating a list of music that is tailored to your preferences.  Stations on Pandora and a similar service, Last.fm, are a form of curation- you are telling people what you like and what you don’t, and they are listening to your channel because they trust your taste.  Twitter lists are another way people curate content without knowing it.  By making lists in Twitter you are telling people that these tweeps you have followed not only have content good enough to follow, but also good enough to place in a special category.

Startups banking on curation: Quora, paper.li and Flipboard Quora, paper.li and Flipboard are all startups that have a slightly different take on curation, but all of them bank on the idea that you want content that has been selected based on what is relevant to you.  Quora curates topical information on anything from Ants to Zebras, paper.li “organizes [relevant] links shared on Twitter and Facebook into an easy to read newspaper-style format,” and Flipboard feeds you customized, relevant content based on your interests, tags and what your friends are talking about in a nicely thought out, graphic interface.

Why does curating matter to you and your brand? Simply put, curated content is about relevance.  People want relevant, useful content and they don’t want to read or see all the other junk.  Therefore, you want to be part of that stream of content that is relevant to them.  Just as important is the word of mouth element at play.  The more content that gets pushed in our face the more we reject the mass of it and turn to word of mouth recommendations from people we know and trust.  Curating content fits right into this model.  I would much rather browse through the Twitter lists that HBO’s head of social media curates than trust the “who to follow” feature in Twitter.  How about you?

What to do, what to do?  Curate. Curate lists on your brand’s Twitter profile.  Curate a “Favorite Pages” list on your Facebook fan page.  Curate a Delicious list of links to local resources that your audience would find useful.  Become a source of news and information for your followers and they will keep coming back for more.  You don’t have to give away the family recipe here, but you definitely need to provide real, useful content that people will find valuable.  If you are a snow resort, list top snowboarders and skiers, places to get discounted lift tickets or links to nifty iphone apps that tell you live snow conditions.  People will find this information, it’s out there, so you might as well make it easy for them and then you can be the one who showed them the way, right?  Then they will like you and be more likely to visit your mountain instead of going to a resort that just wants their money but hasn’t offered them any value along the way.

But, also be curate-able. With the shift toward curating, your brand needs to be curate-able.  Rule number 1:  Have something worth sharing!  If your web site or blog content is bland, lacks entertainment value or is deplete of uniquely valuable information then you will likely not have many people collecting or sharing your information.  On the other hand, if your content informs, breaks the latest news or makes them laugh out loud they will want to show all their friends, and you’ll end up on their Twitter list or Favorite Pages list.

Rule #2:  Make it easy to share!  No matter how awesome your content is, if a blogger can’t be one or two clicks away from sharing or logging your links, you’re doomed.  Make sure you have a “share this” or “add this” button located in a very visible spot.  Don’t overestimate the attention span of today’s users.

As the noise builds and builds, we will continue to find ways to cut through it, and more and more that is taking the form of either curating content yourself or seeking curated content from someone you trust.  If you offer people an extra value by curating interesting content, they will follow.  If you want the most influential bloggers and social media pros with huge followings to share your brand with others, create good content worth sharing and make it easy for people to share.

So, are you curating?  Better yet, is your brand curate-able?