August 15, 2012

7 smart techniques for content curation

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Build expertise & reduce info overload by processing Web content in new ways

This is the first of a two-part series. Also see:
Top tools for content curation

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, educators, journalists, general public.

Guest post by Beth Kanter
for NTEN: Change

Heard of content curation? It’s the process of sifting through information on the Web — from articles to images to videos to tweets — to organize, filter and make sense of content and then to share the very best material with your network.

Rather than another potential recipe for information overload, content creation can actually be a means to tackle this problem. We now create more data in just seven days than in all of human history up through 2003. So we need help sorting through all of the info flotsam and jetsam that we’re splashing around in.

Benefits of content curation for nonprofits

A curator needs to have superb social media monitoring and listening skills. That means knowing the right keywords on the topic and sources, agility with “aggregator” tools and the daily discipline of foraging for the best content and evaluating your finds before sharing.

Whether you have a staffer monitoring and aggregating blog posts for internal use or posting to Pinterest or providing value to the community by pointing to useful tweets, content curation holds benefits for both nonprofits and the people who work for them:

Improve staff expertise. It used to be that we could be trained to do our work and we wouldn’t need to update and synthesize new information on a daily basis. That’s less true. One 21st century work place literacy is sense-making of information together and alone. Good curators can spot and highlight content related to their mission.

Improve thought leadership. If your organization is curating content on a particular topic, it can help with branding your organization as thnught leaders in the space.

New sources of content. Curation forms the base of your content strategy pyramid. It’s about curation, creativity and coordination across channels. Your content strategy is essential to the success of an integrated social media strategy. And content curation can help increase the shelf-life of your content you’re already producing.

Techniques for efficient, focused curtation

As you encourage content curation activities for your staff, you may also want to remind them of techniques for being efficient and staying focused:

1Manage your attention, not just your time: Don’t just create a to-do list; lay it out on daily and weekly schedules, breaking down key tasks of the project into chunks. Consider the level of concentration and focus that each type of task or chunk requires and schedule accordingly. For example, if I have to do some writing that requires a higher level of attention for me than does scanning Twitter or reading and responding to email, I schedule my writing time during peak concentration hours in the day. I also use a timer when I’m scanning my networks and limit those activities to 15-20 minute bursts.

2Visualize on paper: Over the past 10 months, I’ve made a return to paper and markers and using mind maps or visualization techniques to reflect and to plan my week or day. I use this as a pre-writing exercise as well as a reflection exercise. It’s a way to cope with getting “content fried.”

3Establish rituals: Rituals in your work life are valuable. A mind map offers a lot of good suggestions for rituals, from decluttering your workspace to healthy habits like sleep and exercise.

4Reflection: Reflection doesn’t have to take up a large amount of time to be effective. I take 10 minutes every morning to practice some visual recording skills like drawing to create my “3 Most Important Things for Today List.” At the end of the day, I look at it, reflect on what I did and plan for tomorrow.

5Managing email and other distractions: I try to avoid email first thing in the morning. And I’ve turned off notifications that pop up on my computer screen or send me a text message to my mobile phone.

6Managing physical space: When I see clutter in my physical work spaces, I try to take that as a sign that I need to hit a pause button. Usually it is because I’m doing too much.

7Just say no: Maybe you are going to say no to social media for a day and go to meet with people, take a class, read a book or take a walk. When I’m feeling most overwhelmed, I take a break. At least get up from your desk!

Content curation can not only benefit your organization but also enhance staff expertise in the subject area being curated. This can have additional returns for your organization’s programs and services and positively impact your stakeholders. It can also help staff avoid the problems of lost productivity that information overload causes.

Best of all, it can help your nonprofit overall by strengthening your communications strategy and positioning your organization as a thought leader in its domain. But it requires a solid content strategy and training in the hard and soft techniques of content curation.

Beth Kanter is a visiting scholar with the Packard Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @kanter and at the bethkanter.org blog. This article originally appeared in the Nonprofit Technology Network newsletter (subscribe here) as part of NTEN: Change and was curated by the Socialbrite team.
Related

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  • http://justinehyde.tumblr.com/ Justine Hyde

    I relied heavily on Beth Kanter’s insights to help pen this recent blog post on content curation: ‘Send in the humans: content curation for beginners’ which might be of interest to readers – ow.ly/cEmXY

  • jdlasica

    Lee J. Fox said she was unable to post to LiveFyre, so here’s her comment:
     
    Great article. So important for today and the stats at the intro (re: info ’03 to today) are why we are so stressed. One thing, sure you know this but for hierarchical info, FreeMind and other software (hit ‘mind-map’ in your Wiki article) are great sources for mindmapping on computer (sans paper). Not an affiliate, wanted to mention a tip that has helped in my writing. Further reading ahead! I love Socialbrite!