You may have heard of content creation – the act of producing articles, whitepapers, videos, general website copy and more to help promote your business. However, the idea of content curation may be new to you.
Content curators search through the visual, audio and written media on the web to find the most valuable items for their audience, then compile and present it in a highly structured, intuitive format. Curated collections may take the form of blog posts, email newsletters, and good old reposting and retweeting on social media.
Which should you invest more in – creation or curation? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons for each.
Creating content is hard work
Let’s start with the obvious one – creating your own content on a regular basis is challenging. Each piece requires a considerable amount of planning and research to ensure it offers the kind of distinctive value that will draw people in.
For audiovisual media, you may need to invest in new talent (such as a graphic designer for infographics) and new equipment (such as a camera and editing software for videos) before you can get started. This is obviously a taller hurdle for smaller businesses
If you don’t have the resources to create your own right now, curating content is a great way to help you start building an engaged following. Since you’re not spending time creating the content yourself, you can publish much more in a much shorter timespan.
Curating content is hard work too
Getting curation right can still be a challenge, though. Firstly, you have to find material which is valuable to your customers and fans. That means searching through thousands of posts, finding sources which are posting about appropriate subjects, and keeping up to date with what they’re posting on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
Those sources will also need to be putting out high-quality content – associating your brand with thin writing, spelling errors and/or factual mistakes and misconceptions will do it no favours.
Unfortunately, the people talking about the kind of subjects which are relevant to you and your customers are often your competitors (particularly if you work in a niche market). Do you risk featuring their content and driving your potential customers to them instead?
If you’re providing curated content in the form of blog posts, you’ll also need to write at least a basic framework (eg an introductory paragraph) to provide context and make it all look presentable. A plain list of links will have little appeal to your readers.
Creating content helps you speak to your audience directly
When it comes to sharing content from others, you’re limited by what they’re saying. Their content will be tailored to their own audience, which may not necessarily match with yours.
While you can still feature whatever thoughts and opinions you like in your curated collection, sharing an opinion may imply to your followers that you agree with it, even if it doesn’t align with your brand’s outlook.
What’s more, there’s no real way to generate leads from other people’s content. When it comes to selling, people do check other sources for product and service reviews, but it’s up to you and you alone to persuade them to buy.
Meanwhile, if you create your own, you’re in complete control of the message you’re putting out. This means you can target your audience much more closely; basing new posts on your own customer and keyword research, and addressing concerns which are unique to your industry (or perhaps your own company).You can also tell your own brand story, which is a great way to get engage users and persuade them to take the action you want.
Curated content helps you target influencers and tastemakers
While the creation route is great for targeting your particular audience, curation offers its own route to them via influencer marketing.
By learning who your audience’s influencers are, and featuring content they’ve shared with their fans in your own curated collection, you can not only get them talking about you but also gain a better understanding of your audience and the kind of media they like.
Getting a namecheck from a high profile influencer raises your brand profile and can help turbo-boost the organic growth of your traffic and social following.
You need content for SEO
High-quality content is one of the top two ranking factors for Google’s search algorithm. Remember that Google’s job is to provide the best results for its users, so to achieve good rankings, you need unique, well-produced, engaging content that provides genuine value to those users.
It’s a little trickier to rank for content which has been curated from other sites. First of all, you can forget trying to copy and paste whole articles; not only is it plagiarism, it provides no more value to users than it would if they read the article on the original source’s site. Google may even view you as a spammer if you make a habit of stealing articles (even if you credit the original author).
Secondly, if you keep sourcing from the same creators over and over, Google may suspect you’re actually working with them to manipulate their link profile and unethically boost their search rankings. If this happens, your rankings will take a hit and so will theirs – so to avoid it, you’ll need to select your content from a wide range of sources.
You need links for SEO – and curation can help you get them
The other ranking factor of the top two? High quality links.
This is another strength of curation. By featuring media from other creators, you’re not only helping to promote those creators by you’re also signalling to them that you value their work. With any luck, they’ll be inclined to return the favour and link back to you on their own site.
(It’s worth noting that great, authoritative content will help you earn links too, but you’ll need to promote it across your social channels to help it gain traction in the first place.)
Creating content exclusively is unsustainable
Today’s internet is saturated with content; it’s becoming increasingly difficult to create something that’s truly unique, and it’s inevitable that many articles and videos end up repeating the same topics and points.
What’s more, some types of content just don’t make sense to create yourself, and are best left to expert sources who can talk about the subject in more detail. A primary example of this is news reporting – while you can certainly create opinion pieces reacting to individual news stories, people want to hear their news from professional and impartial journalists, not brands.
There’s also the one-sided nature of communicating via your own content. If you’re the only one talking, what incentive is there for people to listen?
In contrast, curation not only lets you interact with customers and content creators alike, but also lets you share a wider range of opinions to provide potential customers with a more complete view of your industry. It also helps users digest the huge influx of web media out there by categorising it based on topics and themes.
Curating content exclusively is unsustainable
That said, relying on curating exclusively isn’t sustainable either. If everyone in the world simply shared content from other sources instead of creating their own, there would be no new material to share in the first place! Give back to the community by creating great content that they’ll want to share with their followers.
An overemphasis on curation also implies you have no opinions or knowledge of your own. People need to be able to trust your brand before they’ll be willing to buy from you; if you can’t demonstrate your expertise with compelling, authoritative content, they’ll go somewhere else.
And perhaps they won’t have far to go. Every time you share a link to someone else’s website, you’re effectively directing them away from your web presence to look at theirs – and as mentioned earlier, if they’re a competitor, you might be throwing potential customers away.
So, which should you choose? The answer is, both.
Creation and curation may both revolve around content, but their goals are different. Creation helps you get your message across, and helps you get your message heard via search and social channels. Meanwhile, curation helps you increase your interaction as a brand and (when paired with content creation) helps you become a respected voice in your industry.