Recently my company entered the world of social media…
We joined Twitter.
Yes, I know, we’re a little behind considering 93 percent of marketers use social media for business… and that statistic is two years old now! We’re slowly and cautiously tiptoeing into the 21st century of social media marketing. Each time we get a new retweet or follow, it becomes a point of excited discussion.
Last week, one of our branded news stories was chosen for placement on a news website we had never heard of. Upon examining the site (whose content focused on one major theme: Issues related to the water industry), I quickly came to the conclusion that the site curates content from all over the web on the topic, writes a catchy piece of intro text and then places the story on its site, with credits and a link-back to the original source. The site was broken into helpful water-related sections such as “Technology” and “Environment.” It was quite interesting reading, and, if I were a water industry professional, I probably would have bookmarked the site.
As excited as we were to have our content picked up from Twitter and then linked back to from a site that focuses on important issues in a particular industry, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted about this “service” that had been freely bestowed upon us.
Is this a legit site we want our brand to be associated with? What unnamed person is making the calls about the content they are choosing to put there? Why did they feel we were a good fit?
I realize that a link back to our website from a site that is probably heavily visited by professionals of the water industry – an industry we want to be associated with – could only increase our website traffic and possibly open up avenues to conversation or even a purchase order.
But I couldn’t help but feel a little put out… no one even asked if we wanted to be included on this site.
If our story had been chosen for publication somewhere like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, would I have felt differently?
I think my answer would have to be “yes.”
These publications – well-known and respected – have spent countless years building their reputations by way of publishing quality news pieces that are well-researched, written and edited by journalism professionals. I feel they’ve earned the right to be a good judge of quality content.
Maybe I’m just being a journalism snob, having hailed from the newspaper industry. I do love reading those curated content news sites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Upworthy myself – and sharing their content on my various social media platforms. I know curated content has its uses.
But, these are my top issues with curated content news sites and those illusive souls who manage them…
#1. I don’t know to whom I’m entrusting my brand.
Though the news site that chose to include my company’s content was very well-designed, organized and aesthetically pleasing with good quality content, WHO exactly is it that has chosen to put my content on their site? What makes them an authority on how to categorize, summarize and present my content? There is no obvious biography or description of who owns, operates and/or manages this site.
#2. Loss of Control
This issue effectively puts my content and the presentation of my content out of my control. According to Curata, when using curated content, acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. The key is that you are not cause harm to the original author by sharing their work and to not share too much of their work.
The site curator for the website that used my company’s content definitely did not use too much of the content, and the attribution is front and center. However, if I had been asked, the entire name of the company would have been given attribution and not the shorter Twitter handle from which the story was pulled. I also wouldn’t necessarily have put the content under the “Technology” section.
I could just be a control freak…
#3. Is the Branding Obvious?
One thing that has always irritated me about curated news sites is that I often have a hard time figuring out how the author of some story is connected to the site that their content is being presented on. A nicely curated site will take the time to make sure this information is prominent, but if your content is promoting a product, do the readers of your now borrowed content understand this? Are they making the connection? Are they remembering the product and/or the brand?
My guess would be, most of the time, no.
#4. It’s Often Difficult to Measure Curated Content ROI
In “The Single Biggest Problem With Content Curation,” Michael Cheng, Cofounder of Sniply, writes that, “in order for there to be a measurable return, an action needs to take place, and the most directly measurable action is a click-through. Whether it’s to your landing page, an Amazon page, or an Eventbrite page, there simply needs to be a click-through opportunity.” Cheng argues that social shares, likes, retweets and/or favorites simply aren’t enough to measure results of content curation.
But, I’m not entirely anti-content curation…
Content curation, by nature, has blown up with the proliferation of social media and social sharing. To pretend that it does not play a significant role in today’s marketing landscape would be naïve, for one, and, second, foolhardy on the part of any marketer. Pamella Neely of Web Marketing Today offers one definition for content curation: it is the technique of choosing content from other websites and assembling it into a useful piece of information. Yet, content curation, to most experts, is also the simple sharing of another’s content with your own audience – such as a retweet on Twitter.
A survey by Trapit analyzed by the Huffington Post found that 74 percent of marketers believe content curation is an important element of a content strategy, while roughly 76 percent of marketing professionals share curated content via social media channels. Audiences enjoy curated content sites so much because, instead of having to sift through the overwhelming abundance of online information, they can find exactly what they need in one place without much searching.
The benefits of content curation are obvious. It can:
- Increase traffic to your website or webpage
- Build credibility among your followers
- Establish you/your brand as a thought leader
- Create a good relationship between your brand and curators of your content
To ethically curate content from the web, Curata offers these three “best practices:”
- Reproduce only those portions of the headline or article that are necessary to make your point or to identify the story. Do not reproduce the story in its entirety, and retitle the headline.
- Prominently identify the source of the article and provide a link-back
- When sharing images, unless you have explicit permission to share a full-size image, always share a thumb-nailed image at most.
Though my opinion about a curated content news site still remains somewhat on the leary side, I can’t deny that the curator of my company’s content followed all of Curata’s best ethical practices for content curation, up to retitling the headline. I think if a site goes to the trouble of following all of these best practices when curating another brand’s content, they are, grudgingly, probably a trustworthy source.
What do you think about content curated news sites? Do you have any examples of content curated news sites who aren’t following best practices?