One of the first pieces of advice that any online marketer will give to a new client is to post relevant, timely content on a website in order to build authority and audience and to help search ranking. No matter what topics you cover, this stream of new articles provides the basic fuel that the online marketing process needs in order to achieve its goals. Ideally, this content would consist of original, high-quality writing, but time and budget constraints often preclude the ability for small organizations to act like large-scale publications that employ teams of writers.
An effective and fun way to add content to your site at the same time that you keep up with your own learning about a topic is a technique often called "content curation". The content curation idea equates the process of picking through available information to that of a museum or art gallery curator choosing pieces to display in an exhibit. By using topical expertise to sort through the vast quantities of articles and sites available on the web and picking the most interesting, the content curator provides a valuable service to those trying to get a foothold on a new topic area, and by adding context and interpretation to someone else's content, you can populate your own website with relevant information without spending all of your time writing.
Content curation is a way to demonstrate your own expertise, help visitors to your site make sense of relevant information and raise the authority of your site in Google's eyes. It even supports the process of writing original content, by forcing you to look closely at what other writers are saying about a topic and evaluating the statements that they are making or omitting.
The most important thing to get started with content curation is to create an easy process that you can use to consistently review newly published material, pick the items that deserve a closer look, add your personal insight or context, and optionally share your picks to social media without even publishing it on your own website. There are a number of great tools that can help with stages of this process, and one of the challenges to getting started in content curation is the plethora of choices for tools and the processes that these tools suggest.
The first part of any content curation process is discovery - finding high-quality web publications talking about a given topic. This part of the process is the most unstructured, since the best tool to start finding sources on the Internet is often no more complex then Google searches. As you find sources that you like, you can bookmark them in your own browser, in a social bookmarking system such as http://delicious.com or http://www.diigo.com, or in a tool like http://www.evernote.com or http://kippt.com.
The second part of the content curation process uses a tool called a feed reader which allows you to view the articles that have been published by a selected list of online publications in order of publishing date. By regularly using the reader, you can keep up with new content for a topic. Up until March of 2013, the reader of choice for many people was a google product called Google Reader, but in March Google announced that they would retire the Reader product in July 2013. This created an opportunity for the many companies offering alternative tools, and at this point it looks as if the biggest beneficiary of Google's decision is a feed reader called Feedly.
Feedly offers a reader with a nice graphical interface that allows a magazine-like view of articles together with images, organized as a set of folders or as a daily newspaper-like view. Feedly can import your settings from Google reader or from an OPML exported file that you can get from services such as Bloglines. You can add folders to group related feeds together and each folder can be viewed independently in the newspaper-like view. There are keyboard shortcuts available for fast and easy reading and built-in social sharing tools. There is also a nice feature to add any article to a "read it later" group, which can be used for quick filtering of interesting articles from a large list.
Once you've found an interesting article in a feed reader, that article should be staged in a tool that makes it easy to format the title, excerpts and an image from the original article; add insight and context to the original article; and share these articles and your overall choices with other people through social media. Again there are several choices of tool, and many feed readers offer some version of this functionality, but the best platform that we've found for performing this task is called Scoop.it.
Scoop.it is made specifically for content curation. It presents an attractive, magazine-like view of your curated content that is linked to a community of other curators. The editorial interface makes it easy to structure your excerpted text and image, and add your own insight. The built-in social media sharing tools allow you to share to multiple services from a single interface. To see Scoop.it in action, take a look at my curated topic: http://www.scoop.it/t/content-curation-for-amplifying-your-online-voice.
The effort spent learning content curation tools and putting together a personal curation process will be well spent. There is an opportunity to connect more deeply to the topics that you care about and to a community of other writers and thinkers that you might have never had the opportunity to connect with before. Content curation relates to the very things that have made the World Wide Web such an important part of our world. It is a fun and rewarding way to enrich your website and your own knowledge.