Does your organization want to look just like everyone else? If they do, curating someone else's content is a great way to do it.
Appropriately integrated, content curation can provide value as part of a content marketing strategy. The key word is appropriately, because the majority of curation programs I see do nothing to differentiate the organization using the tactic.
Content Marketing done well educates your prospects and customers, while differentiating your organization at the same time. It is not enough to just answer the buyer's questions. You need to do so in a way that helps them understand what makes your offering different. And the difference has to be something that matters to the buyer. If you are really good, the content will also entertain.
Looking Like Everyone Else...Not a Recipe for Success
Content Curation is Hot Right Now...Like Hansel
Curation gained popularity primarily for two reasons. And one of them is good.
First, information is much easier to publish today than ever before. In fact, so much information is published that it can be difficult to sort through an ever growing sea of content. The initial curators realized that collecting the "best of the web on a specific topic" could actually help information seekers. That made sense.
Second, curation is usually easier than creating original content. And when things are easy lots of people do them. In this case, that is a problem.
One of the major challenges in business today is that buyers often don't perceive differences between competing products and services. If you doubt that fact, check out this McKinsey study that shows when buyers use the Internet for research prices drop by 10% across the board.
When I ask marketers if their product or service is a commodity they rarely answer "yes." Yet the average buyer doesn't seem to agree. It would be easy to say that price pressure is driven by the current economy, but I don't think that is the whole story. Brands that successfully differentiate like Apple, BMW, and Vibram aren't under margin pressure.
How to Stand Out
So what does that have to do with curation?
Leaders are by definition differentiated. Effective marketers work to establish a leadership position in the minds of their target market. Leadership can be qualitative (it "tastes" the best), performance based ("fastest from 0 to 60 mph"), or based on psychographic profiles ("the best fit for people like me.")
Unfortunately, most content curation programs rarely differentiate the organization from its competitors. The average curation program is a collection of links that kind of...sort of...relate to a specific industry. This doesn't help the reader make sense of trends and issues related to a specific topic, which should be one of your goals irrespective of whether or not you use content curation tactics.
To many, curation simply means publishing a list of content created by someone else. That doesn’t demonstrate your organizations unique abilities. And unless you provide a commodity, buyers choose you for the things that make you special.
Creating original content is a better way to help the buyer understand what makes you special. That should be your goal.
We recently asked many of our customers where they go for information about marketing trends and tactics. They were as likely to list companies like ExactTarget, Eloqua, SEOmoz, and Hubspot as they were media sites like Marketing Profs and the Content Marketing Institute. The marketers were fully aware that all four of those companies sell marketing software and services. Each company made the list because they consistently publish valuable, original research.
Curation can play a useful role in a content marketing strategy, but it should never be the center piece. If you want to stand out from the crowd, spend more time creating content that others want to follow.