15 Tips for Creating, Curating, Capturing and Cross-Purposing Content

Originally posted on WCG’s blog on 9/30/11.

How many times have we heard that content is king? Believe it or not, probably not enough. That’s because good content is a major component in creating successful presences and connections on the social web. And with Facebook’s most recent announcement it sounds like brands will need to work even harder to gain their customers attention.

Creating Great Content

Unfortunately, many companies are not particularly well-equipped when it comes to creating content. Many are used to creating ads, collateral and e-mails. What most companies don’t realize is that the answer to many of their content needs may already exist within their four walls.

Here are three ways to think about creating content:

  • Hold an internal contest to find out who can write the best blog posts. Give your employees three topics, have them write three blog posts and offer a prize (cash, parking space, recognition, gift card) for the winner(s)
  • Arm someone in your marketing/PR department with a flip camera. Have them schedule weekly video or audio interviews with your product or customer service team (note – start wide by interviewing multiple members of product or customer service and then narrow the pool once you’ve find your best “speakers”)
  • Create a corporate photo-sharing account on Flickr or Picasa. Let your employees submit pictures they think best-represent your culture. Designate someone in marketing/PR to curate post-upload.

Curating Other People’s (or Companies’) Content

The conundrum for most businesses is that they know they need more content yet they don’t feel like they can possibly create enough content on their own. One great way to present engaging content is to “curate” other people’s or companies’ content.

Here are five ways companies can curate third party content:

  • Creating a list of relevant Twitter accounts. If you don’t know where to start, try looking up relevant key words on site Listorious.com
  • Ask your customers, partners or industry influencers to guest blog for you.
  • Build a list of your favorite sites, blogs, videos on a social bookmarking site like Delicious
  • Follow keywords in a Twitter management tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and then rewet relevant tweets
  • Pick a favorite Slideshare deck and feature it on your website or Facebook account

Taking Advantage of Opportunities to Capture Content

One of the easiest ways to capture content is to attend live events. The rationale is that most live events like a trade show or conference feature numerous speakers and sponsors who are domain experts. Depending on how big the conference is and how popular some of the speakers/sponsors are, you might want to try and pre-arrange interviews ahead of time to ensure you get time with the right people.

To that end, here are four ways to capture content at your next live event:

  • Bring a flip camera and do short video interviews. This could include speakers, sponsors or even fellow attendees. Consider asking the same 3-5 questions to each.
  • Live tweet or blog the event. If you don’t have someone at your company to do this, there are many agencies and consultants that offer this service (sometimes even for the cost of a conference pass and meals)
  • Take pictures and upload them to a photo sharing site or a content aggregation tool like Tumblr or Posterous
  • If you or one of your employees is speaking at the event, consider posting your presentation to SlideShare

Cross-Purposing Existing Content

One of the thing companies forget is that they may already possess some content in the form of white papers, executive interviews and webcast recordings. Assuming that content is somewhat evergreen, there are a number of ways to cross-purpose that content into other formats and thus cross-post content into more social channels. Doing this can earn you better search engine optimization (SEO) and get your content in front of more eyeballs. Don’t forget to link this content together to create even better SEO juice.

Here are three ways to cross-purpose your existing content:

  • If you have a white paper, consider creating an infographic out of it. Social channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google + love infographics thus giving them higher amplification or pass along among your customers and prospects.
  • Has one of your executives done a recent video interview on the news or for an industry outlet? Consider making a transcript of the video and adding an introduction/summary and posting it on your company blog.
  • Chances are you have a set of FAQs on your website. Consider tweeting these FAQs, especially if they are more of an educational nature. You can post 2-3 a day or stretch them out over the course of a week. If you do the latter, consider using a hashtag such as #UsefulFAQs to make sure people can easily find your other tweets.

Do you have any great content tips to share? If so, please include them in the comments below. Feel free to call out companies or individuals that do a good job at creating, curating, capturing or cross-purposing content.

Playlist Goodness (non-business post)

While traveling from Austin to San Francisco last night, I decided to create a playlist for my iPhone. I have to admit, it’s pretty random but as I listened to it, I was pretty pleased with the outcome. So much so that I tweeted about it thus eliciting responses from several friends. Their challenge? If it’s that awesome, why not post it.

Well, if I was really fancy, I would find a way to create a dynamic picture that people could click on and buy songs via iTunes or Amazon if they liked. But I’m not. Not one to be thwarted by technology, I found a low tech solution i.e. snapping pictures of my iPhone screen with roughly 8 songs per screen. Below is the resulting playlist.

If you like it, cool. If you don’t… oh well. What songs would you add? Subtract?

Filters

I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about curation recently. It is one of the things that I firmly believe will be a key differentiator for companies in the future — those that curate great content beyond their own for customers, and those that don’t. Some of this curation will be of the human varietal and some will be algorithmic. One of the things I had not been thinking about, however, is the danger of what happens when things get over-curated or over-filtered.

This morning, I listened to two thought provoking angles on the danger of too much curation. The first was via John Moe who does the Marketplace Tech Report on our local NPR affiliate, KUT. The segment I’m referencing was focused on Internet radio pioneer, Pandora, and it’s recent addition of comedy to its service. For those unfamiliar with Pandora, it takes a unique approach to serving up music (and now comedy) by hand scoring each song along hundreds of different criteria (genre, number of band members, male or female singer, etc.) What struck me as interesting was the concept of using Pandora’s Music Genome Project technology against news, the potential downside being only being served up news you want to hear versus news you need to hear.

On the heels of listening to the piece about Pandora, I watched a TED video I discovered courtesy of friend (and valuable personal filter), Adam Cohen. The video featured author, Eli Pariser, author of the book, The Filter Bubble. I’ve embedded the video below which I strongly recommend watching. The essence of Eli’s talk was what happens when the things we should know about or need to know about start to get curated out of our streams based on our natural preferences. As an example, he talked about seeing the balance of liberal and conservative friends posts in his Facebook newsfeed start to tilt completely toward just showing his liberal friends’ posts. The problem with this is that while he is self-admittedly liberally leaning, he values the opinions and links of his more conservative friends.

This got me to thinking more about the role of curation and the importance of showing us things that might be counterintuitive to what we’ve selected in the past. This may include things that make us uncomfortable, or unexpected. For instance, what if Pandora gave me a little Billie Holiday in my Red Hot Chili Peppers stream? At the end of the day, I can always vote with my feet and give the song the thumbs down. The same could be (maybe should be) true with Google and Bing. Or with any service that starts making choices on our behalf. As Eli stated in his video, it’s okay to filter for us but make sure that the criteria is transparent and easily changeable.

I’m still considering what this means for companies? Do they show competitor’s products along with their own in their curated streams? Or perhaps highlight the occasional negative review to reinforce their commitment to authenticity? I would love your thoughts.

Is RSS Dead?

A few months ago I was on a panel at InnoTech with friends Kyle Flaherty, Bryan Person and Sheila Scarborough. The focus of the panel was on the future of social media and one of the topics that came up was RSS. Being the troublemaker that I am, I firmly asserted that RSS as we know it was dead. You can imagine the horror of the 200 plus audience members.

As we dug a little deeper into the topic, I backed off my position and clarified that while I didn’t really think that RSS was dead, I did feel like we were nearing the end of the usefulness of RSS readers. Some of my panelists agreed with me (I believe that Sheila strongly objected) but we were able to have a productive conversation about the increasing value of XML feeds (that’s all RSS really is) while the value of individual readers was on the wane.

Today, the conversation came up again with a gentleman whose shall remain nameless but let’s just say that he is a pioneer in the space and I was pleased to hear that he agreed with me. And while I know at least half of you that read this (all three of you) will insist that you still read blogs regularly via your RSS reader of choice, I’m going to argue that you are a dying breed.

Why do I believe that RSS readers are going the way of the VHS tape? Mainly because they don’t really allow for good curation. And by that, I mean that unless I’m reading an RSS feed of blogs that someone I know and trust like David Armano or Robert Scoble have “read” and “liked,” than I’m forced to do a lot of hunting and pecking. This doesn’t mean I don’t like the blogs of smarties such as Joe Jaffe, Valeria MaltoniPeter Kim, Jay Baer or Tamsen McMahon. It just means that not all of their posts appeal to me (and I’m quite sure the opposite is true). Combine that with the fact that I enjoy discovering new sources of content — and let’s be honest, there are tons of new content creators coming on the scene every day –and you’ll at least understand where I’m coming from.

Before you say it, I realize that Twitter alone ISN’T the solution to better content curation. In fact, Twitter can sometimes make it harder to find the right content unless you have the right human filters. I find mine in people like Ann Handley, Lee Odden, Steve Rubel, Amber NaslundSimon Mainwaring, Brian Morrissey, and Rachel Happe among dozens of others. So what is the solution? I’m not sure. A better Flipboard perhaps? A new and improved Delicious? If you know of one, I’m all ears.

Okay, this is the point where I turn things over and let all you folks that are smarter than me tell me the error of my ways. So comment away my friends. You know I love to be proved wrong.

POST SCRIPT: Here is an audio follow-on by friend and smart dude, Ike Pigott.

And the Winner Is…

Two weeks ago, I kicked off a photo contest on Flickr. We had about a dozen people participate and those people picked some 131 favorites out of the 5,217 that I’ve uploaded over the past several years. My original goal was to have my friend, Maury Postal (who just had his own gallery showing in NYC), pick the ten winners out of the 131. Unfortunately, after Maury picked his ten it left a three way tie. To resolve the matter I brought in another judge (and master photog) Ken Yeung.

What were the results? Well, I now have over 100 photos that are the cream of the crop. Even better, I have twenty pics that have been hand selected by two semi-pro photographers that I trust and respect. This is what we call curation (more on that topic in a future post). As much as I’d like to think that everyone visiting my Flickr account wants nothing more than to see ALL 5,000+ pictures, what they realistically want to see are the best of my photos. And now I can deliver that to them.

Let’s not forget about the most important part and that is the contest winner(s). There were actually two of them: the first was my favorite alien and avid Quick’n'Dirty podcast listener, Howie Goldfarb (aka @SkyPulseMedia). Howie had the most favorites selected (nine out of twenty) but when I went in and looked at how many pictures Howie had favorited during the first phase of the contest, I realized that he may have slightly exceeded the suggested number of ten choices. In the spirit of fairness, I decided that I would split the prize between Howie and Deards whose true identity is yet to be revealed (she picked six of the twenty finalists). That means Howie and Deards each get a $25 gift card of their choosing (iTunes or Starbucks).

Congratulations to the two winners. Thank you to our celebrity judges and a HUGE thank you to you all for participating and making this contest a success. In addition to Howie and Deards, the entrants included: Sheila Scarborough, Jim Storer, Jay Bryant, Darin Kirschner, Steve Golab, Liz Phillips, Tyson Goodridge, Helen Rittersporn and my mom, Martha Strout.

If you’d like to see the winners, the thumbnails are below. Or head on over here to see the final results.