social media content curation

Imagine you are part of the world’s largest library, so full of books and information that the end of it can’t be seen. You’re trying to find some specific information, but this library is without a card catalog. This library would be the Internet.

Now, that’s not fully accurate.

The ability to use various search engines is a kind of card catalog. But it’s not the greatest. The results are only the best as much as the search engine’s algorithm is the best.

You are, in a sense, the tour guide of the library. You have a bunch of people who have decided to follow you through its masses of information because they trust that you won’t allow them to get lost, be forgotten, or left behind in the stacks. They trust you’ll point out the most important stuff. They trust you won’t waste their time. They trust that you’ll know them well enough that you’ll do a better job finding information that an algorithm or computer can’t quite master.

Content curation is a lifesaver to an audience drowning in information, which is why we made a rather awesome new Chrome extension content curation tool to help you help your audience. (I’ll just wait a bit for the applause and cheers to finish.)


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Why Content Curation Is Important

I’m probably preaching to the choir, here, because one of the reasons we created our Chrome extension was it was top on the list of things our users wanted. You’re out there reading stuff online, and you want to be able to easily add it to your editorial calendar with a click or two.

Clearly, you know that content curation belongs on your editorial calendar, i.e. it’s important enough to be part of your content planning.

But, just in case you weren’t convinced, let’s look.

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No narcissists, please.

Your audience loves you, but not if you turn into a narcissist.

Are you sharing only your content, all the time? Is your audience only hearing what you think? Are you constantly posting “content selfies” to your social profiles?

Sharing the content of others is one of the best ways to show that you’re not all about you, and that you value a variety of perspectives beyond your own.

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You form connections.

social media content curation

When you curate content, new connections are formed for both you and your audience. What do those new connections do for you?

  1. Increase your reach. You’re going to be attracting the audience of the content you shared. Win.
  2. Connect with influencers. You’re going to be sharing content by the leaders in your industry, opening the doors to communicating with them.
  3. Expand your audience’s experience. You’re helping your audience connect with other people and ideas that may hover on the far edge of your niche. While you might not be prepared to dive in and cover some content topics in detail, sharing the work of someone who has to an audience that might be interested is helpful. It’s best to focus on your content niche, but sharing related and peripheral content will hit those audience members who are interested out on the edge without you veering off your content plan.

You benefit from planned content curation.

As the Buffer blog points out (a tool that has long been all about social media content curation), your social media content curation needs to be a part of your plan (i.e. your calendar) because it provides specific benefits:

  1. Consistency. The ever-harped on aspect of consistency. It applies to everything, everywhere, in content marketing. Social media content curation is no different.
  2. There’s a record. Social media in general is a bit like dust in the wind. It flies by so quickly. Curated content is especially susceptible, since it’s not attached to content you’ve created.
  3. It saves time. What’s the pain point we hear the most? It’s that you don’t have enough time to create massive amounts of content, yet you still have to be active on social media. Content curation solves that problem.
  4. It solves your biggest problems. Content marketing leader Heidi Cohen found that lack of time, producing enough content, producing engaging content, lack of a budget, and producing a variety of content are the top challenges facing content marketers. Curation helps alleviate all of those.

How To Curate Content For Social Media

Wow, benefits all around! So…how do you curate content in a way that works?

Know what to curate.

You can’t share junk.

social media content curation

No one wants their social feed filled with garbage, so simply publishing posts for the sake of needing to do it is a bad idea. Find the best content, the content you enjoyed, the content your audience members are sharing and talking about, the content that is actually helpful.

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That means you have to actually read the stuff. You have to be willing to go past the headline and make sure the content you’re going to share is well-written, well-thought, and (here’s a pet peeve of mine) accessible if your audience member doesn’t have a subscription to a website. Nothing is more irksome than following a link to a piece of content I can’t read unless I subscribe. Unless you know your audience is mostly subscribed to a site, share that content by linking, summarizing, commenting on, and quoting it in your own standalone blog post.

If a tool makes it easy to fill your content curation schedule with recommended content without you having to read it, be careful. You are trusting them to curate for you and your audience is expecting you to be the tour guide in the library, not someone else.

Tools and places that you should be using to help find content to curate include:

  • RSS readers. Gather the RSS feeds of content you consistently enjoy. Categorize them tightly into narrowly focused topical groupings so you can better plan on the topics you’ll share when the planning stage comes.
  • Google Alerts. Sign up for Google Alerts on topics your readers care about, but be cautious about two things: a) make your search as narrow as possible, or you’ll regret the flood of information, and b) read the content you find, since it’s a bit of a wild card what Google will dig up for you. You can send these alerts to your RSS reader based on the topic of the search, or to your email.
  • Focused social network lists. Create a list of users on Twitter, for example, that belong in a particular niche. Having all of the users in your general news feed isn’t helpful if you are trying to curate according to topic when it comes time to plan. Just as you want to categorize your RSS feeds, you ought to do the same with your social feeds.
  • Forums and groups. Places like and other similar industry or niche related forums are perfect places to find currently hot content. Look for content that is getting a lot of discussion on it. Pieces that die in silence without much reaction can be seen as being downvoted by the crowd, and probably not something your audience is going to want to read and talk about, either.
  • Sign up for emails. Find great email newsletters that consistently share content that you might not otherwise find. They’re doing curation of their own, and there’s nothing stopping you from making use of their finds. Just be sure to check them out to be sure it’s something your audience would want. Don’t assume, just because someone else gave it a seal of approval.

Avoid overly general or large repositories of information. Websites where anyone can post any time without much restriction are only going to be the places to find content, not the best content. It’s going to take you way too much time to slog through pages and pages of people posting anything and everything. You want to find a limited set of information, one that you’ve created and defined, or one that with an admin doing the work to cull the less desirable content.

Once you have set up a collection of tools and places where you’ve identified that you can find quality content, it’s time to create the plan (and habit) of checking them.

Know the best mix of curated content.

Here’s the big question most content marketers have:

How much of my social media content should be curated, and how much should be my own?

Kevan Lee, from Buffer, did a fantastic job of digging up some great recipes.

The 5-3-2 Recipe

Back in 2011, TA McCann recommended his own personal rule for social curation. It’s a proportionally based recipe, so you would keep the proportions the same when planning, whether you’re going daily or weekly.

  • Five pieces of content are from others.
  • Three pieces of content are from you.
  • Two pieces of content are from you, and are personal.

Essentially, five are from others, and five are from you. It’s an equal balance.

social media content curation

What I like about the 5-3-2 approach is that last bit, though, the inclusion of something personal. The 5-3 content pieces are all relevant to your niche and to your audience, but by including the 2, you personalize your brand to your audience and make them care about you. You’re not just a content machine, but you’re a personal being.

The 4-1-1 Recipe

This mixture (from content marketers Andrew Davis and Joe Pulizzi), mentioned by Shai Coggins, is based on the idea that you have to take it easy on self-promotion, and that self-promotion has to be heavily outweighed. However, it is rather light on content creation, proportionally speaking.

  • Four pieces of original content of your own.
  • One piece of self-serving content of your own.
  • One piece of curated content.

social media content curation

This one is tricky, as Coggins points out. You have to be sure you have a clear line between self-serving and non-self-serving content that you create. Instead of the five-to-five recipe above, it’s a five-to-one recipe, and that isn’t going to provide much in terms of benefits (e.g. not enough time to create lots of original content, new networking opportunities, etc.).

The 5-5-5-+ Recipe

Coggins recommends a different recipe than the 4-1-1 approach.

  • Five pieces of your own content.
  • Five pieces of curated content.
  • Five replies or efforts at engagement.
  • + is for all of the likes, #FollowFriday, and so on that you do on social media.

social media content curation

While you can’t exactly plan social media engagement on your editorial calendar, you can make it part of a daily habit. I like that Coggins added engagement to the mix because it really is a part of the entire social media kingdom.

In Coggins’ recipe, it’s less about the ration (basically one-for-one) and more about making sure you have all the components in the mix (yours, others, engagement).

The Rule Of Thirds Recipe

On the Hootsuite blog, the rule of thirds is posited as a viable approach. Like the 5-5-5+ approach, it’s less about ratio and more about components.

  • ⅓ pieces are your own content.
  • ⅓ pieces are curated content.
  • ⅓ pieces are based on engagement and personal interactions.

social media content curation

The Golden Ratio Recipe

The Rallyverse blog has a different take on social media content curation.

  • 30% is your own content.
  • 60% is curated content.
  • 10% is promotional content.

You can see, once again, there is a difference between your helpful content and your promotional content. That’s a key difference in several of these recipes.

social media content curation

The Buffer Recipe

Buffer uses a simple approach when it comes to social media content curation.

  • 90% your own.
  • 10% from others.

Buffer is a well-established brand, and is a thought leader in their industry. That’s something to keep in mind: Your social media content curation recipes may change as you become more established (more on this in a bit).

The 20-1 Recipe

Well-known blogger Michael Hyatt doesn’t follow a specific approach to the T, but he instead follows a philosophy which places generosity and helpfulness before everything else. He sees content marketing as a kind of relationship bank, and his recipe draws on that analogy.

  • 20 relational deposits.
  • 1 marketing withdrawal.

I love his concept; it helps clarify that when you market to people, you are drawing against the goodwill you’ve established by being helpful. It’s perfectly fine to do that, but you have to remember to stay out of the negative. Hyatt admits he doesn’t have the data to back up his approach, but instead finds it is a rule of thumb.

The CoSchedule Recipe

The new CoSchedule Chrome extension makes social media curation planning and publishing a breeze. So what do we recommend?

  • 50% curated content.
  • 25% your own content.
  • 20% engagement.
  • 5% promotional content.

social media content curation

Not written in stone, of course.

As I mentioned in the Buffer recipe, your approach will depend on how established you are as a content marketer, as well as what you want to achieve. Hyatt clearly is well established, yet he wants very much to maintain a relational approach to people. If you are less established, it’s important to share and participate, in a higher degree, with the content of others. It’s how you get noticed. Once you are established, you may want to start exhibiting authority by sharing more of your own content.

One key element, though, can be found in all of these recipes: Hardcore marketing and promotional social tweets should be the lowest amount in any recipe you ultimately use.

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One IMPORTANT last thing: Make sure you curate instead of steal.

Content curation without proper attribution and a link to the original content is theft. Content curation is not where you get your content or try to pass of large chunks of content as your own, and if that’s the approach you take, you’re doing it wrong.

What Is Your Recipe For Social Media Content Curation?

Remember, curating other’s content does not turn you into a content thief. When content curation is done correctly, everyone involved benefits. The content creator gets visibility, you make your audience happy, and your audience gets good information.

And also remember, curation is first and foremost about helping your audience. If what you’re doing isn’t accomplishing that, it’s time to reboot.

Are you ready to try the brand new CoSchedule Chrome extension social curation tool? Start curating better than ever now!