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On January 30, I’m speaking at the Social Media for Nonprofits conference in New York City. (You can get a discount of $20 off the registration by entering the code “Beth” when you sign up). This year, since content curation is a social media competency that I’m focusing in my own learning and teaching, I’ll be doing a conversational presentation on the topic. Robin Good, one of the best content curators on the planet, will join me via Skype from Italy. In preparation, I’m doing a pre-recorded skype interview with Robin as a back up for a live interview. As is my presenting style, this will be an interactive session.

Here’s why I think content curation, especially the practice, is very important for us to embrace in the nonprofit sector:

On an individual practice level, with more and more information being shared and published on the web, the act of content curation can actually reduce our information overload. I believe that sense-making both individually and in collaborative contexts at work or networked projects will be the key to navigating the digital information landscape and finding relevant content efficiently in the future.

I also think that 2012 will be the year of content curation. It is becoming an essential component of your social and communications strategy, and we’ve already see content curation deliver results on a number of levels, as Shel Holtz points out and master curator Jan Gordon summarizes. Content curation can provide visibility, but before you can reap results you have to identify the opportunity — a campaign, announcement of a new program, or release of policy information —  to curate news and information around your topic. Also, you need, as Jan Gordon points out in the Skype video interview, to know the audience’s content consumption patterns and interests.

Once you have a strategy plan in place, the next step is to select your curator. This may or may not be your social media manager or staff person. They should know the topic area, but also understand the practice of curation. The secret to good curation is the selection of the best and most relevant material.  A curator needs to have superb social media monitoring and listening skills — that means knowing the right keywords on the topic and sources, agility with “aggregator” tools, and the daily discipline of foraging for the best content and evaluating your finds before sharing.  A content curator should never share something they have not actually read and thought about. The practice of curation is being able to sift through daily whirlwind of tweets, blog posts, and other content streams quickly in order to pick the right pieces that create an accurate view of the subject matter.

Moreover, adding context is another curation skill. Now that you have shifted through all this material, and selected the best, what’s the context that you can share to help your audience understand it better? Content curation also includes engaging with your audience around the content shared, but adding value. For example, commenting is about adding context or furthering the understanding of the topic or asking audience to contribute their knowledge to the conversation.

In an age of push-button sharing with tools like Pinterest, content curation is more than pushing a button! It isn’t quickly slapping links together. This issue has been a hot topic amongst master curators like Jan Gordon,  Robin Good, and Howard Rheingold.

Robin Good recently curated this excellent piece about the difference between content curation and aggregation with this post by Ryan Skinner.  The two big takeaways for nonprofits who want to incorporate content curation into their strategy.

• More than a link: This is the era of frictionless sharing, goddammit. Friction is a demonstration of care. Anyone can send a link. If you’re going to curate and share, add something. Some insight. Commentary. But no more than necessary.

• Slap asses: If you’re going to curate someone’s content, you owe it to yourself and to them to be open about it. Preferably, it’s someone you follow and share comments with. And be sure to give them credit.

Jan Gordon points out why content curators need to be highly selective in what they share with the audiences.  She points us to this curated post from Stanford about using more care with the Twitter retweet button (the best example of what we mean by “push-button sharing.”) Curation is more than sharing a link or putting together a link list. It requires attention to detail and delivering value.

Now that curation tools like Pinterest are becoming more popular for nonprofits, good curation practice is more important than ever. As I watch nonprofits embrace these tools enthusiastically, I feel it is important for us all to grasp what good curation is and use best practices — if we want get results.

The best way to learn these skills is study how the experts work.  So, with a little help from my colleagues on making video Skype interviews,  I reached out master curator Jan Gordon. Click here to see the original Skype video.

Jan Gordon curates Content Curation, Social Business, and Beyond at Scoop.It. I have been following her for six months. She curates several topics at Scoop.It, including her newly added “Pinterest Watch.” I have learned a lot of about the techniques of good curation just from observing her practice. If you browse through her collection, you’ll notice that she does just not aggregate links, but reads each one, adds commentary, and changes the headlines so it provides relevance for her audience. She also acknowledges the original source as well as the work of other curators.

Jan practices what she preaches about engaging with your audience about the content your curate.  Here’s a great example of the dialogue that accompanies great curation on this article by master curator, Robin Good, “What Makes A Content Curator Great?

Q: If you are just starting out, what is your recommendation for beginners?

Tell the right the story with content you are collecting so that you audience finds it relevant or places of connection. You need a deep understanding of what content meets their needs.

Understand your audiences content consumption habits – where they look for information, what format they want, and when. Know how to share in those areas.

Q: What is your best time-saving tip?

Best time-saving tip is to find the best aggregation tool (a tool that searches the web based on keywords and pulls in the content that you’re looking for). Bundlepost is my perferred aggregation tool. It is very important because you could spend your entire day searching for content in the wrong places. You want to find the good stuff quickly and aggregation tools help. You want to spend your time sharing your content when your audience is in the process of consuming it. It is also important to spend time engaging with your audience arond the content so they better understand the context. Curation tools like Scoop.It and others help you do that.

Is your nonprofit embracing content curation as part of its content strategy? Are you using best practices or are just slapping links together?

Click here to view this blog's original post at bethkanter.org.

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Beth Kanter

Beth Kanter is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. She co-authored the book titled “The Networked Nonprofit” with Allison Fine published by J Wiley in 2010 that received Honorable Mention for the Terry McAdams Award. Beth has over 30 years working in the nonprofit sector in technology, training, capacity building, evaluation, fundraising, and marketing.

In 2009, she was named by Fast Company magazine as one of the most influential women in technology and one of Business Week’s “Voices of Innovation for Social Media.” She was named Visiting Scholar for Social Media and Nonprofits for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 2009-2012.  She was a Society of New Communications Research Fellow for 2010.

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On Jan. 30, I’m speaking at the Social Media for Nonprofits conference in New York City. This year, since content curation is a social media competency that I’m focusing in my own learning and teaching, I’ll be doing a conversational presentation on the topic. Here’s why I think content curation, especially the practice, is very important for us to embrace in the nonprofit sector: