Hi there, Twitter user. Thanks for favoriting my latest tweet! But I have to ask: did you read the article I shared? I received 10 favorites and zero clicks. So what’s going on? I guess you favorited the tweet without reading the article.

That’s OK, because I didn’t read it either. I’m using a content discovery app. Swipe to the right and the recommendation is inserted into my queue. It was auto-tweeted at a prearranged time. I wasn’t even awake when I tweeted it!

We can do better.

Is This Even Content Curation?

I don’t use the auto-tweet process described above, but some do. You might call this “lazy content curation,” but it isn’t content curation at all. The Dictionary.com definition of “curate” is: “to pull together, sift through and select for presentation, as music or website content.”

Sharing content recommended by an application (without reading the content) amounts to the “select for presentation,” but skips the “pull together” and “sift through.”

In the Harvard Business Review article “How Bots Took Over Twitter,” Alexandra Samuel (@awsamuel) describes what happened when a popular app included one of her articles in its content recommendations. 

Readers who discovered Samuel’s article organically “added their own reflections in tweets,” whereas users who shared her article via the recommendation app “all posted the same, uniform tweet: ‘The Right Way to Unplug When You’re on Vacation by @awsamuel.'”

According to Samuel, “Where Twitter users once got context and insight with their shared links, now they’re just getting the titles of posts — and they can’t even trust that the sharer has read that piece of content.”

Whether we curate content for our personal brand or our company’s brand, let’s consider ways we can get better at content curation.

Read Every Piece of Content You Share

When you tweet an article link without including commentary, you’re not endorsing the article. However, if the article has inappropriate or offensive material, users may remember that you shared it. And that association can be damaging. 

Let’s say you come across a tweet for an article on “7 Ways to Up the Ante of Your Content Marketing.” You think your followers would like to read it. So you click the retweet button. What if the author published inappropriate content and simply used that title to attract clicks? It would reflect poorly on you that you shared it.

I used to “share blindly” based on a compelling title. I’ve changed my process to save the article for later reading (if I don’t currently have time) and defer the decision to share until after I’ve read it. It’s only after I’ve read the entire piece that I can understand the implications of sharing it. For instance, what if a blog post seemed compelling, but its conclusion presented opinions completely contrary to my own? I’d think twice about sharing it.

According to Guillaume Decugis, CEO and co-founder of Scoop.it, “automatically publishing content without reading it or qualifying it is risky. Sooner or later, you’ll publish something that will backfire. It also misses an opportunity to add value to your audience by adding some context.”

Place High Standards on Curation: Every Share Counts

A content discovery app connected to your social media accounts makes it easy to share content. A swipe of the index finger and a new share is ready to go. But is that going to make an impact on your target audience?

I think of content curation like a movie or restaurant recommendation for a good friend. I consider movies or restaurants that I enjoyed, but also take into account my friends’ tastes and preferences. If I recommend a clunker to my friend, I know that it reflects poorly on me and makes it less likely she’ll ask me for recommendations in the future.

Learning Opportunities

When sharing content, use the same high standards. The people reading your shared content are your good friends and you don’t want to let them down. According to Yael Kochman, head of marketing at Roojoom, “My target audience is more experienced marketers, so if the article is basic or I don’t see anything new, I usually pass. The article has to offer at least one thing that I think is valuable for my audience in order for me to share it. If I want to point their attention to something specific inside the article, I add that information in the post itself.”

Don’t Just Share, Tell Us What You Think

As Alexandra Samuel shared in her Harvard Business Review piece, she enjoyed the comments people inserted when tweeting her article, but became dismayed when the auto-suggested tweet used the same text over and over. 

While I’m guilty of sharing articles with just the title and link, I try to mix things up. For articles I especially enjoy, I’ll be sure to mention (or tag) the author and let her know how much I enjoyed it. Other times, I’ll share brief thoughts related to the article.

Scoop.it’s Decugis notes that his company originally started as a content discovery tool: its software crawls over 25 million web pages each day to discover content for its users. But Decugis soon learned that auto-discovering content was not enough. Instead, “added insight to third-party content is what creates trust between content curators and their audience.”

Balancing Technology with Human Judgment

I’m not opposed to content discovery apps. They’re useful and save time. But I oppose the use of these apps when human judgment is removed from the process. When we remove human judgment, we look like bots who lack original thought.

Roojoom’s Kochman uses a collection of tools for her content curation: “I use Oktopost to schedule my social sharing, where I’ll see recommendations from Swayy and my personal Feedly account.”

Kochman doesn’t let technology run the show though. She applies human judgment by asking these important questions:

  • Is this relevant to my audience?
  • Which social channels should I share this on?
  • What can I add to what’s already said?
  • What should I bring my readers’ attention to?

Scoop.it aims for a proper balance between automation and human judgment. According to Decugis, “We believe in automating as much as possible while ensuring users focus on high-value tasks and apply judgement.” Decugis calls this “humanrithm,” which you can learn more about in a presentation he published

If you’re inclined to share this article on social media, feel free to do so. By reaching the end of this piece, you’ve gone further than the readers who shared based on the title alone. So thank you for that. And now for a favor: if you do share, please include your comments or thoughts! 

Happy curating.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  OakleyOriginals