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Summary:

In the desire to be perceived as thought leaders, many businesses are focusing on a curatorial approach to their social media presences. But if you work in a creative team, an approach to social media that leverages your creativity can deliver benefits far beyond brand-customer engagement.

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In the desire to be perceived as thought leaders, many businesses are focusing on a curatorial approach to their social media presences. But if you work in a creative team, an approach to social media that leverages your creativity can deliver benefits far beyond brand-customer engagement.

The rise of curation

Social recommendation isn’t new; marketers have long known the value of vocal advocacy. The difference is that now, a brand’s audience (or its followers) can register direct and extremely visible benefits from their advocacy.

Thus, curation is a valid, and valued, technique for gaining currency with audiences. We benefit from our own curatorial advocacy (which builds our credibility), and we rely on our favorite brands or businesses to sift through the web and point us to good resources, insights and opinions.

Little wonder, then, that many business brands have built large audiences using the curation approach. These brands are seen as leaders because they have the ability to tell the good from the bad, and they have market-leading contacts who keep them abreast of the latest developments.

In the curatorial approach, the network is critical, along with the brand’s ability to sort the dross from the diamonds.

The role of creation

While curatorial communication dominates some social media right now, it’s important not to forget the valuable potential of creation in audience engagement.

After all, curators curate creations. So when you make, do or say something new and valuable, your online presence will be more likely to be included in the curations of others. It’s the basis of viral marketing, but thanks to the nuances of social media, your creation doesn’t need to go viral to deliver value to your brand, or your team.

If everyone else is funneling or channeling information, those brands that create have a point of difference. When you make ideas, products, or thoughts, the information you deliver to your audience is unique.

Your creative work gives you the scope to engage customers, stakeholders, and other parts of your organization, by inviting them to join the process of creation and development. But more importantly for collaboration, creation allows you to share stories of experimentation, learning and application through social media, the company blog, industry events and so on.

That experiential information can form the glue for engagements with third parties, which, over time, can prove mutually and deeply beneficial. Such benefits could be something as simple as landing a spot in an invite-only beta test, or something as valuable as hearing about a bug that may affect you — in time to preempt disaster.

If you create, you have a lot to gain by sharing your experiences online, and connecting with others doing similar work. If yours is known as a creative brand, you likely already have followers and connections who are craving your creative insights. The question is: are you using that opportunity?

Striking a balance

How can you make the most of the opportunities for curation and creation in your social media activity?

Your team’s online presence may address multiple audiences. But whether you are concerned with engaging with customers, suppliers, or peer organizations, your team has a lot to gain by creating, as well as curating, information. This is particularly the case if your team is an isolated unit of specialists, or has a specific technical focus. It should be imperative for such organizations and teams to be directly engaged in the business of creation.

Connect with the creative leaders in your field. Share product development stories and updates on your blog. Invite creative third parties and peers to contribute their ideas for overcoming challenges, or addressing issues you face in your own creative process — and publish your own thoughts to get the ball rolling.

Traditional businesses may be concerned that asking questions or seeking advice from others, even peers,  online has the potential to damage the brand. Adopting a strategy that encourages individuals in the creative team to seek peer input through their own online activity (as employees of the brand) may be a solution to this impasse.

Do you leverage creation in your online engagements, or do you stick largely to the territory of curation?

Image courtesy stock.xchng user rolve.

  1. I’d say the best solution is to balance both creation and curation. Many businesses are still not taking a bite into the social media pie simply because they’re afraid of what ‘bad stuff’ people may say about them online. I’d say give the people the freedom to speak their minds and by answering their questions, you inspire them to co-create ideas with you, which is the real essence of what social engagement is all about – where your brand is powered by your crowd.

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  2. Georgina,

    How about some examples of companies that do curation or creation well? I’d like to see who you consider good at both functions.

    Guy

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    1. Hey Guy,
      To be honest, my favourites tend to be brands (some of them personal) rather than companies.

      At the top of the list for me would be Radiolab (http://twitter.com/#!/wnycradiolab) — they combine curation with creation really well and are excellent at using both for engagement.

      One example of a split account approach I like is that of Learnable.com (http://twitter.com/#!/learnablehq and http://www.facebook.com/learnable). The brand’s online presence unites the people that make the brand with the people that buy it. But the accounts of the brand’s developers (http://twitter.com/#!/sentience and http://twitter.com/#!/pda, for example) are heavy on the creation side of the equation, building and leveraging relationships through social media to develop and improve product.

      On a the personal brand front, Brian Solis (http://twitter.com/#!/briansolis) mixes curation and creation really well. On the other hand, creator Michael Pollan (http://twitter.com/#!/michaelpollan) does a great job of curation through social media, but not much in the way of creation.

      Hope this clarifies the points I’ve raised. Kristy has also provided some interesting examples below.
      Georgina

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  3. I believe that the traditional news media sites tend to do both well and have been doing so for a long while — assimilating AP/Reuters, etc. for their local audiences. On a niche level, I think that Mike Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner does a good job of curation and creation. Also, in the storm chasing realm, Reed Timmer of Tornado Videos.net (TVN) forwards on other chaser content and weather updates in addition to their status on Twitter & FB.

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  4. You said “These brands are seen as leaders because they have the ability to tell the good from the bad.”

    That said, curation can be very time consuming (I speak from experience). Why? In the same way that companies often produce content (ie. press releases) that are of little or no value to the intended reader, there’s a lot of pointless drivel that’s posted across the web every day.

    My point: depending upon the topic, curation can be a like mining for rare metals, “staking your claim” as a thought-leader is often the easy part…

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    1. Hey David,
      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree — curation is by no means the easy part of the equation.

      That’s why audiences appreciate it so much, especially when they feel a personal affinity with the curating brand: if it’s done very well, we as audience members almost feel as if the curator is doing some of our thinking for us.
      Georgina

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  5. This seems timely, especially now that we lack the time to create our own material so all we focus on is curating. I know you need to find a balance for the two, but sometimes, it’s just so hard to set aside some time to create a unique content, it’s just so much easier to find one.

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  6. Interesting read. Isn’t that the content marketing equivalent of what Jeff Jarvis also called the “Cover what you do best / Link to the rest” rule in journalism?

    I think we’ll see more and more convergence between curation and creation in the future. There are already signs of that.

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  7. Guillaume Decugis Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Georgina, your post is now apparently confirmed by a new study: http://goo.gl/01RHc These guys measured the efficiency of curation vs creation and found out mixing both was the best. Thought you might find that result interesting.

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