Do you want a successful, well-read, valued email newsletter but you don’t have the time to do a ton of writing each week? Consider content curation as an avenue to building a great newsletter.
Content curation is the art (and it is very much an art) of finding great stuff online and sharing it with your community via email, social media, and a variety of other channels.
In order to be successful at this practice, you need to fulfill three pre-requisites:
1. Strong expertise in your subject matter. Curation is often touted as an “easy” button, but to do it well, you need to be able to discern and discriminate what’s useful, valuable information from what’s not, and be able to provide at least limited commentary on it. Know your subject matter expertly before you embark on a content curation strategy!
2. A deep understanding of your community and what they want. Ask your subscribers what they want to learn more about. Ask them what’s most important to them. Ask them what they wished they knew. Put all of these responses together and you’ve got a lens with which to focus your curation efforts.
3. A broad set of high-quality sources from which to draw, and sufficient time to do so. There is no shortage of content online. There isn’t even a shortage of truly great content, truly great authors, truly useful material. What there is a shortage of is time and energy to sift through it all and find the diamonds in the mud. A lot of what’s published online is mediocre at best, absolute swill at worst. To be a great curator, you will need to invest time daily in finding the best of the best. The good news is, if you’re focused on continuous learning, you’ll be sifting through blogs and other sources daily anyway. Be sure to allot 30-60 minutes a day for reading, research, and curation.
Let’s look at how you might set up a curation-based newsletter with the four S strategy of content curation: Sift, Store, Send, and Share.
Gather your sources and read them daily. Applications like Feedly, Reeder, Flipboard, Zite, Google Currents, and many others are excellent for pulling together the raw sources of information in one spot so you can sift through them all. How do you find those sources? Google for them. Ask your readers what they read. Ask your colleagues in your industry what they read as well. Subscribe to industry newsletters and discussion lists. Follow industry leaders on social media and see what they post from.
Aim for at least 100 sources, so that on any given day, there’s always something for you to read, investigate, and think about.
You’ll want to sign up for a free curation service like Instapaper, Feedly, Read It Later, Evernote, or the many other ways to store raw content. (I use Evernote and Feedly) Any of these services is excellent for pulling together items of note. As you read and sift, store items, ideally in categories or folders so that you can go back and find things easily later.
When it comes time to pull together your weekly newsletter, open up your vault of stored items and choose just a handful of them. It isn’t necessary, practical, or good to publish everything you find. Be selective! What are the things that are most aligned with your understanding of your community? For example, I help to publish a weekly newsletter for SHIFT Communications that is partly curated content, and those folks subscribed to my personal newsletter get a healthy dose of curated content as well.
Put together your newsletter with your commentary about why the items you picked are important to you and might be important to your readers, and then publish it to them.
Just because you hit the send button doesn’t mean you’re done. Be sure to share your newsletter with your other online communities, like your Facebook Page, your Twitter followers, and most importantly, your Google+ followers. If you’ve shared or mentioned prominent figures in your industry in your newsletter, drop them a note or call them out (positively) on your social outlets, ideally encouraging them to share your content as well. Why Google+ as a mandatory share? Because Google indexes and is believed by some to give a tiny, tiny search boost to things shared on Google+.
Content curation works incredibly well for keeping readers engaged and happy as long as the content you’re sharing is of excellent quality. Follow this basic outline to add more value to your existing email newsletters or jump start a new publication as a first attempt at brand journalism.
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