April 26, 2012

Top tools to help you curate business content

Strawberry Jam, Zite, PostPost: Tools to help you identify content relevant to your business needs

First of two parts. Also see:
Take charge of the curation wave with these slick tools

Guest post by Gianluca Fiorelli
SEOmoz

Target audience: Businesses, brands, social marketers, SEO marketers, website developers, Web publishers.

gianlucaWhen it comes to the Internet, I imagine it as the warehouse where the Ark is archived at the end of “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The Ark is that outstanding content that someone has produced and no other will be able to see again, because it is forgotten and hidden between gazillions of other things.

Apart from the gigantic volume of pages present in the Internet, for a long time search spam has been making the discovery of reliable sources difficult. Social media has exacerbated this issue, because it added even more noise and dispersion. Actually, as Mitch Kapor once said, getting information off the Internet is like having a drink from a fire hydrant.

To tell the truth, this problem is not new.

What is content curation?

Since the beginning of time, people have collected the best that humanity has produced in art, literature and science. We invented museums, libraries and encyclopedias. We’ve written essays and done research. We’ve always looked at curators who knew how to identify the good stuff.

Content curation falls into that same tradition. Content curation is the process of collecting and cataloging only the most interesting things about a subject to share it for the common benefit.

We need this more than ever in the Internet era. As Rohit Barghava wrote in his Content Curation Manifesto, content curators will bring more utility and order to the social Web. In doing so, they will help to add a voice and point of view to organizations and companies that can connect them with customers – creating an entirely new dialogue based on valued content rather than just brand created marketing messages.

5 kinds of content curation

Let’s try to identify five kinds of content curation:

  1. Aggregation, which consists of curating the most relevant content about a topic at a single location. This is the most common way of curating content, and it is how most sites do it.
  2. Distillation, whose purpose is to distill the overall buzz about a topic to its most important and relevant essence. At its best, social content curation is supposed to work this way.
  3. Elevation, where curators discern a general trend or insight from a mass of daily musings.
  4. Mashups, where different material about a topic is combined to create a new original point of view.
  5. Chronology, which could be defined as historiographical content curation. Usually it consists of presenting a timeline of curated information to show the evolution of a particular topic.

How to do content curation: The tools

There are a large number of sites and tools that help the content curation process, but none is useful without one essential skill: your ability in separate the wheat from the chaff. That means that at first a curator needs to collect all the information out there about the topic he is going to curate and then start selecting.

The best way to collect that information is listening. For instance, if someone would like to start curating the SEO topic, he should spend some time each day visiting sites like SEOmoz, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal, examining the sites/blogs of the people active in those sites, select the most interesting ones and use two starting tools, RSS and Twitter:

  • RSS to track their own content production about the SEO topic
  • Twitter to track the content related to the SEO industry they share.

This discovery phase can be facilitated by tools, two of which are not strictly Web-based but mobile apps:

Zite: A personalized magazine

Zite (for iOs, WebOS and Android and owned by CNN) is a “personalized magazine,” which not only offers the opportunity to connect your Google Reader, Twitter and Pocket (formerly Read It Later) accounts so that you have all the content in one place and organized into sections but also offers a large selection of content from other sources it crawled on the Internet. All of this content is presented in standard sections like Technology, Politics, Arts & Culture, etc.

You can also add sections based on your specific needs and interests thanks to a sort of “search suggest box.” For instance, I have personalized it with very specific sections dedicated to Content Marketing, Content Management, Copywriting and all those disciplines that can be included in the Inbound Marketing umbrella.

The “magic” is that with a simple rule of thumbs up/down, you can teach Zite which content you consider relevant. The next time you access it, the content proposed will be closer to the material you’re really interested in. For a curator, this is like having a robotic personal assistant.

Flipboard: Social accounts added to the mix

Flipboard, for Apple’s iOS only, is another “social magazine.”

It can be personalized in three ways: by selecting which sites we want to appear in the Flipboard app on our iPad or iPhone, from an interesting curators’ list in the app and by adding a larger number of social accounts to subscribe to: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, 500px and Google Reader.

Strawberry Jam: What happened when you weren’t online?

The Strawberry Jam tool is still in beta (you need to ask for an invitation directly to the site from someone already using it), and it is an almost perfect tool to discover what is the most popular content that is published in your stream, for a keyword or for a hashtag and those Twitter lists you may have added.

This is especially useful for three reasons:

1. When you log into Strawberry Jam, it syncs with your Twitter account and shows you all the popular links in the previous 24 hours. This is an amazing way to discover what happened when you weren’t online (i.e., consider my case, living in Europe and sleeping when the Twitter activity is having its peaks in the US).

2. It facilitates the selection of links that are most useful and interesting for those searches.

3. It can help you identify keywords and hashtags.

Other tools that can be used for this discovery phase are:

  • Evri (for iOs and Kindle Fire), which has the advantage of owning an API that allows you to access the data of your Evri “entity” or channels from their site.
  • Feedly (for iOS, Android, Chrome, Safari and Firefox): The plus here is having browser versions that are always in sync with the mobile apps.
  • Factiva (by Dow Jones) is a great way to access authoritative news content.
  • My6sense (iOS) is an app with a very good engine that comes to understand your tastes the more you use it. It offers an API for third party development.
  • PostPost is focused just on Twitter, but it offers the very valuable function of breaking the content shared in your stream into an organized navigation (links, photos, videos) ordered by priority: First the content from those contacts you interact the most, followed by the content most shared and cited in your stream and finally all the rest.
  • Delicious, especially now that is starting to implementat some of the characteristics that made Trunk.ly, which it bought months ago, so popular.
  • Faveous, which is a sort of Delicious on steroids. In fact, it can also collect those links you share in Gmail.
  • Inbound.org, Hacker News and any other content curated news site. These sites are a great shortcut to find valuable content and, even more importantly, other curators specialized in one or two specific topics. In particular, Inbound.org, with its very well thought-out categorization of the RSS sources, helps skim the content published.

The Content Curation discovery phase is an ongoing activity, and of every source we should save its RSS in our reader if it’s possible in order to commit several useful SEO actions.

Tomorrow, see part 2: Take charge of the curation wave with these slick tools

Meantime: Which tools do you like best to help you discover content most relevant to your business needs?

Gianluca Fiorelli runs an SEO consulting agency in Italy and an international SEO consulting firm. Add him to your circles on Google+. This article originally appeared at SEOmoz and is republished with permission. SEO­moz is not affil­i­ated with Socialmedia.biz and has not reviewed this trans­la­tion. The author’s posts are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz. SEO­moz pro­vides the Web’s best SEO tools and resources. Subscribe to SEOmoz here.
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  • tomlowe

    Smart piece. Just released and worth checking out is NewsWhip Spike – http://spike.newswhip.com. It tracks and ranks the news articles moving fastest on social networks for a number of geographical and topic verticals, as well as search terms.