Regularly, people ask me about various WordPress plugins, and other tools that are supposed to make curation faster, easier, something you can outsource, or even automate.
Most of the emails come from people who don’t fully understand curation. They’re looking for shortcuts in a field where, with few exceptions, there are no shortcuts.
Software and plugins can help, but they can’t do the work for you. Frankly, software — and especially plugins — can’t think for you.
Do you have a Christmas-related website? Plugins can’t necessarily discriminate between posts about Santa Claus, the Santa Annas (winds), or Santa Domingo. Errors will slip in, and if you don’t catch them before your first visitor does… your reputation is toast.
(And, if your happy little Christmas niche website accidentally — and automatically — adds a YouTube video about “bad Santas” or worse… expect comments and emails that will send you back to bed, pulling the covers over your head, hoping your visitors’ rage will go away quickly.)
There are three key elements in successful, authority-style curation:
1. Know what your niche is.
The first thing you absolutely, positively must know is exactly what your niche is. Narrow your focus as much as you can, without falling off the radar altogether. Start small… tiny… even miniscule with your focus, and expand from there, gradually.
If you’d like to focus on scrapbooking, that’s too broad for success, at least at the beginning. Even “scrapbooking papers” is too broad. You might be able to succeed with “holiday scrapbooking papers,” but I’d recommend starting with Halloween scrapbooking papers, Christmas, or Fourth of July (or summer) scrapbooking papers. Build from there.
2. Know the history and current (and upcoming) trends in your niche.
Let’s say your niche is “hippie” collectibles. If you spot a fun, tie-dyed tee-shirt on Amazon and want to promote it with affiliate links, you had better know how to describe it. And, you’ll need to know the difference between “hippie” costumes for Halloween, and what will pass muster at a Phish reunion concert, or — even more difficult — at a Creedence Clearwater Revisited performance.
If the product description for big, round “granny glasses” references John Lennon, you’d better know the exact style of glasses actually popularized by Roger McGuinn, or — if you’re trying to sound like an authority people will bookmark — you’ll lose all credibility if you just repeat what’s said in the Amazon description.
The only way to succeed with content curation, with a true authority site… is to become an authority. You can’t learn that from an hour or two of following links from Wikipedia… not unless you start with a miniscule niche, like the history of hippie-style glasses.
3. Know the very best content resources, and how to recognize them.
The point of curation is to find popular and obscure articles and other content, relevant and important to your niche audience.
Unless you have a background in that niche — or can outsource to someone who’s already an expert — your “curated” posts risk looking inane.
You know the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about? That’s what you’re looking for: A field where you can compete with people who have at least 1,000 hours’ experience in the field, and possibly much more.
The risks with less than that are huge. If you, just once, tell your readers something inaccurate — it doesn’t have to be truly wrong, just miss the mark slight — and they repeat it as gospel truth… well, they’ll never forgive you if they’re ridiculed in a forum where people really know the niche.
“Curated content” and “related content” are two different things. Curation is a skill. It’s one you can acquire, but the bedrock of successful content curation is a deep understanding of your niche, where it’s been, and what’s authentic and important in that niche.
No plugin can deliver that. Neither can you (or your outsourced researchers/writers), with an hour (or two or even three) of intense study at Wikipedia, eZineArticles, and so on.
Can you curate content? Yes, if you already have a background in the niche. I’d guess 1,000 hours, minimum.
Can you outsource your curated articles? Yes, if your curators already have the requisite background.
You’re looking at hobbies — yours or theirs. Content curation is a real “follow your bliss” labor of love. The only way it’s successful and profitable is if it’s authentic.
Don’t waste your time or your readers’, with anything less.