Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Content curation is similar to creating a playlist. Rather than creating your own, or only your own, content, you’ll make lists and collections of material offered up by others, then offer those collections to your own fans and viewers. While this has the advantage that it’s a lot easier to make a playlist than it is to write, perform, record, mix, and release a couple of dozen songs — it’s way easier to curate than to create, in other words — content curation has other benefits too.
Curation isn’t uncreative. It’s a way of interacting with other people’s work. Some examples of well-curated content might be the mix tapes that top hip-hop artists put out. Yes, some of their own work sometimes makes the cut, but so does material from their less-well-known friends and collaborators. So do rarities and stuff from up-and-comers. The artists get to test how their audience reacts to a track or a performer; a good response might mean a new signing. And at the same time, artists get to advertise the depth and breadth of their own familiarity with the scene, pulling a range of tracks and styles together to reflect well on themselves and showcase their own immersion and passion.
Curation isn’t uncreative. It’s a way of interacting with other people’s work.
Just because you don’t create hip-hop music doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the same methods. While your content curation efforts will most likely perform sub-optimally if you fully automate the process, you can take some of the spadework out of the business of curation with curation tools. These range from enabling you to track Twitter conversations you deem relevant, so you can mine them for appropriate quotes without having to follow them manually, to search mechanisms that flag posts across social spaces that meet your criteria.
Here’s my pick of the best 21 content curation tools.
21 Content Curation Tools
- iFlow is a content aggregator, with a user interface that’s reminiscent of Google Reader. It finds content based on both trends and keywords, allowing you to discover and share content in real time, which is important on some channels more than others.
- ContentGems tracks social media accounts that number in the hundreds of thousands. It searches for content based on trends and the keywords you supply, scanning the web almost in real time, though there is some delay. A premium version is available as well as a free one.
- ProtoPage is a free content aggregator. It offers probably the highest degree of control over relevant content that’s available, especially from a free service. The distinctive bookmark-style aggregation dashboard notifies you frequently to check relevant action on Instagram and Pinterest as well as on non-blogging sites. Twitter hashtag feeds can be set up to monitor relevant conversations.
- Feedly was first out of the blocks after Google discontinued Reader. Feedly became the default content aggregator for many people because it seamlessly integrated with the remains of Google Reader accounts. Feedly is a good service for blog pots but it fails at multimedia, making it unsuitable or Instagram and Pinterest, as examples. Both free and premium versions are available.
- NetVibes is another of the first generation of content aggregation tools to enter the space vacated by Google Reader. It remains one of the best, and has a great stock of ready-made feeds, allowing new users to get started right away. Both free and premium versions are available.
- Scoop.it users claim bragging rights from the service’s continuous publishing service. Scoop.it lets you publish a continuous stream of content, pulling material from sources like Twitter, Google’s blogging service, and others based on target keywords you supply and its record of your interests. Scoop.it is almost the opposite of NetVibes in that it’s highly customizable, providing room for more sources to be added to your streams and allowing customization of keywords and date ranges. It can also handle an almost unlimited range of sources, including RSS feeds, social media accounts, and websites.
- Trap.it is marketed as a smart content curation tool, because over time and use it learns more about what kind of material you’re interested in. It offers more than 100,000 scrutinized content sources, along with some off-beat treasures that might help to improve your online presence.
- PostPlanner is a Facebook app that works as a content engine. Its free version has very limited functionality, though, meaning that if your marketing campaign needs Facebook, you should consider the premium version.
- Symbaloo is a good free dashboard that pulls together content that’s important to you in whatever form it appears. If you frequently use image-based channels like Instagram and Pinterest, or you have an interest in video, this is a good choice, especially considering how free it is.
- Individurls wins points for its name, but at heart it’s an efficient but basic aggregator service — similar to Feedly. The main advantage of Individurls is that it’s easy to use, and easy to use on mobile too. Individurls is free.
- Zite was recently acquired by Flipboard. It is a content aggregator that finds content based on topic and on the popularity of individual articles, calculated by an in-house algorithm. It’s tablet and mobile-only as well as time-efficient. If you want something light and fast, this could be it. It’s free.
- Curata is supposed to offer everything you need in the way of curation, all in one package. It has many features that will typically only be advantages to large organizations that have a lot of material to scan, repurpose, and publish. If you’re looking for something light and fast look elsewhere. But if you have a very high turnover of content this might be the tool for you.
- Kapost allows you to replace clumsy, all-purpose tools like spreadsheets with an interactive, revisable, and scheduled content calendar for all your content posting plans in one place. That’s an advantage for organizations that plan to publish related content simultaneously across different platforms.
- Compendium was recently acquired by Oracle. It is an enterprise content-marketing platform that helps organizations capture and create content in a branded hub and then distribute it to any marketing channel.
- Storify exists to help its users tell stories through curated social media. It’s oriented toward long form social curation. Some of the most popular events of the last few years have been curated on Storify. It’s unusually easy to use and features a WordPress plugin.
- Paper.li is an online curation service that enables people to publish “newspapers” based on what they like and to present that material to their readers – like an outward-facing RSS feed. Paper.li lets users curate the web for friends and neighbors. The pro version allows users to remove ads, add logos, and branding and some other features.
- List.ly is designed to use content from across the web to let you create lists, based on any parameters you supply it with. It can be embedded into sites and viewers can vote items up and down lists and add items themselves. It’s particularly easy to embed lists into your own WordPress site thanks to List.ly’s plugin.
- Zemanta inserts directly into your WordPress admin, creating a sidebar there where it pulls in related articles, images, tag suggestions, and text links. It can be hit-and-miss, and is best regarded as a way to augment your own content creation efforts, rather than as a standalone curation tool. Sign up, and your own blog will be shared as a source across the platform.
- Juxtapost is a kind of synthetic memory for web browsers. Remember when you saw that thing online, but now you can’t find it? Juxtapost is for that. Juxtapost is best thought of as a non-social version of Pinterest; it’s for collecting things that you find interesting. It can be a useful addition to a content curation plan since it allows you to build up a collection of useable material.
- Pinterest is first and foremost a content curation site. It lets you organize and share content. You can browse pinboards created by other people, create and curate multiple pinboards, and join in collaborative groups of people with similar interests. In using it as a marketing channel, don’t forget that it’s also a curation service.
- Tumblecloud is for collaborative digital storytelling. Users can arrange and display content, share it, manipulate multimedia content, and even co-create content with other users. Cloud pages can be set up around a subject and then media pulled into that cloud page. TumbleCloud can handle images, text, and video.