Content curation: 5 ways to filter social media’s information overload

This hot trend can help you find, organize and share the most relevant information on the Web.


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Curation has always been an underrated form of creation. The Getty Center in Los Angeles is one of the most frequently visited museums in America, yet it started out as a private collection for one man with a passion for art.

Aside from a few well-known examples like this, however, few people outside the art world had used the term curation—until recently.

Content curation is a hot trend in social media, thanks in no small part to the efforts of several thought leaders. Joe Pulizzi and Steve Rosenbaum actively promote it, and a Psychology Today blog declared it the “new black.”

What is content curation?

In 2009 I published a blog post called the “Manifesto for the Content Curator,” which predicted that this role would be one of the fastest growing and most important jobs of the future. I also shared this definition:

“Content curation” is a term that describes the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue.

It is such a powerful idea, because curation does not focus on adding content to the information overload of social media, focusing instead on helping us make sense of this information by bringing together what is most important.

The 5 models of content curation

Over time, the idea of content curation has felt more and more like a catch phrase, encompassing many smaller activities that are adding structure and insight to the cacophony of information being published online. What if we could define content curation as not just a macro activity and look at how it might be applied in very specific situations?

Here are five potential models for content curation:

1. Aggregation

There is a flood of information online, and Google can give you only a guess at the most relevant. Aggregation curates the most relevant information about a particular topic into a single location.

The most common form of content creation is catalog style blog posts that list, such as “27 Great Resources for Small Business.” Volume is not typically an issue when it comes to aggregation, so in this case you still may have hundreds of pieces of source material, but because it is in a single location it has a high value for people interested in a particular topic.

2. Distillation

Adding a layer of simplicity is one of the most valuable activities that someone can undertake. Distillation curates information into a simplistic format where only the most important or relevant ideas are shared.

There may be quite a bit of content that is lost for the sake of simplicity, but the value is that anyone digesting this content no longer has to contend with a high volume of content and can instead consume more focused information.

3. Elevation

The smaller ideas that are often shared online in 140-character bursts or pithy mobile phone images may point to a larger societal trend or shift. Elevation identifies a larger trend or insight from smaller, daily musings posted online.

Encompassing much of what many trend-focused websites do, this can be one of the hardest forms of content curation because it requires more expertise and analytical ability. The benefit is that it can also be the most powerful tool in terms of sharing new ideas.

4. Mashup

A term often used to describe taking two or more pieces of music and fusing them together, mashups have a wider implication in relation to information.

Mashups are unique, curated justapositions in which merging existing content creates a unique amalgamation.

Taking multiple points of view on a particular issue and sharing them in a single location is one example of this approach, and this describes the sort of activity that takes place every day on Wikipedia. More broadly, mashups offer a way of creating something new while still using content curation as a basis, because you are building on existing content.

5. Chronology

One of the most interesting ways of looking at the evolution of information, and how concepts and our understanding of them has changed.

Chronology is curation that brings together historical information to show an evolving understanding of a particular topic.

Most useful when it comes to topics where understanding has shifted over time, this can be a powerful way of retelling history through informational artifacts that exist over time to prove how experiences and understandings have changed.

Content curation is an emerging space, and one where more and more thought leaders will continue to share their voices.

Rohit Bhargava is the award-winning author of Personality Not Included, a founding member of the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence team, and Adjunct Professor of Global Marketing at Georgetown University. He also blogs at Influential Marketing Blog, where this article originally ran.

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