Thursday, August 22, 2013

Four Powerful Ways to Share Other People's Content With Your Network

Post It NotesPeople in your network suffer from information overload because there's so much material available that it's too much for them to receive, read and digest. If you can be the person who filters this content and only sends the most relevant material through to your network, it makes you a highly valuable and trusted resource because you're reducing their information overload.

This process of reading, choosing and sharing other people's network has become known as "content curation". Like a museum curator, who carefully chooses which items to include in a particular exhibit, you choose which items to share. You don't share everything, of course - you only share what's relevant and meaningful for your network.

Don't under-estimate the value you provide by curating material in this way. You don't always have to be the author or creator of the content. Even though you're sharing other people's material, your network will still value and appreciate you, because you've taken the trouble to decide exactly what is relevant for them.

When you share other people's content with your network, you can do it at different levels. The exact level you choose for any piece of content depends on the content, what people want from you, and the amount of time and effort it takes. Here are four levels you can consider.

1. Like

The simplest form of sharing is to simply say you "like" it - for example, clicking the Like button on Facebook, cliking the "thumbs on" on a YouTube video, or rating a blog post from 1 to 5. This takes hardly any effort at all, but still sends a positive signal to other people who see the same content. That makes it useful because people do decide whether to read something based on its popularity.

With some services (such as Facebook), when you "like" something, this also tells your network you like it, so you're also helping to spread its reach.

2. Forward

The next level is to actively send the content to your network - for example, by posting it on social media networks, re-tweeting it, posting a link to it on an online forum, and so on. This helps to actively spread the message to others, who might not otherwise have stumbled across the content.

You might choose to add your own comment when you forward the content to your network, and that can help to add context (in other words, to explain why you're forwarding it). But even if you don't add anything, the mere fact that you do consider it worth sharing is valuable, because your network only expects you to send relevant material to them.

3. Recommend

When you forward something, it doesn't necessarily mean you recommend or endorse it (although that's often the case). You're merely saying, "I thought you would find this interesting". The next level is similar, except you explicitly recommend the content.

The mechanics might be the same (for example, you could still be retweeting something), but now you say that you're recommending it. This is putting your reputation on the line, but it's also more valuable for those in your network, because they know you're putting your reputation on the line. So they are more likely to prioritise this material over things you simply like or forward.

4. Organise

The first three levels of sharing are simply about filtering the material that comes your way and passing it on to your network. But you're doing it as it happens, without any thought of organising the material in a logical way.

The fourth step is to add that level of organisation. After sharing the content, you also carefully put it into some organisational structure, and that becomes available for your network to browse and search later. This is exactly what the museum curator does: She doesn't simply select items for an exhibition and dump them all on the floor in a haphazard way. Rather, she carefully arranges the material in a logical way, so museum visitors can see how the material fits together in a bigger picture.

This takes a lot more work than the first three levels, but it's also the most valuable. There are online tools available to help with organising your material - such as Seth Godin's service Squidoo, or content curation services like Scoop.it. But the most work is not in the technology, but in the planning of the organisational structure that makes most sense to your network.

What content curation can YOU do?

Content curation isn't difficult; it just takes the right mindset. You should already be consuming a lot of content for your own education and learning in your business. Now it's a matter of looking at that content with a different perspective: could this be useful to others as well? If so, share it.

You can curate content at any of these four levels, so it's easy to get started.

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