Once a week or so I get an envelope in the mail from my mom. She’s still using up my dad’s old office stationary so she crosses off the return address and writes in her own. Inside is an article cut from the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal, or the New Yorker, with a sentence circled in red and a comment written in her loopy cursive in the margin.
“This is hysterical!”
“The crazies are at again. You must read this.”
“Share this with your girls.”
My mom is an avid reader. As she works her way through three newspapers each day she’s always thinking about who else would enjoy what she’s discovering. She’s in a constant cycle of clipping, and mailing, and then emailing. “Did you get that article I sent? What did you think of it?”
My mom is an excellent curator of content. And you know what? It's hugely valuable to me because she knows what I like and she finds things I enjoy immensely but would’ve completely missed.
While the rise of social media may mean that clipping and mailing newspaper articles is now outdated, the value of curating content couldn't be more relevant. The Internet is a big place, and even if you have niche interests, there’s still a huge volume of excellent new stuff being written and created every day. If you seek out and share the most compelling pieces with your community, two really positive things will begin to happen: you’ll enrich your understanding of things that are important to you, and you’ll develop new relationships that will grow your business.
Before we delve into how to find great content to share, le'ts first ask why. Why share great stuff on social media? It’s one thing for my mom, who loves me, to share New Yorker articles with me, but why should I take the time to share with strangers? What’s the point?
1. Learn new things. When you share an article that’s interesting to you, you spark discussions with people, some of whom will bring new perspectives to the table that you may never have thought of. They’ll push you to think differently, and that’s a good thing.
2. Make friends. Engaging in conversations on social media around interesting ideas and articles can help you find like-minded people you would never have connected with otherwise. Those relationships have the potential to move you and your business in new directions. Collaborations, opportunities, and ideas are born when you connect with the right people.
3. Build a following. When you share interesting content, and comment on it yourself, you gain new followers, some of whom may have never encountered your blog or shop. Curating content is the first service you’re providing to them, and if you do it well, it won’t be the last. Every new follower has the potential to become something more.
Going From Consumer to Curator
Once you’ve decided to become an active curator of what’s interesting in the world, the next step is to shift your mindset as you go about your day. Instead of just reading an article, think about how you might share it and with whom. Ask yourself, “Who else would enjoy this?”
If you blog about a specific topic, or you make a particular type of product, you probably already know a lot about those subjects. Stick with that knowledge base by sharing links, videos, images, and articles on that topic. People will come to associate your name as an expert in that area and will turn to you, or refer to you, when expertise is needed.
Finding Great Content to Share
Once you’re in the sharing mindset you’ll begin to see sharable content everywhere, but there are also steps you can take to increase the chances you’ll find things that interest you that would also interest your audience.
I use an RSS reader to subscribe to blogs in my interest areas (Feedly or Bloglovin are two popular RSS readers). RSS readers are great in theory, but they can become overwhelming when there’s just too many new posts to read. I go through my RSS often and weed out blogs that post too frequently or that I'm no longer interested in so that every new post that pops up there could be potentially shared.
Whenever I click a link and find a new blog that looks interesting, I spend a few minutes reading a some recent posts. If it seems promising, I add it to my RSS.
Pinterest is a great source of sharable content. If you’re interested in quilting, for example, follow active boards with titles like, “quilting tutorials,” and you’ll get an ongoing stream of sharable content. Click on a pin and scroll down and you’ll see “related pins.”
Pocket is a free and easy way to save great links to read later. I often don’t have time to read long-form articles during the day (having three kids will do that to you) and I don’t want to share something I haven’t read (sometimes headlines can be misleading), so I save articles to Pocket throughout the day. At the end of the day I can sit down, open Pocket, and read what I’ve saved, and share it either right then or the next day.
I follow about 700 Twitter feeds. Lots of them are peers with small creative businesses, but an equal number are bigger companies, start-ups, apps, marketing experts, fabric and yarn companies, graphic designers, publishing houses, trade shows, and all sorts of other players in the fields I want to know more about. Through them I find articles that I would never find on my own. I enjoy the content they curate, and that leads me to do further curating myself.
It's important to understand that Twitter isn't personal the way other social media platforms might be. It's entirely okay to follow whomever you'd like, and unfollow, too. So go for it! I love Twitter, not just for serious stuff, but for silly and personal stuff, too. I've met women on Twitter who are now excellent friends.
Where to Share
Share the great stuff you find with your community, wherever you’re building it. Consider including links to neat stuff in your next newsletter, or doing a weekly “things from around the web” series on your blog. Share cool things on your Facebook page or on Twitter. No matter where your community might be, you can curate content and share it with them.
It feels good to share awesome things, and over time it will enrich your life, both personally and professionally.