How to Succeed in Content Marketing Without Publishing a Thing — Part 3: Curation

|Brandon Carter

photo; mixtape


Part three in our no content, no problem series focuses on the agony and the ecstasy of curation.

What is Curation?

A working definition of curation is the collection, organization and selection of media to present to an audience.

If you’ve ever made a playlist, or better yet, an actual mixtape for someone, you know very well what’s at stake in the process of curation.

This’ll only take a few minutes, you think to yourself. You have a pretty clear idea which songs will make the cut, but still, just to be thorough, you need to revisit a few tunes before deciding their fates. Potentially hours later, you have a long list of songs perfectly illustrating the breadth and depth of your impeccable taste for someone you’re trying to impress, and you haven’t even given a thought to the sequence of the songs yet. Talk about a labor of love…

The best curators convey the sense that their selections are carefully considered for the audience and are far from arbitrary. They’re personal.

That’s the territory businesses should aim for, too.

Why Curate Content?

The time, effort and second-guessing that goes into careful curation is best spent on the people we want to impress or influence with our taste. In business, those people tend to be prospects and customers.

Curation presents an opportunity to elevate perception of your brand as the cool friend who always has a great recommendation, and at the same time net some tangible marketing benefits. You can enjoy engagement with your brand without the heavy-lifting of creating assets every time, and you make your own content more palatable — and credible — if it’s programmed alongside great content from other sources.

Most importantly, curation can be a real service to your audience. We’re all drowning in content. Trusted sources who can calm our FOMO and point us in a direction — any direction — are greatly appreciated. No reason your brand can’t be one of those sources.

What Should You Curate?

Defining what you should curate starts with defining what your target audience is potentially missing out on. Which may not be much. The Internet’s problem isn’t a shortage of information. What’s lacking are meaningful filters for the best of what’s personally interesting to us.

Other rules to keep in mind:

Diversity — Never underestimate the impact of surprise. If you’re a B2B tech company, rather than simply curate from the blogs that your audience is probably already very familiar with, sneak a great story from, say, the Film & TV world that puts a tech topic in a new light.

Scarcity — Just how rare is the content you’re brining to your audience? The more rare, the more valuable.

Quality — Do your curated products feel like spam or entry to a special club? Start with the name and design of the experience to veer away from the generic into the memorable.

If you’re looking for a list of handy tools that help you curate content for social channels, check out Hubspot’s 11 Content Curation Tools Every Marketer Needs. Click here.

For our purposes, we’re going to focus on a few creative executions or areas that are easily overlooked.


The world’s most important research can still be a drag to read. Distilling it to the most compelling data points and takeaways is always a huge help to your audience.

The benefits of curating from research goes both ways. If you selectively share some choice cuts to social channels, you’re introducing your brand to the existing conversation about the research and can gain some attention from relevant audiences. If you contribute your own analysis of the report, now you’re influencing people in the direction of what you believe to be most important about the research (aka “thought leadership”). Plus, you stand to gain some healthy SEO value while you’re at it.

Luckily, while some reports are published ad hoc, others appear like clockwork at certain times of year, if not on a predictable date.

Whether it’s the Nielsen Total Audience Report every quarter or (one of our favorites) Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends, you can pin a few reports to  your Editorial Calendar well in advance so you don’t miss out on them either.

Utility Newsletters

The newsletter is back in a big way this year. From to Mediaref to Next Draft, a highly curated newsletter carries the cache of its creator and can feel like admittance to a special club for recipients. Prioritizing design, selectivity, and regularity are the first places to start in turning your newsletter into an anticipated event rather than just another casualty of the spam folder. But you can always go a step further and curate an experience that solves an even more specific problem, like does.

I’m probably biased, but Pexels is a newsletter that addresses a real pain point for bloggers; it curates properly licensed, high-quality stock images you can use without worry. In fact, one of the featured images in this post came from Pexels. Thanks, Pexels!




Expect to see more brands add newsletters to their distribution strategy.

Medium Letters has become home to a number of influencers and bloggers with provocative ideas, but brands are still figuring out when and how to leverage Medium for content marketing.

Curation may be just the ticket.

One of the cooler functions in Medium is the ability to send a “letter” to your publication’s subscribers, very much like sending a newsletter. Here you can curate a selection of stories from your publication, other Medium users, and other sites to send in a nice collection to your subscribers.

I’m subscribed to Letters from Bright, Medium’s publication on education and innovation, and find the content they curate almost always points me to content I wouldn’t have found otherwise — including their owned stories.

Bright by Medium is a great example of content curation

(Selectively) sending letters to your followers is a great way to keep them engaged with your brand and drive traffic to your owned content.

If you own a Publication on Medium, to publish a letter, navigate to the Publication page, click the drop-down in the top-right corner, and select “Letter.”

Click by Medium


Tumblr isn’t just for B2C companies trying to hook millennials with GIFs and cat pics (though it’s still pretty good for that, too). It’s arguable one of the richest curation opportunities on the web, with its emphasis on visual content, the ease of curating content via “Reblogging,” and its pervasively random environment for discovery.

IBM’s Tumblr for Smarter Planet seeks to expand the company’s influence among younger tech professionals, curating an interesting mix of tech stories that bolsters message association with their Smarter Planet initiative, even if, remarkably, a few of those stories include competitors.  In choosing the value of the content over any concern for taboo, IBM does what all good curators do: think of what’s best for the audience.

screenshot; IBM smarter planet is an example of B2B curation on Tumblr


Another interesting example is Pratt’s Tumblr, which has at least two layers of curation going on. For one, the curator in question is an identifiable human being — twentysomething Pratt student Jeff Rubio. The result is a personally curated collection of work for aspiring designers, as opposed to a sterile, corporate one. Among the design community, that counts for a lot.

Pratt's Tumblr, managed by Jeff Rubio, a great example of double content curation

Spotify Playlists

We’ll close the loop on the mixtape metaphor with Spotify.

Not every brand can play in the streaming music space, but there are more than you might think – especially in the CPG arena. From whipping up a quick dinner to cleaning the apartment, life’s most mundane occasions tend to call for music. Why shouldn’t your brand supply it for a relevant occasion?

Herbal Essence should probably get the last word on this subject, though. Songs You Sing in the Shower is an idea so good you wonder how it hadn’t been done years before.


Feature image courtesy of AndYaDontStop via Flickr


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Brandon Carter

Brandon Carter

Brandon Carter is a Content Specialist at Outbrain. He began his career as a staff journalist for the Maine weekly... Read more

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