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10 Tips on Curating Social Media Content for Your Nonprofit or Foundation

September 6, 2011

Installation by Os Gêmeos at MOCA's Art in the Streets Exhibit in Los Angeles

Everyone, including me, needs help sorting through today’s “data tsunami” as Steven Rosenbaum calls it. In his recent book Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, Rosenbaum writes that

Curation replaces noise with clarity. And it’s the clarity of your choosing; the things that people you trust help you find.

And I would argue that when organizations offer clarity amidst the noise, they build trust among supporters.

I recently realized that I have been curating content for several years now. Not so long ago, many of us used email listserves to share articles and information on specific themes. These days, I’ve made the switch to social media where I regularly find and share relevant content for projects such as the Freedom from Fear Awards and Detention Watch Network.

I’ve discovered that curation is the best way to build an organization’s following and it’s often the first step in engaging supporters: first as audience members and then as contributors. With social media, nonprofits and foundations are quickly becoming like local television stations sharing the latest news on their issues to build an audience for the values we’re “selling”. As Rosenbaum puts it, content curation is “about adding value from humans who add their qualitative judgement to whatever is being gathered and organized.”

Below are a few things that I’ve learned in my gathering and organizing. I’m curious what you think of these practices and if you have any tips of your own.

  1. Scan and monitor the web for relevant content every day. To find content that relates to my project, I follow lots of blogs of partner organizations and allies through Google Reader (RSS subscription service), as well as by getting news updates from Google Alerts, and friends/colleagues in my Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds.
  2. Share links to relevant CORPORATE media articles via Twitter and sparingly on Facebook. Remember those people who sent too many articles on email listserves? Well, this energy can be redirected to Twitter where it seems that you can never share enough. Your Facebook fans are more fickle however: Too many posts from your organization can get in the way of news from their friends (i.e. baby and pet photos). On Facebook, try to share corporate media articles only once or twice per day.
  3. Never post entire articles from CORPORATE media or ad-supported blogs on your own blog. Corporate media and many blogs make their money from web traffic. Reposting entire blog posts is essentially stealing their potential advertising revenue… which is NOT the best way to make friends. If you feel strongly about sharing an article on your blog, only post an excerpt and link to the entire article on the original website.
  4. For original nonprofit content, ask permission of the author or photographer before reposting written articles or photos on your blog. Partner organizations and allies often like for you to help share their content. But ask first! Email them and ask if you can repost it on your blog with a link to the original post. If you don’t know how to reach the writer or photographer, don’t share it on your blog (tweet it!).
  5. Always include a visual image with written blog posts. Text-only blogs are frankly boring to the eye. Start stockpiling photos of your own, open source clip art or Creative Commons licensed photos from photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa. I’ve experimented a little with embedding images from their original sources by getting the weblink through Firefox’s Firebug (but this might be contraversial and contrary to #4 above. Any advice?).
  6. Mix up the type of content you curate on your blog. Perhaps I’m contributing to the “Death of American Culture” here, but don’t rely solely on only written blog posts. Experiment with blog posts that are composed of audio clips, video, slideshows, infographics, graphic art, etc. On blog platforms, you can embed most Youtube/Vimeo videos and/or MP3s (unless they’re on a corporate media site). If the person who uploaded the content used the appropriate settings for embedding on other websites, that means they’re okay with you putting it on your blog.
  7. When embedding video or audio content on your blog, cite your source. In the title or just under it, tell readers who created the content or how you came across the video or audio clip. i.e. “via ___”. I like using Twitter handles in titles so that the creators know I’m sharing their content.
  8. For optimal sharing, make sure your titles are less than 120 characters. You want your supporters to share your content and create even more supporters. Make it easier for them with short catchy titles (read more here).
  9. Love your mediamakers! Whether we want to admit it or not, the number of people who enjoy creating free media content as a hobby are a rare breed. Whenever I come across people who like to write, create video or audio, I want to reach out and hug them in cyberspace. Tell these mediamakers that you love them and their work at every opportunity, give them shoutouts whenever possible, send them flowers, etc.
  10. Get creative in capturing content. Everyone is so busy these days and strapped for time. I’ve been trying to think of ways to integrate content creation into work and events already happening. I always remind people to document their live events with photos or video. I’ve also tried turning email discussions on listserves into blog posts and opting to record conference call presentations. My next big experiment is recording video check-ins via Skype that take less than five minutes.

Let me know what you think of these tips and if you have any of your own. You can also share your insights as part of Netsquared’s “think tank” on curating content.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2011 6:20 am

    You’re too kind! Here’s the curated list of curation tips from the community, including several of your excellent examples. I hope it inspires some new ideas for both you and your readers: Thanks again for your input!

  2. September 7, 2011 12:44 pm

    Terrific post! I’ve been teaching a couple of workshops on curation to foundation/nonprofit folks – big issue is getting past fear of information overload.

    Here’s a few posts I’ve shared recently on the topic:

    Plus my primer

  3. September 6, 2011 11:46 pm

    Hey Will – thanks so much for your submission! I like how creativity is such a strong theme throughout. It’s important to follow the rules but also have fun with your content.

    I’ll be sure to include your tips in the round-up at the end of the month and let you know when it’s up!

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