Magpies versus owls: how to curate great content


By Jim Mortleman

Last year on this blog we wrote about how you should aim to build an engaged following on social media by becoming a 'considered curator' of content - constantly scanning the web, social networks and blogs for interesting, relevant and valuable material to share with your event community. Yet anecdotal evidence from a lot of the organisers we speak to suggests this is easier said than done.

The Internet is awash with content and finding genuine gems amid all the dross can be a struggle – increasingly so given that so much content is oversold by click-hungry marketers and self-promoters. Taglines and tweets frequently tease readers with promises of 'indispensable' info, 'essential' tips, 'need-to-know' nuggets, 'must-see' media and 'visionary' voices. But too often the content you find when you click through is far from superlative. More often than not, in fact, it's utterly superficial.

Unfortunately, in the bid to keep their content feeds active, too many people still share this stuff. Like magpies hovering over a refuse tip, they grab the first shiny thing they see and fly with it. No matter that it's just an old Coke ring-pull or condom wrapper – if it glints, go with it.

To curate content effectively, you need to be less like a magpie and more like an owl. Sit tight, keep your eyes wide open and scan all around for the truly tastiest morsels. Don't just focus on what's in plain sight – keep watch on the more occluded spots and listen out for interesting noises in the undergrowth. Only when you're sure you've homed in on something juicy should you spread your wings and swoop.

But enough of the avian metaphors – we don't want you to accuse us of exactly the same superficiality we're railing against, after all. Many of you understand full well what you need to do. More often, the challenge for event organisers is finding resources to do it effectively. Unearthing valuable, share-worthy content takes time and effort. Yes, there are some useful short cuts, such as ensuring you pay close attention to the feeds of influencers in your event's area – speakers, authors, journalists, bloggers, industry bigwigs and the like. However, this isn't going to cut it alone. You need to dedicate real effort to reading, viewing, listening to, absorbing and understanding the content you find, as well as continually conversing with your community to ensure you're always on top of the issues that are exercising them.

In real terms, that means making it a key responsibility of at least one member of your team. It need not necessarily be a senior member of staff, but it does need to be someone with a sharp mind, who knows their way around the web and social media, has a solid understanding of your event's community and their concerns, the capacity to digest information quickly and the discernment to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Then, of course, there's the thorny question of budgets. You're already squeezed to the limit, you say. You can't possibly find additional cash to invest in what might amount to a day or more a week of someone's time, particularly given that this potentially translates to thousands of pounds a year in monetary terms.

Really? In that case, perhaps it's worth taking a look at where you currently spend your marketing budget and consider re-allocating some of it accordingly. There is clear value in becoming a respected curator of content – it will considerably bolster your event's brand, reputation and ultimately your bottom line.

Yet, as one former event director told us, in her view not only is much current event marketing activity highly expensive, but the value some of it delivers is not so much a 'bang for your buck' as a 'squeak for your shekels'. "For example, we used to spend around seven or eight grand a year producing video showreels, yet if I'm being completely honest we rarely saw any tangible benefit from that," she said.

"If I was in the same position today, would I be diverting that money into making sure we had a great, well-curated social media content feed? Without doubt."

Great content every Thursday!

Follow us

Latest posts