To create, or to curate: that is the question. This is a common dilemma for thousands of founders, entrepreneurs and marketing professionals out there who are involved in startup content marketing.
Why? Because as a startup, not only do you typically have limited time to spend on marketing as a whole, you also have limited human resources. Not to mention a limited budget (if any in the very beginning) to make some noise about your product or service (unless you have a sugar daddy investor who offers you a war chest of marketing money of course!).
This is why most tech startups (quite wisely) are increasingly choosing content curation ahead of creation. Because yes, it’s much easier – and less expensive – to select and share good content relevant to your business and audience to raise awareness and promote yourself rather than create it from scratch.
But there’s a clear and present danger here. You simply should not underestimate the power of high quality, original content. If you do, you run the risk of becoming a brand with no mind of its own. A follower. Or worse still, a copier. And let’s face it, nobody likes a copycat.
The success of startup content marketing
Before we get into the create or curate debate, lets look at what content marketing is. Just in case you’re not that well versed in the terminology, that is. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), it is:
“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Content marketing has become hugely popular in recent years for many reasons. Mainly because it is great for a business’s bottom line, as well as how it can engage target audiences. As the CMI points out specifically, there are three key reasons – and benefits – for businesses that invest in content marketing:
- Increased sales
- Cost savings
- Loyal customers who become evangelists
I may be biased but the difference I see between [good] content marketing and traditional marketing is simple: it offers both more relevance and value. It is never just information or infotainment which tries to get someone to buy a product or service, as in a typical piece of traditional marketing.
See it as being a sales person
So, how do you create great original content? As Jane Heaton points out in her excellent book, “Content Marketing In a Week”, you should think that the job you want your content marketing to do as being the same as that of a well-trained, consultative, empathetic sales person. Yes, I said sales. How’s that for crushing the old school sales vs. marketing stand-off?
In simple means, it means you must think of your content as a person. A person you not only want to like and be liked. A lot! That’s why you need to plan a your startup content marketing strategy meticulously.
What are the different types of curated and created content then?
- blog and vlog articles
- audio (podcast)
- white papers
- Press Releases
- texts for social media messages
One word here on social media. It is not just a megaphone for your own branded content. Businesses may argue that sharing mostly created content has a minimal effect. And they are right. There’s a reason why business use “influencers”, for example, for marketing campaigns, while sharing articles which are relevant to their business or industry. This is where curated content comes in.
This can include all of the above, but taken from alternative, trustworthy sources. The idea here is that sharing curated content can help make you a trusted adviser in your industry. Not only that, it can also provide your audience with a diversity of viewpoints. As well as balance out the self-promotional content that you might have created. And the best part, it requires very little resources.
Why create then, when you can just curate?
The argument for curated content then is clear. You can position yourself as a thought-leader with unique insight, knowledge, and perspective. This much is very true. But (and there’s always a but), you have to know where to draw the line. While popular social media content management tool Hootsuite recommends a 60-40 split in favor of curating, I would argue that this ration should be flipped. i.e. 60-40 create-curate instead. Your content is the most important. After all, as a brand, your audience wants to know what you want to say. Not just what you believe it.
The advantages of curating other people’s content is clear, especially from a startup’s penny-pinching perspective. But you must curate with caution as far as your startup content marketing is concerned.
Remember the below rules. Always.
- Your audience are people, not just a computer algorithm.
- Be discerning, discriminative, and [highly] selective.
- Always try to add value by giving your own perspective, insight, and guidance. Don’t just share.
- Your curated content is not just a one-off event or activity.
- Keep a laser focus on your target audience.
The long and short of startup content marketing
How long a content item should be is always a bone of contention, especially for copywriters and bloggers. As a rule of thumb, the 500-word mark is seen as an optimum length for light, everyday blog articles. More in-depth articles and Q&A pieces can be as long as 2,500. In the end, it’s always about finding a happy medium what works for you. You can always improvise, like split a lengthy post into a more digestible 2 or 3-part series.
Coming from a journalistic background, it was a struggle for me when I first got into blogging. I didn’t (and still don’t) like the fact that I have to simplify my writing style. The painful truth is that if you want to rank high in search results, you need to follow the rules. So in this respect, SEO, as well as readability scores are your guiding lights. If you have a love of words and/or literature, this can be a tough challenge. I feel like sometimes I have to dumb down my articles in the name of SEO. But hey, the success of your startup content marketing depends on it.
But just like in the design realm, you have to make what’s right, not what you like, as we pointed out on this blog recently.
A conclusion of sorts
In the end, what matters in your startup content marketing is that you satisfy the needs of your audience. And I mean in terms of relevance, format and as well as quality and value. Because this will help you with your important metrics, such as signups, conversation rates and revenue boosting.
As long as you tick the boxes each time, and adapt your content per channel you will always get satisfying results. And this is irrespective of whether you mostly create, or vice versa. But as I mentioned at the start, there is no curated content can compare with creating your own original, well-thought out and executed content. Period.
Go forth then, and keeping creating. But hey, don’t forget to sprinkle your startup content marketing with a significant portion of curating.