Creating Content

How to Create Enough Good Content

Posted on January 12, 2012. Filed under: Creating Content | Tags: , , , |

This article by Holly Ross and Brett Meyer is particularly helpful because it is an actual case study based on their own experience with their own company.

Thank you for sharing Holly and Brett!

Kathie van

How to Create Enough Good Content (Case Study)

As nonprofits have flocked to the e-newsletter as an inexpensive and timely way to communicate with stakeholders, the number of newsletter tips has also proliferated. While subject lines, “from” addresses, and your template design are all important, they aren’t the biggest challenge to putting out a quality newsletter. The most difficult part is creating good content, content your subscribers want to read.

For many organizations, simply getting an e-newsletter out regularly, with enough content — let alone enough good content — is a win. That was certainly true for NTEN a few years ago. But since then, we’ve developed loftier goals for our e-news NTEN Connect, transforming it from a chore we had to cross off the monthly to-do list to a blockbuster driver of traffic to our blog. And we managed to reinforce our values and culture while doing so. Here’s how:

The Chore

NTEN is a small organization. With just a handful of staff members, we felt the pain of the e-news challenge intensely.

Writing enough good, timely content to fill a monthly newsletter was simply not an option for our overburdened staff. Instead, in 2007, we started stocking it with articles written by members of our community.

While we selected the topics and the authors for each issue, producing the newsletter itself became a matter of curation rather than creation. This shift also aligned nicely with one of our core values: providing a platform for our community’s views. And we took one step further to publish our newsletter stories on our blog (on our website). Readers of the newsletter received a teaser for the article – usually the first paragraph or two – and a link to read the entire article on our site.

We very quickly saw a jump in the website metrics we track. Traffic started to rise and we got lots of compliments on the new format. At that point, we knew we had something good on our hands, but knew we could do even better.

The Experiment

We shook up our e-news format again in November 2008. Rather than hand-picking topics and authors, we invited the community to write about anything they wanted. Submissions flowed in, including quite a few we couldn’t use. While we put out an interesting issue, it didn’t drive traffic quite the way we had hoped it would.

Then we added a twist to the experiment in Fall 2009. We had always used the newsletter to “break” stories, publishing all of the new articles at once on our website, on the day we sent out the newsletter. This time, we posted the articles on our website as they were submitted, letting the authors know that the most successful posts — those that generated the greatest usage as measured by page views, time spent on the site, and comments — would be included in the November newsletter.

By this time, of course, social media had burst upon the scene. The NTEN community is generally pretty tech savvy, so we saw them using blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to share news, likes and their own accomplishments. So we tapped the power and reach of the community for the newsletter, leveraging our authors’ social networks to drive traffic to our site and increase newsletter subscriptions.

Our incentive strategy worked! That November, we saw an 80% increase in blog traffic over November 2008. We watched our authors using their social networks to highlight their accomplishment – “Look! I have an article on the NTEN site!” – driving traffic our way. That single month was a huge factor in our 22% increase in blog traffic in 2009.

Unfortunately, blog traffic in every other month (when we curated newsletter content) flatlined.

We continued experimenting with the e-news throughout 2010 to boost site traffic, redesigning the template and removing less-popular features. Nothing helped us reach the boost that the social network November 2009 edition created.

The Leap

So, in September 2010, we moved to our Community Guided Content model. We still ask authors to write about specific topics, but we post new articles to our website almost daily, then use the stats to determine what goes into the actual newsletter. Since this shift, blog traffic is up 37% year-over-year and shows a fairly steady month-to-month growth rate. Plus time spent on web pages on page is up – a modest but welcome increase of three seconds.

This new strategy means we’re driving a lot of traffic to overall: We’re up 24% year-over-year in 2011. The blog/newsletter strategy drives most of that, as you can see from the increase in blog traffic as a percentage of total site traffic for the last few years:

2008: 17%
2009: 19%
2010: 22%
2011: 25%

Most importantly, publishing more and more diverse content on the blog gives us a sense of what the NTEN community is most interested in. Then, when we compose NTEN Connect each month, instead of guessing what we should send out to our 30,000 subscribers, we can look at our blog and social media analytics data to learn what our blog readers have already found most engaging.

Looking to the Future

We now have a successful newsletter strategy in place — one that aligns our values and goals, and has significantly expanded our visibility and prominence in the sector. This year alone, our newsletter subscriber base has increased 50%.

Next, we’re hoping to match newsletter content even more closely with our audiences’ wants and interests. We’ve begun experimenting more with segmentation: instead of sending out one issue to our full list, we deliver seven different versions based on job function, so, for example, Executive Directors receive different content than IT staff members.

Going forward, we’ll even be able to tailor newsletter content based on the articles our readers have interacted with over time. Already, we’ve seen the potential for this level of segmentation by including dynamic content based on our subscribers’ membership status and activity levels.

Who knows? Maybe next year we’ll be able to send out a Star Wars edition to all the subscribers we know who have a thing for Han Solo.
The information is there; our community will tell us how to use it.

Source: How to Create Enough Good Content (Case Study) –
Authors: Holly Ross, Executive Director & Brett Meyer, Communications Director, NTEN

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Content Curation Primer

Posted on December 27, 2011. Filed under: Creating Content | Tags: , |

This article of Beth’s provides a very thorough explination of what content curation is, how to do it effectively and what tools are out there to help.

Thanks for the information Beth, it’s very helpful!

Content Curation PrimerContent Curation Primer

What is Content Curation?

Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, sorting, arranging, and publishing information. A content curator cherry picks the best content that is important and relevant to share with their community. It isn’t unlike what a museum curator does to produce an exhibition: They identify the theme, they provide the context, they decide which paintings to hang on the wall, how they should be annotated, and how they should be displayed for the public.

Content curation is not about collecting links or being an information pack rat, it is more about putting them into a context with organization, annotation, and presentation. Content curators provide a customized, vetted selection of the best and most relevant resources on a very specific topic or theme. As Rohit Bhargava points out in this post via Robin Good, a content curator continually seeks, makes sense of, and shares the best and most relevant content on a particular topic online. Content curators have integrated this skill into their daily routine.

Why is Content Curation Valuable?

People and organizations are now making and sharing media and content all over the social web. For example, on Facebook the average user creates 90 pieces of content each month. If you multiply that by the 800 million Facebook users, it isn’t surprising that data or content on the Internet is measured in exabytes, or billions of gigabytes. Simply put, we are living an era of content abundance. A content curator offers high value to anyone looking for quality content because finding that information (and making sense of it) requires more and more time, attention, and focus.

Content Curation Provides Value from the Inside Out

What does that mean for nonprofits and the people who work for them? I think there are many benefits for both individuals as well as the organization.

For some staff members, content curation can be professional of learning. Professional development used to be about getting trained or acquiring a specific skill. But, with so much information available and coming at us from many sources, we often don’t know if it’s the right information or if it’s current. And depending on our field, it can get out of date quickly. In today’s world of content abundance, the skill of how to find, make sense, and share content that we need to be effective in our work is critical. Simply put, being a content curator is a method to help you stay informed about your field and be more effective at your job.

The biggest challenge to becoming a content curator is getting past the feeling of “content fried” or so much good content and so little time to digest it. There are techniques that we can use to minimize feeling distracted and with some discipline make it of our work flow.

For organizations and brands, content curation can help establish the organization’s thought leadership and capture attention in today’s information cluttered world. Content curation can help your organization become the go-to authority on an issue or topic area. It can be done as simply as writing a blog post with links or sharing annotated links on Twitter around your topic. Take for example, how Bruce Lesley from First Focus uses Twitter to establish authority as a content curator on children welfare issues.

The key principles of content content creation for a brand are outlined in this article “Become A Content Curation King” – what is most important for nonprofits that want to get started is consistency, knowing your audience, and identifying your topical niche. It is also important to understand that content curation is NOT just about information, it is about feeding and tuning your network as Howard Rheingold notes.
Seek, Sense, Share
The Three S’s of Content Curation: Seek, Sense, Share

Content curation is a three-part process: Seek, Sense, and Share. Finding the information or “seeking” is only one third of the task as Mari Smith points out in this video about why curation is important and some tools for doing it. Making sense of the information is just as important. Sense making can be a simple as how you annotate the links your share, the presentation, or what you’ve left out. Sense making can be writing a blog post using the links (like this post) or summarizing the key points in a presentation. However you create meaning, but it has to support your organization’s communications objectives or your professional learning goals. Finally, the sharing – is about giving the best nuggets of content to your audience in a format that they can easily digest and apply it.

Putting content curation into practice is part art form, part science, but mostly about daily practice. You don’t need to do it for hours, but a little bit everyday will help you develop and hone the skills. It is best to do the seeking part in small bursts to avoid feeling overwhelmed. One way to be effective is to find the best curators your topic and follow them. It is like sipping fine wine. You have to be organized and know your sources. And you have to scan your sources regularly and thank them.

It is also good to learn from experienced curators and how they hone their craft. Netsquared recently published this summary of tips from nonprofit content curators. You can also learn a lot by looking at the work flow of “master curators” like Robin Good, Howard Rheingold, and Robert Scoble.
Content Curation Step by Step
Getting Started

Use this questionnaire to help you think through a plan for content curation before you dive into the curation tools. There has been an explosion of tools and you can distracted by useless features. Even better, perhaps focus on the skills with the tools you know how to use already. You might want to integrate the process of content curation into a channel you’re already using. Next, you might want to expand to using a couple of the new tools that are specifically designed for content curation.Here’s a few curation tools that are easy to get started.

Storyfy – Storify is a way to tell stories using social media such as Tweets, photos and videos. You search multiple social networks from one place, and then drag individual elements into your story. You can re-order the elements and also add text to give context to your readers. I use storify if I want to capture conference sessions. Here’s an example from Zan McColloch Lussier using storify to capture the conversation from a panel “Good Grantmaking: What’s Social Media Have To Do With It?” A quick tutorial on how to use it.

Scoop.It – (beta, invite-only) — is a terrific tool for discovering those super nichey, hidden gems relevant to specific topic. Use the dashboard to manage an unlimited amount of sources (websites, RSS feeds, specific social media accounts, etc.) and plug in relevant keywords and date parameters. does the rest and delivers you a constant feed of exactly the type of content you’re looking for. Here’s my lists as well as the lists by some of my favorite curators there. Amy Sample Ward has a review of here.

BagTheWeb — BagTheWeb helps users curate Web content. For any topic, you can create a “bag” to collect, publish, and share any content from the Web. Beyond most curation tools’ capability, BagTheWeb enables users to build networks of bags. This way bags can be linked together to provide rich and complete information about any topic. Susan Kistler has an example with evaluation resources.

Pearltrees — An extremely powerful tool that aids discovery of new, relevant content by presenting it in a very visual way. The interface builds a hub-and-spoke style tree diagram of content that you search for, discover and collect. Hover over new “pearls” to see at-a-glance previews of the content which you can then “pick”, comment upon, and share. Susan Kistler has curated this list on Evaluation.

Source: Beth’s Blog – Content Curation Primer
Author: Beth Kanter
Photo by Stuck in Customs

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6 Steps to Conducting a Successful Content Brainstorming Session

Posted on October 28, 2011. Filed under: Creating Content | Tags: , , |

Sometimes getting started in a brainstorming session is the hardest part. Here are 6 great tips to get your brainstorming session firing on all cylinders!

Kathie van

6 Steps to Conducting a Successful Content Brainstorming Session

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Creating fresh, valuable content takes creativity. But creativity can be a scary, demoralizing thing. Are my ideas different? Will prospects and customers find them appealing? Oftentimes, just coming up with ideas can be even more daunting than creating the content that completes the ideas themselves. But just because you don’t consider yourself a creative person or you don’t work in a creative field, doesn’t mean you (and your teammates) don’t have great ideas for your company. So here are six helpful techniques to run a successful brainstorming session so you can cultivate the best ideas and, ultimately, the best content possible.

1. Identify Your Goal(s)

  Before even thinking about sending out a meeting invite and mobilizing your teammates together, you need to decide what your actual goal is, and make sure the entire team has a clear understanding of that goal. Having ideas is great, but if they don’t turn into the 1,000 extra Facebook followers you needed or the 50 more leads you want to generate, the whole thing may end up being a complete waste of time and energy.

2. Decide Who Should Attend Your Brainstorming Session

Now that you have your goal set, it’s time to figure out whom to invite. The people who will actually be doing the work is a given. But you also need to have some wild cards. These are people who may see the project from a different perspective or may be able to come up with ideas you never even considered. Having an outsider’s perspective is crucial, since you don’t want to be tied down by the same boring, “heard that already” ideas. Consider inviting those outside the marketing team such as a sales person or colleagues from different departments.

3. Choose a Friendly, Comfortable Environment

Overall, you want to make people in your brainstorming session feel comfortable enough to share their ideas. A relaxed environment allows people de-stress and think freely about coming up with the best possible ideas. Personally, I like to bake. Bringing in treats, drinks, or just tossing around a football can foster idea sharing without people even realizing what is going on. Plus, if baked goods are involved, you might get even encourage more people to get in on the meeting and share their creativity. In the end, if you’re not also having fun, you’re not doing it right.

4. Get Brainstorming!

For some reason, no one ever likes to go first. It is your job as the meeting leader to come up with the first idea to start people off and get the creative juices flowing. You want to make sure to re-state your goals to the group, and ensure that your first idea correlates with those goals so the rest of the group follows suit. While it may seem weird to say, oftentimes you don’t want your first idea to be the best idea you’ve got. People might get stuck there and other (maybe better) ideas will never be brought up. Middle of the road is okay, as long as you are leading people in the right direction for amazing ideas.

5. Don’t Discourage Silence, and Yes, There ARE Bad Ideas

Sometimes people get worried when there is silence during these types of meetings. Where are all the good ideas?! You have to be aware of the difference between, “I have nothing left to say” silence and “Just let me have room to think” silence. Just because people aren’t saying anything doesn’t mean they won’t say something soon. However, if the silence does last too long, it is your job to steer the conversation in a new direction to get people excited and talking again. Therefore, come prepared with a few premeditated ideas you can use in to get people going again when the session starts getting stale.

Speaking of a new direction, you know that old saying “There’s no such thing as a bad idea”? Well, that’s not entirely true. Sure, you don’t want to put people down, but if the discussion is all of a sudden no longer aligning with your overall goal(s), while the ideas may not be bad, they might be wrong. It is your job as the team leader to know when you have gone off course and lead the group back to the task at hand.

6. Know When to Call it Quits

You never want to keep people in one place too long, especially during a brainstorming session. No one wants to come to the boring, drawn out brainstorming sessions. Know when you have generated enough good ideas. Know when people have given their best. At the end of your meeting, review the list once more to see if it sparks any additional ideas, and then call it a day.

In truth, there is no one, uniform way to run a brainstorm. People work better in different environments and react better to different scenarios. Figure out what works for your team, change it, work with it, and remember to keep people on their toes.

Source: 6 Steps to Conducting a Successful Content Brainstorming Session –

Image Credit: Peter Jackson

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