Sharing is caring: becoming a trusted source through online curation

Had a great time at the Be Good Be Social Toronto conference a couple of weeks ago. Met 4 people in real life whom I’ve only interacted with online, met some new folks, and saw some great presentations. Always great to get more/new info. I also delivered a presentation: Sharing is caring: becoming a trusted source through online curation.

Video of the presentation should be online soon (cringe), but here are my slides for now:

I had a lot of fun doing this presentation because, in part, it allowed me to map out the way I do some of my work online into a bit of a “system.” It was great to sit back and look at how I do what I do. One thing I noticed is that not a tonne has changed over the years, although I’m doing a lot more through RSS and Twitter than I was through email just 2 years ago.

Here’s a bit about the presentation, and some links that I promised folks who attended.


I recently found this definition of online curation. It works for me, and describes what I think I’m going online a good chunk of the time.

“Content curation is the act of continually identifying, selecting and sharing the best and most relevant online content and other online resources (and by that I mean articles, blog posts, videos, photos, tools, tweets, or whatever) on a specific subject to match the needs of a specific audience.”

“If you think about it, all of us do our bit of content curation when we share articles, videos and blog posts that appeal to us with friends on our social networks like facebook, twitter and the like. We share what we like, because we think our friends might like it too. It’s pretty similar in the B2B setup as well. Enterprises share information that they think their target audiences might find value in.”

Key elements for me:

  • continual and consistent
  • identifying, selecting and sharing the best and most relevant online content and other online resources
  • on a specific subject of interest or that matters to your followers – meets their needs in some way (so, in my case, it’s a mix of immigration/diversity and npetch. At work, it’s a mix of immigration/diversity, city of toronto/cities, poverty, voluntary/nonprofit sector).

Trust matters. You probably already have it. Use it.

Also, on the issue of trust, I suggested that those of us who work in nonprofits, charities, social change orgs already have a lot of it with our current networks. Online curation can enhance our reputations and trust with existing networks, but can also establish it with new networks:

“We need folks whom we trust to lead us to where we would not go on our own. Ideally, these people will do more than just lead us to good work; they will expand our mind, and widen our social circles.”

In this equation, you and your reputation are key. What’s awesome for charities/nonprofits is that you already have this legitimacy/authority in your field. People trust you. It means that they’ll pay attention to what you’re curating/sharing.

Some examples, such as Red Cross, Maytree, etc. It’s easy to build with existing networks who will appreciate you doing this work for them. And, it’s easy for newer followers to find out about you and why they should trust your curation.

Being a trusted filter of CRAP online is essential and is an asset. If you’re already looking for mentions about your organization, issues, topics, campaigns, you’re already curating. The question is, how much of what tends to be internal curation do you want to share externally? In our case, it’s a good chunk, but not all of it. I use my different accounts differently. For example, our brand is to provide solutions and interesting ideas, not to dwell on all of the problems. I find and share articles about these problems, including from perspectives that aren’t in line with ours, but we don’t share them all publicly. On the other hand, in my personal curation, I share everything, and there’s an understanding from most who follow me where I stand on the issue and that I’m sharing everything relevant that I find.

Are the people/trusted sources you already know about/follow already online and sharing? If so, great! Following/engaging with others in your field/interest area – if they find it, you find it. But, don’t forget to apply a critical lens. It’s amazing how often we forget what we know when we go online.

Howard Rheingold is currently doing a lot of work on “crap detection” and I encourage you to follow him and his awesome curation of this information.

My daily routine and physical set up

What happens to a piece of info we curate? Goes into daily email scan, also sent out to 2 other different groups of recipients and one autopost on a WordPress blog (hidden, for now). Forms the basis of tweets from 3 accounts (show each account, how amany followers they have, etc.), posted on our LinkedIn Company page automatically, saved to Diigo automatically (2 accounts), resaved/backed up on Delicious (one account), posted/backed up on the WordPress blog, then aslo manually posted on my blog.

So much of this happens automatically in the background, some of it is manual.

Create a diagram of where everything goes and why. Different audiences want/need the information in different formats. This is important as part of your strategy.

These tools further allow you to curate content. For example, social bookmarks, which can themselves be subscribed to, followed, etc., to become living lists/sources.

Also useful will be to include “daily rituals”, which I’ve captured elsewhere, including stuff like this.

My physical set up really matters. I use 2 large screens at my desk and my mobile device (recently moved from an iPod Touch to a Samsung Android smartphone (gush!)).

The 7 S’ of online curation

Here’s where I spent a good chunk of time in my presentation.

Strategy (holds this all together – maybe a hub in the centre and each of these are spokes? or something more linear?

Strategy always matters, and it tends to be the thing that most people forget about.

Core: Create an overall strategy for what you’re looking for, why, how you’ll use it. Going back to the definition of curation above, you’ve got to be able to know who your audience is, what they’re looking for, where they are, and what your topics of expertise are. In the broad scheme of things, you have to connect all of this to a broader Communications strategy for your organization, or else you’re moving out of your core work and expertise and you’ll end up stretching your resources.

Separate out information related to your work vs. information related to your organization. Create a dashboard of tools and a daily approach to manage your information flow.

Avoiding the main challenges:

  • time
  • tangents
  • to do’s
  • Surfing to

Sourcing – don’t forget that your audience is also a source. You don’t always have to be first!

Surfing is a bit Web 1.0, in the sense that what you need to be doing is not just aimless surfing and searching, but finding the right sources to feed your curation. Once you’ve found them (OK, OK, there’s no real end point to this! But, if you find good sources, they’ll continue to help you find new sources, which, in turn, you’ll help your followers/audience find, and so on), make sure you figure out a way to subscribe/follow them so that the information comes to you. Whether it’s via RSS feed, Twitter stream, email list or something else, most information sources out there (well, really well set up ones anyway) have some way for you to stay up to date on their work. Use it, then sit back and let the goodness come to you!


Both an action and a skill. You’ve got to become really good at skimming because the more you source, the more you’ll have coming at you and information overload is a real thing. But, it’s manageable (I currently follow over 680 RSS feeds, so I know a bit about info overload!). Set your systems up to help you.

In Google Reader (or another RSS reader), it’s folders. In Twitter, it’s lists. And, so on.


Ultimately, to be a good curator, you’ve got to dive ito the good stuff to decide if it’s worth sharing. All of this comes back to your strategy and why you’re curating in the first place. But, if you forward/share something that’s not useful to your audience too many times, your trust and reputation will be impacted. You need to even check stuff out from your own trusted sources to make sure that it’s what your audience wants/needs.


The core of online curation.

Again, be strategic. Ask yourself: What’s the right tool for you and (probably more importantly) your audience? (hint: They’re probably in more than one place. Meet them there.)

There are some great social media dashboards out there. I like and use Hootsuite. But, I still visit Facebook and LinkedIn directly, because their interfaces kind of demand that a bit.

That being said, you can really use auto-sharing to your advantage strategically as well. For example, twitter feeds are pretty transient. Your tweet goes off the radar pretty quickly. What was that I tweeted last week? If you’re a prolific tweeter, good luck finding it. That’s where some great tools come in.

I connect my main Twitter accounts to auto-bookmark to Diigo (and then Delicious, as another backup) via Simple set up, powerful tool for future findability, ability to bundle a group of tweets for my audience, etc. Check it out, if only as a way to archive your work.

Here’s my insanity:

When I click on “share” within Google Reader, here are some things that happen (and that can happen if I went even further):

Share in Google Reader

Through RSS:

  • Sent to Twitter
  • Posted to my Diigo/Delicious bookmarks
  • Posted to my website in a daily archive of tweets
  • Available to be read by anyone subscribed to my shared RSS feed – could also be set up to be subscribed to by Email
  • Could be posted on Facebook or anywhere that accepts RSS feeds
  • Can also be tagged – shared as separate RSS feeds
  • Within Google Reader, can share with other networks/bookmarking sites, etc.

OK, so, of course, Google Reader changed all that, literally days after my presentation. But, you can still post directly to a variety of online services, using the “Send To” option. Not as quick, but still workable.

I think it’s perfectly fine to do some automated sharing. After all, is someone following you on Twitter also following you on Facebook, also following you on LinkedIn, also reading your email newsletter, also following any RSS feeds you send out? Maybe, but likely not (and, if they’re like me and are following you in multiple spaces, I’ll find you in one of them, but my stream flows so quickly I’ll likely not always notice the duplication).

However, and this is big. Don’t set up an info feed in a space/social media outpost that you’re not actively managing. Because if you do and someone responds to something you posted and you’re not there to respond in good time, boom, say bye-bye to your trust and reputation.

Broadcasting is fine. But, your audience will expect engagement. Don’t move into a space you’re not ready or able to participate in.


Some of my best curation hasn’t been just individual links, but in compiling blog posts that pull together some themes and all of the related stories about those themes. When we have time, we do weekly news round-ups at work, where we share a theme that you may not have picked up on in the media or other sources, and pull them all together. One stop shopping for our audience, and something we now have as an archive on a particular topic.

Netsquared’s September Think Tank Round up on curation has some great links and insights.

The early adopters

One of the things I mentioned in my presentation is that there are always new technologies/approaches coming out and you don’t need to be first to try them out (I mean, really, do you have time? I don’t!). That’s where the early adopters come in. These are people who do test out things as soon as they come out. If you can find an early adopter that tests things out who is in your field, or is using these tools in ways that are similar to your own, it’s a beautiful thing.

We’re blessed with such people and organizations in the nonprofit tech community. Simple search for the commonly-agreed to keyword “nptech” in various spaces and you’ll find great stuff.

Here are some useful starting points:

And, in the tech community, I highly recommend:

Have fun! 🙂

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