Social Media Measurement

New Research Finds the Curation vs Creation Sweet Spot

Whether you’re on a first date, meeting new people at a dinner party, or making it rain on Twitter, it’s just not a good idea to go on and on about yourself. It’s just awkward.

Conventional social media marketing wisdom suggests that brands should avoid being overly self-promotional. Thus, brands seek to “be a part of the conversation” by sharing links that are relevant to their followers but often not specifically about their products and services. This act of finding good content and sharing it is known as content curation.

Contrast this with another nugget of conventional social media marketing wisdom: that “content is king” – that the best thing that a social media marketer can do is create content that people find valuable enough to share with the world.

But…isn’t promoting your own content akin to talking about yourself? And isn’t that rude, and thus ineffective?

This creation-vs-curation paradox inspired me to look for some answers in the data.

Analyzing 150,000 Social Media Posts

The data behind this analysis comes from a sample of customers’ activity on Argyle Social, a social media marketing software provider. (Full disclosure: Argyle is a Convince & Convert sponsor and my employer. Also: we’re hiring!)

The selected sample included more than 150,000 tweets and status updates from more than 1,000 Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts between November 2010 and July 2011. Our customers are typically professional marketers representing a range of company sizes across most major industries.

Examining Typical Sharing Behavior

The graph below shows the sharing mix across all companies in our sample.
Creation vs Curation New Research Finds the Curation vs Creation Sweet Spot
In short, 30% of the companies in our sample are curation-focused: 75% or more of their posts link to third-party websites. 13% of companies are creation-focused: most of their posts link to their own websites.

There are clearly a broad range of strategies employed, although companies tend towards strategies dominated by content curation, with 2/3 of companies linking to others more frequently than they link to themselves.

Which Works Best, Curation or Creation?

The real question, though, is what should companies be doing? What is the optimal content strategy, creating or curating? To measure that, let’s look at the impact of content strategy on click rates and conversion rates.

When looking at clicks, curation clearly dominates. Posts linking to third-party sites generate 33% more clicks than posts linking to owned sites. This makes sense — the very best content on the Internet is typically not going to live at yourcompany.com.

However, if you’re looking to drive conversions, content creation is the optimal strategy. Posts that link to your website have a 54% higher click-to-conversion rate than posts that link to third-party websites. This makes implicit sense, since conversions happen on your website. If you’re not driving people to your website and giving them good content to read when they get there, they’re not going to convert.

But the choice isn’t really between creation and curation — you should be doing both. The question is really what mix of those two strategies you should employ for maximum clicks and conversions?

Part of a Balanced Social Media Diet

To dig deeper into what mix of creation and curation works best, I’m going to revisit the behavior segments that I outlined above. What kind of results are companies in each of these segments seeing?

Curators = Companies that link to third-party sites 75% or more of the time.
Curators New Research Finds the Curation vs Creation Sweet SpotCompanies in this group focus very heavily on curation and rarely, if ever, link to their own content. Their results bear this out: they generate a lot of clicks, but very few conversions.

Balanced = Companies that link to third-party sites 50-75% of the time.
Balanced Content Creation New Research Finds the Curation vs Creation Sweet SpotCompanies in this group employ a balanced strategy of content creation and content curation. Their clicks per post are lower than Curators, but they generate significantly more conversions.

Self-Promoters = Companies that link to their own content 50% or more of the time.
self promoters New Research Finds the Curation vs Creation Sweet SpotCompanies in this group link to their own content a majority of the time. This negatively impacts their clicks per post, and this reduction isn’t made up by an increased conversion rate.

It’s clear from the data that companies in the Balanced category achieve the best results overall. They generate 20% fewer clicks per post than Curators, but their conversion rate is 10X higher. I’ll take that trade any day.

The Creation and Curation Sweet Spot

We already determined that linking to your site 25-50% of the time generates the best results. But what if we look at the practices of the top five companies in generating clicks and conversions? What are they doing that has been so effective for them?

The top five companies in our sample that generate the most clicks link to their own sites 37.9% of the time. And the top five companies in our sample that generate the most conversions link to their own sites 41.6% of the time. This feels like a pretty solid sweet spot.

Lessons Learned and Takeaways

After digging into the numbers, the optimal balance for most companies is to link to your own content between 25-50% of the time, with 40% being the ideal mark.

But beware the law of averages! Just because these numbers are true of overall does not mean that they are the best numbers for you. Outliers exist.

My favorite example of an account that breaks the mold is one of our customers, TiqIQ. TiqIQ is in the business of publishing deals on sports tickets via social media. Almost every one of their posts links to a site where visitors can purchase tickets from them, so they almost never curate. However, their click and conversion rates are off the charts, because their audience is specifically following them to receive these deals.

If you’re new to social media marketing, a 40% content creation rate is a good place to start. But make sure you measure your own efforts and find out what works for your company.

About the Author
tristanitaly e1315093967909 New Research Finds the Curation vs Creation Sweet SpotTristan Handy is the Director of Operations for Argyle Social, a social media marketing dashboard that helps businesses create real returns from the social channel. Follow him on Twitter @jthandy.

  • http://www.contentstrategyhub.com/ EugeneFarber

    “it’s just not a good idea to go on and on about yourself. It’s just awkward.” You mean I can’t make people happy by just talking about my favorite subject? But I thought focusing on my passion is going to make me rich :)

  • Neicolec

    Love this! Thanks for crunching the data to give some insights into the mix. It’s nice to have verification that curation works and to have some solid numbers to use as a starting point.

  • http://dempseymarketing.com/ RobertDempsey

    Very interesting Tristan. That makes a lot of sense as well – create and share your own content but don’t be 100% self-promotional or no one will listen to you. It also shows that you are paying attention to your industry and not just yourself.

    Great post. Thanks.

  • jthandy

    R, N, E: Thanks for the comments! Really glad you found the research valuable.

  • http://www.theoceanagency.com/ Mike @ Chicago SEO firm

    Too many companies try to market themselves with only original content. The truth is that most content out there isn’t that great. A model I’ve been using and suggesting for social media outlets is the 1/3 rule.

    1/3 should be original content and thoughts.

    1/3 should link to great content outside of your site/brand.

    1/3 should be conversational, connecting with the users/followers/fans/etc.

    Good to see there’s some data to support that. Thanks, Tristan. Great stuff.

  • seantmcvey

    Wow, great study. We always talk about the ‘ratio’ but never had numbers to prove it. In my experience, I always leaned more on curation. 20% your own content and 80% to others. I suppose I have some room to promote more of my own. Thanks!

  • stndotsidurself

    @donedesk Thanks. Glad you helped me stumble upon this informative article. Nicely #curated:)

  • OnlineBusinesVA

    Most of the small companies are still blissfully ignorant of social media influence on customer choice of products/services. This should help them know that you can no longer ignore social media any more.

    Shilpi Singha Roy

    http://www.online-business-virtual-ssistant.com/

  • Vicki_Kunkel

    Thanks for this excellent research! I must admit, I’m a curator (curation/content ratio for me is about 90/10). However, I also think there is a third “c” missing from the study: conversation. Social media isn’t a broadcast medium; it’s a conversational medium. I wonder what the click/conversion rate is for companies that employ an engagement and conversation strategy into the mix. Although, I suppose it is assumed that people who are curating and creating content that they share via social media platforms are conversing with their audiences as well.

    • jthandy

      Vicki – Glad you liked it :) One thing I didn’t get into detail in the writeup of the research was that the 150,000 posts that I analyzed were only *posts with links*. So, conversational posts that didn’t include links to content were completely left out, and conversational posts with links were treated just like any other post.

      Analysis of conversational styles–how often a company replies to its followers–would definitely be something that’s interesting to look at. Maybe in the future… :)

  • madison.bushell

    This really hit home! The research here is so valuable and definitely something to be considered. I’ve sent this out to the rest of my team, and I’m excited to see how we will react. Thanks again, Jay.

  • gdecugis

    I love this analysis Tristan: very clear and makes the point.

    From what I understood, you’ve defined curation as linking to 3rd-party web sites so I wonder if you’ve tried to isolate the case of companies doing curation on their own site. That, to me, is the way forward to reap the highest benefits of curation while also increasing the value for the audience by giving more context than in tweets.

    This is typically what Scoop.it enables our users to do (disc: I’m the CEO), also enabling them to mix their creation with their curation.

    I’d love to see this segment show up as “the ultimate sweet spot” and it would be a natural conclusion from your data.

    Would you be interested in discussing that or even partnering with us to share data and find out?

  • gdecugis

    I love this analysis Tristan: very clear and makes the point.

    From what I understood, you’ve defined curation as linking to 3rd-party web sites so I wonder if you’ve tried to isolate the case of companies doing curation on their own site. That, to me, is the way forward to reap the highest benefits of curation while also increasing the value for the audience by giving more context than in tweets.

    This is typically what Scoop.it enables our users to do (disc: I’m the CEO), also enabling them to mix their creation with their curation.

    I’d love to see this segment show up as “the ultimate sweet spot” and it would be a natural conclusion from your data.

    Would you be interested in discussing that or even partnering with us to share data and find out?

  • http://ijustdid.org/ jonharules

    I really like how you concluded this article, Tristan. What might work for others and the results they receive may not work for you so it’s necessary to really FIND OUT what works specifically for your company and I agree about content curators getting more clicks than those who tend to talk so much about themselves. Also, content curators should be careful of linking or sharing only links that are from the big bloggers, there should be a balance in that too.

    • jthandy

      @jonharules Hm! Good point.

  • NoelineL

    Interesting read via @JessL 4 @jaypalter New Research Finds the Curation vs Creation Sweet Spot – http://t.co/0dDz4bZ

  • http://www.getcurata.com/ TweetsFromPawan

    Tristan, I couldn’t agree with you more that curating third party content with original content is a recipe for content marketing success. It is imperative for companies to provide outside – even competitor – content that their targeted audience will want to read. It is, however, also crucial to create original content to ensure your company has a voice in the conversation.

    In addition to finding that “sweet spot,” it is important that a successful content marketing strategy also utilizes the right tools. My company HiveFire’s product, Curata, allows users to find, organize and share news, blogs, photos, video etc., while also enabling them to incorporate original content. It also allows the user to review performance to determine what is the best mix for their audiences. This process speaks directly to your analysis and makes finding the “sweet spot” less complicated.

    We spend a great deal of time discussing the balance of content curation and content creation in marketing strategies. You and your readers can check out some of the best practices we regularly recommend in our eBook, How to Become a Content Curation Rockstar. (http://info.getcurata.com/rockstarebook.html) Thanks for an interesting post!

  • acserrano

    @cfcmedialab I would say about 41% of the time u should link to your own content?

  • lizhover

    @cfcmedialab I wouldn’t follow a prescribed formula. Ever. Your aim should be to add value and never make it all about yourself.

  • HeuvelMarketing

    @stefangielliet thanks !!

  • rebeccadenison

    I’m late to the party, but I really liked your approach with this research. As @Vicki_Kunkel mentioned already, it would be cool to tie in conversations to see if that affects clicks and conversions. If all these influence theories are true, if I trust you because of conversations we’ve had, I should be more likely to click through or convert. But that’s definitely for another day.Something I’d like to explore with your data is whether you had any sense of the cost per click or cost per conversion? I wonder if sometimes it’s simply more cost efficient to curate more (since content creation take time/resources)? Would be interesting to explore or help companies understand where their sweet spot is based on costs as well as effectiveness, as you explored above.

    • jthandy

      @rebeccadenison Yes, and yes. Social marketing is still in its very early stages–we have so much data yet to collect. Conversational impact on conversion is definitely an interesting one. As to ROI of curating vs. creating, you make a really good point–it’s cheaper and easier to curate. We don’t collect cost data within Argyle so I don’t have it in my dataset, but this definitely warrants consideration when building a social marketing plan.

  • http://www.getcurata.com/ TweetsFromPawan

    Tristan, I couldn’t agree with you more that curating third party content with original content is a recipe for content marketing success. It is imperative for companies to provide outside – even competitor – content that their targeted audience will want to read. It is, however, also crucial to create original content to ensure your company has a voice in the conversation.

    In addition to finding that “sweet spot,” it is important that a successful content marketing strategy also utilizes the right tools. My company HiveFire’s product, Curata, allows users to find, organize and share news, blogs, photos, video etc., while also enabling them to incorporate original content. It also allows the user to review performance to determine what is the best mix for their audiences. This process speaks directly to your analysis and makes finding the “sweet spot” less complicated.

    We spend a great deal of time discussing the balance of content curation and content creation in marketing strategies. You and your readers can check out some of the best practices we regularly recommend in our eBook, How to Become a Content Curation Rockstar. (http://info.getcurata.com/rockstarebook.html) Thanks for an interesting post!

  • http://www.getcurata.com/ TweetsFromPawan

    Tristan, I couldn’t agree with you more that curating third party content with original content is a recipe for content marketing success. It is imperative for companies to provide outside – even competitor – content that their targeted audience will want to read. It is, however, also crucial to create original content to ensure your company has a voice in the conversation.

    In addition to finding that “sweet spot,” it is important that a successful content marketing strategy also utilizes the right tools. My company HiveFire’s product, Curata, allows users to find, organize and share news, blogs, photos, video etc., while also enabling them to incorporate original content. It also allows the user to review performance to determine what is the best mix for their audiences. This process speaks directly to your analysis and makes finding the “sweet spot” less complicated.

    We spend a great deal of time discussing the balance of content curation and content creation in marketing strategies. You and your readers can check out some of the best practices we regularly recommend in our eBook, How to Become a Content Curation Rockstar. (http://info.getcurata.com/rockstarebook.html) Thanks for an interesting post!

  • PostStone

    Curating content is something we’ve been focusing on lately, so I found this article very relevant. Nailing the content is only half the battle, it’s how you present it that keep the audience satisfied.

  • http://www.getcurata.com/ TweetsFromPawan

    Tristan, I couldn’t agree with you more that curating third party content with original content is a recipe for content marketing success. It is imperative for companies to provide outside – even competitor – content that their targeted audience will want to read. It is, however, also crucial to create original content to ensure your company has a voice in the conversation.

    In addition to finding that “sweet spot,” it is important that a successful content marketing strategy also utilizes the right tools. My company HiveFire’s product, Curata, allows users to find, organize and share news, blogs, photos, video etc., while also enabling them to incorporate original content. It also allows the user to review performance to determine what is the best mix for their audiences. This process speaks directly to your analysis and makes finding the “sweet spot” less complicated.

    We spend a great deal of time discussing the balance of content curation and content creation in marketing strategies. You and your readers can check out some of the best practices we regularly recommend in our eBook, How to Become a Content Curation Rockstar. http://info.getcurata.com/rockstarebook.html Thanks for an interesting post!

  • http://www.arielmarketinggroup.com/ AmyMccTobin

    GREAT post Tristan – made me almost ashamed at how little research I do on the large majority of my posts.

    I am convinced that whomever writes the book: The Age of Analysis in Social Media will have a best seller. My facebook page is a perfect example of what you’re talking about – I provide my customers with the best blog posts and tips on Social Media, and sprinkle in my own Blog posts as well.

    They come and stay because I spoon feed them relevant information so they don’t have to trek all over the internet to find it.

  • letstalkandchat

    If you’re looking for webinar software, then check out Evergreen Business System. Its perfect for marketers and let’s you automate the scheduling of your webinars, build your list, and even follow up with your webinar registrants. If you’re going to buy Evergreen Business System, then you might as well get a free bonus! So check out http://www.mikelmurphy.com/evergreen-business-system-bonus-webinar-software/ and you’ll get a great bonus that tells you how to create a webinar, what is a webinar, and a blueprint for making a successful one. None of the other people offering bonuses are offering this. Hurry in case the guy (some dude that worked on Lord of the RIngs) offering the bonus decides to pull it down.

  • Outtnames999

    LOL if you want to make NOISE, say anything you can think of or just repeat what someone else already said. Say it as loud and as often as you can and move around to many places as possible while shouting.If you want to be UNDERSTOOD, stand still, stand up, speak carefully, deliberately and in a soothing tone and have something useful and important to say.

  • Outtnames999

    LOL if you want to make NOISE, say anything you can think of or just repeat what someone else already said. Say it as loud and as often as you can and move around to many places as possible while shouting.However, if you want to be UNDERSTOOD, stand still, stand up, speak carefully, deliberately and in a soothing tone and have something useful and important to say.