It happened on Halloween – a small but significant change for Instagram. At the top of feeds, above selfies and food pictures, was a simple call to “Watch Halloween’s Best Videos”; Instagram had joined the trend for social platforms to package the best photos, videos and updates from a given event and present them back to its users. From Snapchat stories to Twitter Moments and now on Instagram – platforms are using the content created to tell stories in the way that news outlets have done with social media for some time.
This is true curation – the updates are individually chosen and packaged together to tell a story. And the reason for social platforms to offer this service is clear. By their nature these platforms will capture large amounts of content from any given event or trend, and many of their users will be posting their own updates. But only a limited proportion of the population will ever want to share their own thoughts, what they see, or what they are doing. In order to grow and develop, these platforms need to provide features for those that don’t want to share updates themselves. And this is where curation comes in.
Social platforms recognise the value in what people say on them, and no longer just provide a platform for these voices to be heard, but also use these updates to provide their own coverage of events and trends. They recognise the traffic that news sites have received from articles that are, in essence, just collections of tweets or photos from Instagram. They now want to provide this service themselves.
And curation makes sense – social networks have led to a proliferation of content: pictures, videos, updates all day, everyday. As we create more and more content there is role to play for somebody to sort through this and select the updates that best tell a story or cover an event. We don’t need more content, we need the existing content to be sorted through and selected.
For brands, there is an important lesson here. As content becomes an increasingly important part of marketing plans, brands are investing in creating more words, more pictures and more videos. But sometimes this is not the right thing to do, sometimes we don’t need more brand content; rather a brand can play an important role bringing together the best content from elsewhere, from real people. Using their updates to tell a story that resonates with the brand and their audiences.
There is an important role for brands to play with content, but there is also an important role for them to play with curation. Both should be considered equally as part of any marketing plan, as both can help to deliver against marketing objectives.