Online influencers and celebrity endorsers may face competition from curators, who collect, organize and share content from multiple sources.
Like online influencers and celebrity endorsers, content curators target specific audiences, but their approach is different – and often more authentic. Curators aren’t typically paid for the content they collect, organize and share.
Influencers who specialize in product niches and celebrities who have fans and followers pitch products for cash. Scrupulous influencers review products with enough independence to point out the good and the bad. Celebrities like to guard their reputations and avoid endorsements that conflict with their stage personas or may offend their fans.
Curators are more like thought leaders or trusted advisers. They build audiences and monetize their curation based on the value of information they find, organize and share. Instead of getting paid by advertisers, they have subscribers or followers.
[CFM’s Rules of Engagement blog is an example of content curation in the form of thought leadership. We canvass a spectrum of information about marketing trends, select the most useful articles to our followers and share our perspective on them. We don’t accept payment for blog topics or charge for subscriptions.]
Influencers and celebrities gravitate to platforms such as Instagram. Curators thrive in a wider array of mediums from social media to blogs to podcasts. Influencers and celebrities try to generate buzz. Curators are more about water-cooler conversations.
Influencers offer value by trying out new products so busy consumers can skip expensive, time-consuming trial-and-error. Celebrity endorsements traffic in a product’s cool factor. Curators are more like your friend who is well-read, thoughtful and eager to share what he or she has learned.
Influencers and celebrities can be critical pieces of marketing and advertising campaigns. For consumer-facing startups, a favorable review by an influencer can be marketing gold at a fraction of the price. A celebrity endorsement can put a popular face on an organization (Tom Selleck/NRA) or lend style to a product (Jennifer Garner/Neutrogena).
Curators serve a broader purpose. They include news article aggregators to services such as Angie’s List that provide qualified lists of products and services. Their popularity is based on the value they deliver to individuals who don’t have time to read 10 daily newspapers or want an easy, reliable place to look for a plumber.
For years, market researchers took advantage of “influentials,” the roughly one in 10 people who are well-read and willing to share what they know. Influentials often form an early majority in a market. They may not be trend-setters, but they reflect emerging trends.
Influencers and curators both seek to fill the role of Influentials in a faster-moving, more fragmented society to provide relevant, reliable views on what camera to buy or the significance of a surging political movement.
Influentials deserve credit for expediting public acceptance of 401(k) retirement accounts, personal computers and cell phones. They also have led mass skepticism of marketing claims, which accounts for why the reputation of the public relations and advertising industry ranks so low.
You could extrapolate that the best content curators today are trying to follow the long-time example of Influentials as authentic, trusted advisers. In an era of fake news, skewed information sources and partisan bubbles, content curation can play an invaluable role in sorting, organizing and fact-checking product claims and news stories in service of restoring public confidence in what they read.
Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.