Content curation is a valuable practice for outreach and engagement, whatever your business. A good marketing plan will emphasize the importance of growing your audience, and delivering value to your audience, through the communication channels that work for them. In this post I’m sharing the workflow I use to automate content curation using a combination of Pocket, Buffer, Google Sheets, and Zapier to deliver content to my audience without sucking up all of my time.
Digital marketing requires maintaining an active presence of one or more social media platforms, and if you’re smart, are working on building an email list of engaged customers or supporters, and staying in touch with them regularly. This is where we face the content challenge: what should we post to those social media accounts, day in, day out, and how can we source content and send it out without it consuming all of our time?
Content Curation: Highlighting the Best Articles for Your Audience
The interwebs are awash with how-to articles, news, analysis, and tips. One of the easiest, most valuable services you can provide to your audience – especially if you know their needs inside-out – is a steady stream of helpful content that you (the expert in your field) have identified. Whether you simply share the links, or you add a sentence or two of your own thoughts explaining why the article is valuable, if you can provide timely, relevant content at the right volume your audience will appreciate it.
But this is time consuming! Luckily there are some powerful tools out there to automate parts of the process, and I want to share the process I use. These are my goals:
- Most of my clients are small or medium business, or nonprofits, so I want to share content that will help them maximize their digital communications and marketing efforts, particularly around email marketing, social media, ecommerce, and fundraising.
- I share content regularly on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
- I send a weekly email containing five of the best links to folks on my email list.
I use five apps/services to achieve this, and they are all tied together using a workflow I’ll in the tutorial below:
- Pocket: a read-it-later app and browser extension that lets you quickly save an article (or any URL) to read later.
- Buffer: one of the leading social media management tools, Buffer lets you build a queue of scheduled posts to the leading social media platforms.
- Google Sheets: part of the powerful Google Apps suite, I use a simple Google Sheet to build a list of articles to consider including in my weekly email.
- Zapier: a super-powerful service that allows you to build automated workflows between hundreds of common web apps.
- MailChimp: a popular, easy to use email service provider with editable templates, email lists, and powerful automation features.
In the tutorial below I’ll assume you already have accounts set up with Pocket, Buffer and Google. If you don’t, the setup process is easy, just click the links in the previous sentence to get started.
Using Zapier to Create a Simple Content Curation Workflow
Zapier allows you to set up “zaps” – blueprints for tasks that we want to automate between two apps. Each zap has a trigger and an action. If you want a high level overview, watch this video from Zapier. For this workflow, we will set up two zaps:
- First, we’ll set up a Zap to trigger when you add a new article to your Pocket account. The zap will automatically add that article to the Buffer queue for your Twitter account.
- Second, we’ll set up a Zap that watches for any articles added to Pocket that are tagged with the “newsletter” tag. The zap will automatically add those items to a Google Sheet, where I keep a running list of items that are suitable for my weekly email newsletter.
When we’re done, you’ll see these two Zaps on your Zapier dashboard:
Zap #1: Add new Pocket items to Buffer
The purpose of this first Zap is simple – keep that Buffer queue topped up articles I know my audience are interested in.
Follow these steps to set up the zap that will automatically add new Pocket items to a Buffer queue:
- From the Zapier dashboard, create a new Zap and choose Pocket as the Trigger App.
- From the list of possible triggers for Pocket, choose to have the zap fire whenever a new item is added to Pocket.
- Give Zapier access to your Pocket account, if you haven’t already. This will require signing in with your Pocket username and password.
- Make sure you have at least one item saved in Pocket, and then test the Trigger. Click the “view your item” link to see the raw data Zapier retrieved from Pocket.
- Next, add Buffer as the Action App.
- Select “Add to Buffer” option for the specific action to take place in Buffer each time this zap is triggered.
- Connect your Buffer account. As above, you’ll need to provide your Buffer username and password.
- Fill out the details describing the items you want to create in your Buffer queue. This includes selecting the profile (I use my Twitter account) and the text of the tweet. The dropdown menu on the right side of the “Text” field provides access to the fields pulled from Pocket during the Trigger step of the zap. I add the article title, a space, and the article URL.
- Finally, test the Action component of the Zap. Once the test is complete, you should see a new post in your Buffer queue as a result.
Don’t forget to slide the zap’s toggle to the “On” position once the set up is complete!
Zap #2: Add *some* Pocket Items to a Google Sheet
The second zap is more specific. I only want to include the best, most helpful articles in my weekly email newsletter, and luckily Pocket allows you to assign tags to items as you add them. I have a tag set up called “newsletter”, and this second Zap takes only those items tagged “newsletter” and adds them to a Google Sheet.
This means that when I sit down to prepare my email newsletter, I open the Google Sheet and have perhaps 20 or 25 articles listed, which I can whittle down to the final 5 that I send as recommended reading to my clients.
Before setting up the zap, you need to create a new Google Sheet with a very simple structure: two columns, one for Article Title, one for Article URL. It should look like this:
You will also need to tag at least one item in your Pocket account with the tag “newsletter.”
Next, follow these steps to set up the second zap:
- From the Zapier dashboard, create a new Zap and choose Pocket as the Trigger App.
- From the list of possible triggers for Pocket, choose to have the zap fire whenever an item in Pocket is tagged.
- Add your Pocket account.
- Select the “newsletter” tag (you’ll need to have already tagged at least one item in your Pocket account)
- Test the Trigger. Click the “view your item” link to see the raw data Zapier retrieved from Pocket.
- Next, add Google Sheets as the Action App.
- Select “Create Spreadsheet Row” option for the specific action to take place in Google Sheets each time this zap is triggered.
- Connect your Google Sheets account.
- Choose the sheet by searching for the title of the sheet you created earlier. Match the Article URL and Article Title fields from Pocket to the columns set up in your Google Sheet.
- Finally, test the Action component of the Zap. Once the test is complete, you should see a new row in your Google Sheet queue as a result.
Results: a full Buffer queue, and plenty of content for next week’s newsletter
With these two zaps turned on and working their magic, all you need to do is browse the interwebs, Pocket-ing (and tagging) items you know your audience will enjoy.
While this is a great method of keeping your Twitter queue topped up, I still do some editing of the tweets that are added here, since the content created by the zap is simply the article title and URL. Make it part of your daily routine to stop by Buffer’s dashboard for a few minutes and add some relevant hashtags, or tweak the content to inject some of your own commentary.
I also use the Buffer queue for my Twitter account as a source for articles I share on my Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. These are lower-volume platforms than Twitter, each with a different focus, so I select one or two articles from the longer Twitter queue for each of these, and write a few sentences to go along with the shared link.
Most weeks I find myself with around 20 or 25 articles listed in the Google Sheet, and I pull the best five into my Mailchimp template to create the week’s newsletter. Since the newsletter goes to a narrower, more highly selected audience, I add some curation to the list of articles, explaining what value readers might get from each article.
Photo credit to Unsplash